National Shortbread Day is celebrated each January 6th.
This classic Scottish dessert was traditionally made from:
- 1 part white sugar
- 2 parts butter
- 3 parts flour
Modern recipes deviate from the three ingredient rule by adding salt and using equal parts of granulated sugar and powdered sugar. All purpose white (wheat) flour is commonly used, however rice or corn flour can be used to alter the texture.
It is thought shortbread is so named because of its crumbly texture caused by its high fat content, provided by the butter. “Shortening” the dough with fat produces a “short” or crumbly texture.
The origination of shortbread began with a medieval biscuit bread, a twice-baked, enriched bread roll dusted with sugar and spices and hardened into a hard, dry, sweetened biscuit called a rusk. Eventually, yeast, from the original rusk recipe, was replaced by butter, as it became more of a staple in Britain and Ireland, and shortbread was born.
Shortbread was prepared often during the 12th century, but the refinement of shortbread is often credited to Mary, Queen of Scots in the 16th century, as her chefs perfected the recipe. She may have named of one of the most famous and most traditional forms of shortbread; petticoat tails was a shortbread cut into individual portions in triangular wedges, first called “petit gautelles” or small cakes, decorated with fork tines and flavored with caraway seeds.
Shortbread was an expensive treat, and it was typically reserved as a luxury for special occasions such as Christmas, Hogmanay (Scottish New Year’s Eve), and weddings. In the Shetland and Orkney Islands, northeast of mainland Britain, a tradition exists where a decorated shortbread cake, made with caraway seeds and called a "Bride's Bonn", is broken over the head of a bride upon entering her new home.
In the modern world, every imaginable version of shortbread has been created. Here at Rossmoor Pastries, we have several beautifully decorated "shortbread" cookies available at any given time, some sandwiched with delicious jams, with varying seasonal designs, perfect with a cup of Boyd's coffee or an Earl Grey tea. Enjoy!