Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The long and shortbread of it


Not many people would call traditional Scottish food delicious, or even appetizing. My husband and I traveled throughout Scotland a few years back and I will say this. Neither would I. I can easily compare traditional Scottish food with my own regional and traditional Appalachian food.

The morning we left for Ben Nevis (the highest peak in Scotland) I ordered the seemingly innocent eggs Benedict from the hotel kitchen. Somehow I ended up with an undercooked egg on top of deep fried toast and a side order of baked beans.

I think I would have been alright that day, if it were not for the first stop we made at a Woolery and gift shop. It was raining and cold, and most all of us needed a warm pull-over or jacket. The store was very warm and inviting. As I browsed I happened upon a little nook away from the clothing department. There sat a small table with an attractive array of Scotch samples. "White Blended Scotch Whiskey" I read. I was overtaken by curiosity. Of course in hindsight it was stupidity. I sampled a few. It was 10 a.m. and I had a two hour jostling, nauseating bus ride ahead of me. And after that another hour long choppy boat ride.

After enduring them both, we arrived at the Colombia hotel. Nauseated and sea-sick I remember feeling relieved and thankful to finally be stationary. My stomach was in dire need of settling. While Mark kindly left to find a drugstore (or chemist), I found a little welcome sampler from the hotel staff. The gift pack held teas, candies and many packages of shortbread. I quickly plugged in the provided electric pitcher and soon had eaten several pieces of shortbread. The tea was warm and soothing and the short bread was delicious in it's plainness. I was feeling better already.

It was only recently that I had the notion to replicate the cookie that had been so comforting to me. I soon found a very old Scottish recipe that I altered slightly. The dough came together quickly.  It is buttery, crumbly, not too sweet and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. My shortbread tasted just as it had that night at the Columbia.


Shortbread
                                                                        [click to print]
1 pound unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
4 cups all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the confectioners’ sugar and beat until incorporated.  Add the vanilla extract and mix again.   Add two cups of flour and the pinch of salt and mix on low speed until a dough forms.  Add the last two cups of flour and mix again on low until a very stiff dough forms.

Gather dough together with your hands and place on a lightly floured surface.  Divide into two pieces.  Using a floured rolling pin, roll each piece of dough until flattened to about 1” thickness.  Wrap in plastic film and place pieces on a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.  This dough will firm up in quickly because of the high butter content.  If your dough is difficult to roll, let it stand at room temperature for a few minutes until it is pliable.

While still cold, roll out dough to ¼” thickness.  For perfectly even shortbread, use two ¼” flat dowels on either side of the dough as a guide.  Rolling pin guide bands are also available in varying sizes at kitchen specialty stores.

Cut dough into desired shapes.  Bake on parchment lined cookie sheets until lightly golden around the edges:

7-10 minutes for small cookies
12-15 minutes for medium cookies
17-20 minutes for large cookies

6 comments:

cats-rox said...

hey there, care to share the shortbread recipe? :) i've been looking for a nice, simple, shortbread recipe. oh and have you ever tried icing/decorating shortbread cookies? does that work? if you'd like to email me, or post it up here, that would be great! :)

thanks much!

cats_rox@yahoo.com.sg

serendipitously.create said...

Hey I'd also like to see a recipe should you feel up to posting it. I just loved this post. My mom used to buy us shortbread from this tiny coffeeshop that you could drive through on the way to school. It made me so happy. I found an incredible chocolate shortbread cookie recipe on the back of Guitard chocolate package if your looking for something with a little sweetness. Pairs beautifully with coffee. Thank you for your wonderful blog!

A.D.M. said...

Thank you for posting this! Yay! I get to have Peanut butter cookies and shortbread cookies all in one week! You're amazing!

Anonymous said...

Wow! I love all of your recepies! I was just looking for a shortbread recipie with(and i used exactly these words) that melt-in-your-mouth delicious feeling!
Im kind of an amateur though... well actually im a complete amateur and so when you say about wrapping the dough in plastic film (same as cling film,right?) do you mean wrapping the 2 separate dough pieces after they have been flattened out to 1" thickness in the plastic and then refridgerating them?

Thank you so much for this recipe and thank you in advance if you get the chance to reply!

Miss Overballe said...

These look utterly delicious! they are pinned, and soon to be tried :)

Lola Oguns said...

1pound is what?

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