Scottish Shortbread Cathedral Cookies
and Traditional Wedges
Makes 4 dozen 1 1/2-inch cookies or 16 3 1/2-inch wedges
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If there could be but one cookie in all the world, this would be it for me, perhaps because there really is perfection in simplicity. Its buttery flavor and tender texture with just the right amount of bite are perfection. In order to avoid temptation, I like to store these cookies in the freezer and take out just one to put in the oven with the pilot light while brewing my afternoon coffee. By the time the cup is brewed, the cookie is no longer cold--just right.
Traditionally, shortbread was baked in round discs with notches radiating around the edges to represent the sun. But shortbread can be as creative as the person who makes it.
1 1/4 cups (10 oz) unsalted cold butter
1/4 cup (1 oz) lightly spooned powdered sugar
1/4 cup (1.75 oz) granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups (12.5 oz) bleached all-purpose flour (dip and sweep method)
Equipment: Ungreased cookie sheets.
Food Processor Method - Cut the butter into 1-inch cubes, wrap it, and refrigerate. In a food processor with the metal blade, process the sugars for 1 minute or so, until the sugar is very fine. Add the butter and pulse until the sugar disappears. Add the flour and pulse until there are a lot of moist, crumbly little pieces and no dry flour particles remain. Dump the mixture into a plastic bag and press it together. Remove the dough from the plastic bag and knead it lightly until it holds together.
Electric Mixer or by Hand - In Scotland it is said that the best shortbread is mixed with the fingers and that each woman's fingers lend something distinctive and special to the finished cookie. I find that the texture is more delicate when the dough is mixed with the fingers rather than in a machine. For either method, use superfine granulated sugar for the best texture and be sure to soften the butter. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugars. In a large bowl, creamy he butter with the sugars until light and fluffy. With you fingers or with the electric mixer, mix in the flour until the mixture holds together. If using the mixer, add the flour in 2 parts.
For Both Methods - Place 2 oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Preheat oven to 275 F. Measure 2 level teaspoons or 1 scant tablespoon of the dough and knead each piece by flattening it between your palms and then rolling it into a 10-inch ball. (This keeps it from cracking around the edges when pressed flat.) Place each ball on the cookie sheet, flattening it with a cookie press, fork, or the bottom of a tumbler, lightly moistened with water.
Leave about 1 inch between flattened cookies. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until pale golden (do not brown). For even baking, rotate the cookie sheets from top to bottom and from to back halfway through the baking period. Use a small, angled metal spatula or pancake turner to transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely.
Wedge-Shaped Shortbread Divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Pat each half into an ungreased 8-inch round cake pan. Use the tines of a fork to press 3/4-inch lines radiating like rays of the sun all around the perimeter of the dough. Prick the rest of the dough all over with the tines of the fork. this keeps the shortbread even and creates the traditional design. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until pale golden (do not brown). For even baking, rotate the pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through the baking period. Cool in the pans, on a wire rack, for 10 minutes.
Invert the shortbread onto flat cookie sheet and slide it onto a cutting board. While still warm, use a long sharp knife to cut each 8-inch round of shortbread into 8 pie-shaped wedges. Transfer the wedges to wire racks to cool completely.
Store: In an airtight container at room temperature or in the freezer.
Keeps: Several months.
For the granulated sugar use superfine for the best texture. In Scotland, part rice flour (1/6 the total volume of flour) is used in making the shortbread. It results in a crisper texture. I prefer shortbread made with all-purpose flour. If you use rice flour, be sure it is fresh, and store the leftover flour in the refrigerator as it can become rancid. In Canada, the sugar in the shortbread is sometimes replaced with an equal eight or 6 tablespoons of firmly packed light brown sugar for a "richer" cookie. Shortbread dough can be pressed into lightly oiled and floured decorative wooden molds and then inverted onto cookie sheets to bake; however, I find that large discs of shortbread have the best texture when shaped and baked in aluminum caked pans.
Perhaps it's because the sides of the pan keep the dough from spreading and the resulting shortbread is somewhat more compact. Allow the cookie sheet(s) to cool completely before using for the next batch. Distribute the cookies evenly around cookie evenly around the cookie sheet. Avoid crowding the cookies into one section of the cookie sheet, leavening a large area bare.
Our thanks to Rose's Christmas Cookies
Melt-In-The-Mouth Shortbread Cookies Recipe
250 grams butter
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 cup Maizena (cornflour)
2 and a half cups cake flour
Cream the butter and the icing sugar.
Sift the cornflour and the cake flour together and then add to the icing sugar and butter.
Grease a flat baking pan.
Press the dough into the pan.
Prick the surface of the dough with a fork.
Bake at 150 degrees Celsius for about 45 minutes.
Allow the shortbread to cool before cutting into squares. Sprinkle the top with a bit of icing sugar.
4 cups flour (stir or sift before measuring)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 tablespoon finely grated orange peel
2 cups butter
Mix flour, salt, sugar, and orange peel. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Work the dough with hands until it holds together; refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll dough 1/2 inch thick between sheets of wax paper; cut out with floured cutters. Place on ungreased cookie sheets and bake at 350° for 20 minutes. Drizzle shortbread with chocolate glaze or icing, if desired. Makes about 30 to 36 shortbread cookies.
Maple Shortbread Squares
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 cup flaked coconut
2/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour and sugar; cut in butter until the mixture is crumbly. Press into an 8-inch square baking pan. Bake at 375° for 15 to 20 minutes.
Combine coconut, syrup, and salt in a small saucepan. Cook, stirring frequently, until coconut has absorbed most of the syrup, about 10 minutes. Spread over warm crumb crust mixture and return to the oven for 10 minutes longer.
Cut into squares while warm.
Makes about 16 squares.
Scottish Shortbread Cookie
1 c. butter (the real thing)
2 c. flour, sifted
3 tbsp. powdered sugar
3 tbsp. rice flour
Beat butter until creamy, add flour and work in well.
Add mixed sugar and rice flour.
Work in and knead for several minutes (an important step).
Roll or pat out to 1/2 inch thickness (use a little flour if needed to prevent sticking).
Cut to shape with floured cutter.
Bake at 275 degrees for 50-60 minutes or until faintly brown.
When cool, can be decorated with confectioners icing, red or green cherries for garnish.
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