Scottish Shortbread

by Ala
2 dozen
45 min

Scotland: land of the kilts, castles, and sweet mother of Mewtwo best shortbread ever!!!

My first blissful taste of Scottish shortbread happened in a cozy two-apartment AirBnb nestled just outside Edinburgh city center. Our hosts, Alicia and Mauricio, were a lovely couple from Venezuala with an adorable beagle and the best advice on what free shows to see during our four days at the Fringe Festival. In true host fashion, they had also stocked our room with a variety of local munchies, ranging from biscuits and candies to–of course–the famous Walkers Scottish shortbread. I ate most of the bag a few for breakfast, along with some cheese rolls that Alicia had shared with me the night before while we were chatting in the living room about old Tom Hanks films. I melted from the moment that I popped that cookie in my mouth–the buttery, crumbly shortbread melted too–and from there it was love forged on the Highlands for me.

But quick important sidenote! That totally cute teal notebook featured in these photos? It was gifted by my amazing friend Moupi, who messaged me on the day before my trip and (since she knew I wouldn’t have my laptop with me) gave it to me as a way to commemorate my travels! I ended up only using it occasionally on the trip to jot down some of the thoughts I shared in my last post and hastily scribble in my highlights for each day–BUT when I got back, I found that my bag was drowning in a silly pile of ticket stubs, fliers, and pell-mell paper memorabilia from my three-week travels. Cue brilliant idea to organize everything in this notebook: so now I have an entire little journal devoted to my Europe trip! It’s kind of neat to see one of the best experiences of my life neatly encapsulated in scrapbook form so that I can revisit it anytime I want now 🙂 The tickets pictured here are from all of the plays and performances that we saw while we were in Edinburgh.

And also the plaid fabric here is the skirt of my dress lol. I totally wore it in Scotland like a total tourist. Sue me.

(Okay, but back to the shortbread story below!)

When I got back to the States and started doing some serious research (read: Googled) about authentic recipes for Scottish shortbread, I was surprised to find that most of them called for brown sugar instead of white sugar and zero leavening: just three ingredients (butter, brown sugar, flour) and nothing else. While I was admittedly skeptical at first because some of my favorite shortbread recipes are basically one big granulated sugar dump, I finally buckled down and made the recipe as stated (with the small addition of salt)–to knee-bucklingly good results! Remind me to never doubt Scottish shortbread lore again. It’s a dumb thing to do.

For the classic rectangular Scottish shortbread look, you’ll need a well-floured rolling pin and cutting board–but don’t worry, even roll-a-phobic me was able to pull this off in 5 minutes and with little ado. Once you’ve rolled out the dough to a half-inch thickness, simply cut it into 1×3-inch strips and use a fork to poke holes in five or six rows down each cookie. In all, the process from mixing bowl to oven only takes about 20 minutes, so these are also the perfect cookies for a last-minute gift or potluck.

Recipe details
  • 2  dozen
  • Prep time: 25 Minutes Cook time: 20 Minutes Total time: 45 min
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  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, separated
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly grease a cookie sheet and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. In a separate small bowl, combine 1 3/4 flour and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, then use a spatula to gently fold dry into wet until just incorporated.
Use remaining 1/2 cup flour to dust a large cutting board and rolling pin. Scoop dough onto floured board, then gently knead the dough until nearly all of the flour is incorporated. Use your floured rolling pin to roll the dough into a 1/2-inch thick rectangle. Cut into 1x3-inch strips. Transfer strips onto prepared cookie sheet.
Bake shortbread in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, until lightly golden on top and around the edges. Allow to cool on stovetop for an additional few minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Cool completely and enjoy!
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