Shortbread originated from Scotland and derives its name from the word “short” meaning crumbly and from its high fat content known as “shortening”. Shortening was eventually replaced with butter due to its displeasing taste and texture.
In medieval times, shortbread was seen as an expensive luxury and only served on special occasions. Although these plain buttery biscuits have been known to date back to the 12th century, they are credited to Mary Queen of Scotts in the 16th century who favoured them and increased their popularity.
Shortbread was originally known as “biscuit bread” which was made from leftover bread dough that was dried out in the oven and sometimes sweetened, resulting in a hard and dry rusk. It’s name “biscuit” meaning “twice-cooked” was finally changed to shortbread when the yeast in the rusk was replaced with butter. All over Scotland there are many variations of shortbread including ingredients of caraway seeds, coriander, almonds and orange peel.
I have fond memories as a child of dunking Walker’s shortbread biscuits into hot cups of tea. Every year our family would buy boxes of them to give as Christmas presents. We don’t seem to eat shortbread as much as we used to so I decided to make some to enjoy for this festive time of the year.
- 250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup caster sugar, plus more for sprinkling
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla essence
- 2 cups plain flour, sifted
- 1/2 cup rice flour, sifted
- Pinch of salt
- 1. Line two trays with baking paper.
- 2. In a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar and vanilla together until light and fluffy.
- 3. Add the plain flour, rice flour and salt. Mix until well combined. (The mixture should resemble breadcrumbs).
- 4. Use your hands to bring the dough together in the bowl. Turn out on a lightly floured surface and knead gently until smooth.
- 5. Divide dough into two portions. Use your hands to gather 1 portion of the dough into a ball. Either using your hands or a rolling pin, gently shape the dough into an 18cm diameter disc and place in the centre of one of the prepared trays. Use a flat bladed knife to smooth the surface. Repeat with remaining dough to form a second disc.
- 6. Transfer trays into the fridge and allow shortbread to rest and firm up for 10 minutes. Meanwhile preheat your oven to 150°C.
- 7. Using a sharp knife score the discs into 8 even wedges. (You just want to create a line marking so when the shortbread has cooled you can cut it evenly). Pinch the edges of each piece to create a fluted edge.
- 8. Using a fork prick the dough all over or around in circles to create a pattern. Sprinkle shortbread with caster sugar and bake in the oven for approximately 40 minutes, swapping the trays half way through until lightly golden.
- 9. Allow shortbread to cool on trays. Cut into wedges and serve! Enjoy!!
- Store shortbread in an airtight container.