Shortbread Wars

Shorbread use this oneHeather loves cookies that you dunk in coffee. Shortbread being one of those, she loves the Scottish confection and appreciates the nuances from one brand to another. She talked about the Scottish woman she worked with who made the most delicious (and authentic) shortbread.

One day Heather said she was ordering an authentic shortbread pan for me (see photo above). Minutes before that, she also told Nancy she was ordering an authentic shortbread pan for her too.

We were thrilled to be getting authentic shortbread pans and offered to pay Heather for them. With a glint in her eye, Heather said, “Oh no, it’s a gift for you, but I am hoping you will make me some shortbread. A gift with strings.

That’s when Nancy and I intuitively created a contest in our minds to bake the best shortbread for the shortbread aficianado. Game on!

Lucky for Heather we are still experimenting with various shortbread recipes and Heather so cleverly has not yet declared a winner. So it’s game on, and on, and on…

There will be no peace treaty in this war as long as there is enough flour, butter and sugar to bake the winning batch. Heather, you really hooked us this time!

The first shortbread was made from remnant of bread dough; thus, the “bread” in the name and it contained oatmeal and yeast. It was then baked in a cool oven and sprinkled with sugar. The result was a dry, hard biscuit bread that was easy to carry and didn’t spoil. 

There are many ways to vary shortbread. Nancy added almond extract. I added orange extract and little orange zest and sprinkled cinnamon sugar on this batch. You can add lemon zest or ground nuts.

Classic Shortbread Recipe
The scoring and poking are key to an authentic batch. If you don’t have a shortbread pan, roll dough into a circle and score the dough into 16 even wedges with a sharp knife.

  • 2-1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 16 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla or other extract (this can be omitted depending on your taste)
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • Granulated sugar for sprinkling

Cream the butter until light, then add the powdered sugar, salt and vanilla and cream until smooth. Add the flour gradually.

Press the dough into a ball in the bowl and transfer to a lightly-floured counter and knead for about 3 minutes. Press the dough into a round disc, place on a large piece of parchment paper and roll out into a 9-inch circle, about 1/2-inch thick.

Transfer the dough to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Crimp the edges like a pie crust and poke all over with a fork and score (being careful not to cut the whole way through) into 16 wedges. Refrigerate dough for 15 minutes.

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Sprinkle granulated sugar over the top. Bake about 40 minutes until pale golden brown, rotating the sheet halfway through baking.

When done baking, remove from oven and cut through the scored marks. Let cool on the baking sheet for about 1 hour.