Scottish Shortbread

by Rachel on July 11, 2010

Scottish Shortbread by way of Ukraine. I am the American Melting Pot!

I’m not sure how a Jewish woman from Ukraine became expert in making Scottish Shortbread in New York, but my grandmother was an unusual woman capable of all sorts of extraordinary things.  To me this shortbread is an example of her willingness to embrace the foods of her adopted country.  My paternal grandmother loved to cook a wide range of foods, most of which she had never heard of until she came to the U.S.  She was an avid reader of the New York Times, especially the Food Section.  When my grandmother died in 1968 she had instilled in my father a love for cooking and an enthusiasm for culinary experimentation.  She also left us a treasure trove of recipes.  This is one.  The recipe is dated 1958 in her handwriting.

Scottish Shortbread

  • 2 lbs. flour (sifted before weighing)
  • 1 lb. sweet butter
  • ½ lb. sugar
  • 12-oz bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate (optional)

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.

Let butter sit out briefly, but do not let it get too soft.  Mix the flour and sugar together in a large mixing bowl with a whisk.  Cut the butter into the flour and sugar mixture with a hand pastry blender until it is well mixed and crumbly and particles begin to clump together.  This is no easy task and takes a considerable amount of upper body strength combined with patience and a glass of chardonnay.  It takes a good 15 minutes to get to the crumbly stage, longer if you’ve had more than one glass of wine.

Pat the mixture into a half-size sheet pan (a sheet pan is a cookie sheet with low sides and a half-size sheet pan refers to one that is 18×13) until the mixture is packed, but not too firmly.  My grandmother’s notes say to, “Prick with a fork for a nice pattern.”  I tried my best to do this – and completely failed.  My cookies still looked great but they were completely devoid of nicely patterned prick marks.  I hope you have better luck.

Bake for 60-70 minutes.  Mine did not brown in that length of time – they were cooked through and nicely crisp once they cooled.  Cut them into squares or rectangles while still warm.  Cool on waxed paper.  Store in a container with tight fitting lid.

If you decide you want chocolate dipped shortbread  (it should be noted that I’d dip my children in chocolate if it was socially acceptable) line a baking sheet with clean parchment or wax paper.  In a double boiler melt 12-oz of best quality bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate (whatever you prefer).  Stir constantly until melted and smooth.  Remove from heat.  Dip each cookie halfway into chocolate, let excess drip off, and place the dipped cookies on the baking sheet. Let them stand until the chocolate is set, or you can stand it no longer, about 2 hours. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.  These cookies are totally gorgeous and would make great holiday gifts if I were willing to part with any.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Amanda Formaro July 11, 2010 at 6:35 am

Gorgeous. and I am jealous that you have recipes handed down to you. I am still trying to figure out where I got my love for cooking and baking. I have yet to find out

Erika - In Erika's Kitchen July 11, 2010 at 9:54 am

Second the jealousy on the family recipes. I have about three – and they did not come with good methodology, only lists of ingredients.

If you were willing to be sacrilegious (did I spell that right?), you could probably do the cutting in of the butter in the food processor, pulsing. I’ll try it out and let you know.

Rachel July 11, 2010 at 11:03 am

Both of my grandmothers left me recipes. None of them were very well explained. The ones that I post I make a few times and work out the kinks so that I can list exact amounts and straightforward methods. Despite that, I do feel lucky. We have so many “family” recipes – both old ones and new ones. It is a great tradition to have and I plan to encourage my boys to keep it up!

Sorry For The Convenience July 11, 2010 at 4:34 pm

I know first-hand: These cookies = gooooooooood.

megi July 12, 2010 at 3:50 am

Hi Rachel,

The cookies look so good, I will have to try these. Like you, I have lots family recipes as well and they are so precious! That’s the main reason I started a blog, to have all my recipes and family recipes in one place with pictures and all the details.

Rachel July 12, 2010 at 4:12 am

Dear Sorry for the Convenience:
I expect YOU to make me these cookies when I return. You better practice first.

Rachel July 12, 2010 at 4:13 am

Dear Megi:
I find it so wonderful that people all over the world have shared in my family’s food history.

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