Buttery shortbread is not only a favorite holiday treat but it makes a great gift. Our cookie platter would be lonely without it.
My husband hails from Scotland, where shortbread is a BIG DEAL. Coincidentally, it is also the birthplace of shortbread, where it has been made, in one guise or another, for centuries. Wrap your head around that…a centuries-old cookie. Of course, they would never describe it as a “cookie” since it is a biscuit, but it is not a bread. Confused?
Shortbread is a favorite at holiday-time (or other special occasions like weddings), as it was historically an expensive luxury given that two of the main ingredients were butter and sugar. And while nowadays it is eaten year-round, and often given as a Scottish souvenir, it’s still special in our book.
Shortbread can be as simple as the key ingredients: flour, sugar, and butter, or it can be embellished with flavorings like vanilla bean, lemon or orange zest, dried lavender, ginger, or even chocolate. I like the addition of a bit of salt to offset the sweetness, like I do with pretty much any dessert or sweet. And a little cornstarch keeps the texture from becoming overly crumbly.
Traditionally, shortbread is baked in one of three ways: baked in a square pan and cut into rectangles (or “fingers”), baked in a round and cut into wedges, or cut into individual rounds. This recipe was tested in a square pan and cut into rectangles, but it could also be baked in a round cake pan and cut into wedges (also called “petticoat tails”).