Aye, If It’s Nae’ Scottish..

…it’s rubbish.  Or so one hears round about the Firth of Forth.  Cultural chauvinism aside, the Scots definitely have a point when it comes to cookies, particularly shortbread.  There’s something about the simplicity of ingredients – at base just butter, sugar and flour – that speaks of Scottish frugality.  Yet the butter also imparts a richness as satisfying as a thick tartan protecting from the Highlands chill.

Not only is shortbread beloved in Scotland,  but it also is popular wherever Scots, including some of the author’s distant ancestors, settled around the globe.  Presented today for your approval are a trio of flavors featured in the recipe booklet, Shortbread Recipe Book, included  with the Brown Bag Cookie Art shortbread molds pictured atop this week’s photograph:Shortbread Recipe Book

Today brings three varieties.  Pictured from left to right are Classic Shortbread (laced with lavender buds in a fortunate whim), Chocolate Shortbread and Orange Spice Shortbread.   Each has something to recommend it.

The “basic” recipe creates a cookie that’s softly buttery.  Although lavender buds aren’t included in the original instructions, they inspire thoughts of the flowering fields that await us on winter’s other side.

Chocolate requires no additional description because it’s, well, chocolate.  Especially silky when paired with all that butter, and when a good quality cocoa (Barry Callebaut in this case) is used.  Finally, is the Orange Spice offering.  The zest bursts with brightness, as does the splash of juice that was an ad hoc supplement.  Then come the ground ginger and cinnamon, bringing their own tingle.

These variations build upon the Classic variety that has been Scotland’s culinary calling card for centuries.  The country hummed with inventive spirit, after all, and the “bonus” versions continue that innovation.  Adam Smith’s entrepreneurial impulse carried to the kitchen.

*****

Classic Shortbread

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup flour

Cream the butter until it’s light.  Mix in the powdered sugar until combined, then the vanilla.  (*1)  Fold in the flour until it’s just incorporated.  (*2)  Knead on an unfloured surface until the dough is nice and smooth, about two minutes.

Preheat an oven to 325°.  Spray a baking pan lightly with cooking oil.  Press the dough into the pan, then puncture the dough several times with a fork, at random spots.  This process is called “docking.”  Bake for 30 minutes.

Place the shortbread pan on a rack to cool.  After ten minutes, run a knife around the edge of the shortbread.  Invert gently onto a cutting board.  Use a sharp knife to cut the shortbread into individual pieces.

NOTES:

1 – At this point I added a tablespoon of lavender buds.  This part wasn’t in the recipe, so skip it if you prefer.

2 – No need to work too insistently on combining the flour, as the subsequent kneading process will incorporate it.  Might as well spare yourself some work.  By the way, this “note” applies to the other two flavors as well.

*****

Chocolate Shortbread

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup flour

Cream the butter until it’s light.  Mix in the powdered sugar until combined, then the cocoa and the vanilla.  Fold in the flour until it’s just incorporated.  (*3)  Knead on an unfloured surface until the dough is nice and smooth, about two minutes.

Preheat an oven to 325°.  Spray a baking pan lightly with cooking oil.  Press the dough into the pan, then puncture the dough several times with a fork, at random spots.  This process is called “docking.”  Bake for 30 minutes.

Place the shortbread pan on a rack to cool.  After ten minutes, run a knife around the edge of the shortbread.  Invert gently onto a cutting board.  Use a sharp knife to cut the shortbread into individual pieces.

NOTES:

3 – No need to work too insistently on combining the flour, as the subsequent kneading process will incorporate it.  Might as well spare yourself some work.  By the way, this “note” applies to the other two flavors as well.  Sound familiar?

*****

Orange Spice Shortbread

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange peel
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinammon
  • 1 cup flour

Cream the butter until it’s light.  Mix in the powdered sugar until combined, then the orange peel and spices.  (*4)  Fold in the flour until it’s just incorporated.  (*5)  Knead on an unfloured surface until the dough is nice and smooth, about two minutes.

Preheat an oven to 325°.  Spray a baking pan lightly with cooking oil.  Press the dough into the pan, then puncture the dough several times with a fork, at random spots.  This process is called “docking.”  Bake for 30 minutes.

Place the shortbread pan on a rack to cool.  After ten minutes, run a knife around the edge of the shortbread.  Invert gently onto a cutting board.  Use a sharp knife to cut the shortbread into individual pieces.

NOTES:

4 – This would be a good point to pour in a couple tablespoons of orange juice too.  The default recipe doesn’t call for it,  yet the juice enhances the cookies’ citrusy character and imparts the light orange tone you see above.

5 – No need to work too insistently on combining the flour, as the subsequent kneading process will incorporate it.  Might as well spare yourself some work.  By the way, this “note” applies to the other two flavors as well.  It’s almost as if I copied and pasted this “Note” after typing it in the original recipe.  Maybe.  Or maybe it’s just a shortbread miracle.

41 thoughts on “Aye, If It’s Nae’ Scottish..

  1. hmm mmh looking forward to this care package … like how you’ve taken your pics on a tartan cloth 🙂

    I grew up doing reels and highland flings, sadly it seems the colonies perpetuate these traditions more than Scotland itself …

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Astute observation, Kate (and true)! At a nearby park “Highland Games” are celebrated every summer, complete with caber tossing, kilts and shortbread. Meanwhile, my father’s cousin traveled to Scotland, and she was a bit surprised locals weren’t as “colorful” as she imagined they’d be.

      Oh, glad you noticed the tartan! It’s actually the family pattern, at least from that small part of my ancestry hailing from amongst the lochs!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I love the Limited Ingredients to these fabulous recipes! I can already tell, by reading the ingredients, how rich, and smooth these sweet luxuries will taste. I can tell ya, right now… I need to start working out as much as my oven does. 😋 🏀

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for the compliment, Tamara! Every so often, something inspires that doesn’t take the better part of a decade to prepare.

      Glad the exception was a gratifying one!

      Then comes next week – “First, mail-order two ounces of Irish lemon peppercorns. They’re rare, and probably will take two or three years to arrive…”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sure, though I really should contrive ways of keeping the good things, and doing away with the wait.

        It probably surprises you to read I’m pretentious, Tamara (“What, you? Never!”), but I do try to suggest substitutes for obscure ingredients. Not everyone has a Hungarian-Vietnamese deli down the block, thus, not everyone may take paprika-cured lemongrass for granted.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Well done! The shortbread molds really added a beautiful touch. I happen to be Scottish (a grandfather came to the U.S. from Scotland when he was young). In celebration of my heritage (or perhaps just because I was hungry lol) I’ve decided to make some lavender-infused shortbread for one of the holidays coming up soon. I had originally set the recipe aside for Easter (yes, sometimes I do plan holiday meals that far ahead) but now I’m thinking Valentine’s Day might be better!

    Which flavor was your favorite? The orange spice sounds particularly tempting.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Summer! I was away the last couple days, else I would’ve responded sooner.

      Anyway, both here and on your site, reading of your culinary skills astounds. If you haven’t tried it, lavender does add a subtle, yet evocative, note to shortbread, the floral alloying the butter’s richness. As you know, it doesn’t take long to prepare shortbread, meaning you still have plenty of time before Valentine’s.

      I’m not as “Scottish” as you are, but my paternal grandmother was 100%. Her ancestors crossed the ocean in the 1700s, though. In fact, the tartan beneath the cookies and the recipe book is her family’s (Blair).

      Oh, orange spice is my favorite, actually! Part of it, no doubt, has to do with citrus being exceptional this time of year. The one fruit that hasn’t forgotten about us. Add in the spices, and you have cookie that’s bright and almost tingly.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m going to have to try the orange spice the next time around, in that case! I ended up getting both the citrus and the lavender in there with a lemon-lavender shortbread recipe.

    I have to tell you, I was a bit worried putting them into the oven. The recipe called for 1/4 c of dried lavender (i.e., a lot!). I compared this to the small amount in your recipe and realized I might just be serving my family the cookie version of soap. Haha I don’t have the nice presses so I rolled the dough into a log and cut nice circles. The circles only added to the soap-like sensory experience. The house filled with the lovely scent of a floral bubble bath while it cooked. Hahaha

    Thankfully, the lemon balanced the flowers in such a way that they were not overpowering. I sampled one (ok, maybe more than one) and they were quite good. Phew! I think I really skirted the edge of baking disaster with that one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A superb innovation, Summer! Your creation balances admirably the three main ingredients – butter, lemons and lavender. Each one compliments the other two, I would think, white preventing them from getting too carried away.

      You’re right, 1/4 cup of lavender is way too much, particularly for something that’s dried, and thus, already is concentrated. Maybe instructions for 1/4 cup are a typo, or perhaps the recipe originally was for eight trays of shortbread, and the authors forgot to convert all the quantities.

      Nonetheless, your good baking sense prevailed, and your wisdom rewarded you with a house warm, bright and fragrant, a beautiful haven from the gloomy, chilly, flat world outside. Aye, the aroma t’would be enough to lure Nessie herself from her loch!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you! My family had a chance to try the extremely floral cookies. Unfortunately, my son found them a little too bitter (oddly enough, since the child has been known to eat lemons like they are oranges haha). My husband said they were ok but other varieties remain his favorite.

        This means I am eating most of the cookies (because I do really like them)… this is why I don’t make cookies often, I seem to be the one who ends up eating them all! This is maybe not the best thing for me health-wise. 😞 At least these freeze well. I think 1-2 T of lavender would be plenty for most recipes, unless someone is doing some serious batch cooking! Good thing I love lavender 😊 I hope you have a nice Valentine’s Day!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks, Summer – you too! Well, at least HAD a nice Valentine’s Day.

        Aren’t freezers one of the modern cook’s ablest allies? Just for soup making alone, they allow us to stock up on, well, stock, transforming a day with the stockpot into a year of homemade broths.

        Then, once the stock is available, the finished soups freeze in quart-sized freezer bags, calling forward a single serving every time the whim stirs. How many horrible days at the office were resurrected thusly at dinnertime?

        And this is just the soup, the appetizer! Who knows what else we’ll get up to in the kitchen?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yes, freezers are truly a blessing for those of us with small families. And I imagine they are wonderful for setting aside meals that were batch cooked for large families as well! 😊

        As it turns out, the cookies were all consumed prior to a camping trip we went on last weekend, so they never had a chance to see the freezer. Haha

        Liked by 1 person

      4. All the more reason to make them the next time, no? “Only thirty cookies for each of you this time – I want some to freeze this time, dammit!”

        This last time was understandable, though. Unless your camping trip was to Hawaii or South Florida, your family needed the cookies’ richness to fortify them. Else , they’d be colder than they would be wearing a kilt in the Highlands.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. So I came across another recipe for a rosemary-lemon shortbread which I also thought sounded great. This is the cookie with endless possibilities! I’ll have to revisit them if I have success growing herbs this summer. At this point in the season we could have taken them camping with us and they would have stayed fresh in the cold! ❄️

        Liked by 1 person

      6. I know, seriously! Only four or five ingredients, yet 187,000 or so varieties. Not to mention the ones creative cooks such as yourself invent.

        Oh, the possibilities lurking in the herb garden! What of the cocoa variety…with mint? How about the citrus number, supplemented with lemon verbena? Don’t stop there. Go inside a peruse the spice cupboard. Wouldn’t ground cardamom make a cracker addition?

        What culinary dreams our Scottish ancestors inspired!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Eliza! They were a gift, years ago. In fact, I read somewhere online they had been discontinued.

      Pity.

      Still, your being much closer to Scotland may give you better access to the real deal, not “this rubbish stupid Yanks think is Scottish.:

      Liked by 1 person

    1. So kind, JoAnn!

      In contrast to many of the Baroque monstrosities these pages show you, this one is simple. Plus, you don’t need a fancy pan to make something tasty; in fact, a shallow tray or pizza pan will do nicely.

      If you’re inspired, JoAnn, go for it! Use fresh Florida oranges in the recipe and you’ll do one better than I did.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I have one of these ceramic shortbread pans with the Scottish Thistle pattern. You can still find them online. Your post has inspired me to pull it out of the cupboard. They truly make beautiful cookies, and the recipe booklet it came with has fail-proof recipes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well then, I’m glad I was wrong! Though I’m a little concerned there’s be a falsehood on the internet. It’s unprecedented.

      Isn’t that little booklet the bee’s knees? Many tempting possibilities, all from only a few simple ingredients, too!

      Like

      1. They may have been discontinued at some point but inventory is still plentiful? I do remember seeing the discontinuation notices online. At the time when I was searching for one (a few years ago), it was a bit difficult to source the Brown Bag pan in the design I wanted. I see more online retailers have them now, even though the “newest” design from Brown Bag was back in 2014. Could it have been a discontinuation of creating new designs? I could probably do a quick search to find the answer… There are other brands out there that make similar pans, but who knows the quality and purity of the ceramic. I am sure many are decent enough, though.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You obviously have researched inventories much more recently, and diligently, than have I. Mine arrived over a decade ago now, and their survival through the years testifies to their quality. In fact, the most decorative of them hangs from the kitchen wall. When not forming shortbread, it’s sparking conversation.

        Maybe the Brown Bag company teetered, then a larger company bought it and infused the enterprise with fresh capital? That would explain the resurrection, but not the six-year design drought. Of course, I’m giving this far too much thought, even for a foodie. Best to leave things where they are.

        What’s life without a little mystery in it?

        Like

    1. That simplicity allows for nearly infinite creativity. It’s a blank page, just waiting for the artist fill it with flavorful worlds.

      Think of a new combination. Two more will come to mind before you write down the first idea. It’s like Writer’s Block in reverse!

      Indeed, maybe making shortbread is a great way to cure Writer’s Block?

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s