Authentic Scottish Shortbread


Authentic Scottish Shortbread

Sweet Lesson 5

By Caro

Try my recipe for traditional Scottish Shortbread as it is supposed to be made & with a soft & melt-in-the-mouth buttery texture everyone loves.


Scottish Shortbread

Why Use This Recipe?

This recipe is for traditional Scottish Shortbread as it is supposed to be made, no margarine or baking spread in sight, just real butter. You can trust me – I am Scottish 🙂 These soft and melt in the mouth buttery biscuits are surprisingly only made up of 4 main ingredients: butter, flour, corn flour & Sugar. The corn flour (corn starch), helps to give that extra soft texture that I mentioned & just ‘melts in the mouth’.

Be very careful when baking, as you want them to be baked but still very pale in colour. They will still be soft when taken out of the oven, so make sure when transferring to a cooling rack, that you use the baking/parchment paper or else you will have a crumbled mess on the floor! 

Once you master this recipe, it is perfect for gifting, as it tastes so much better than shop bought shortbread.


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Scottish Shortbread Made By A Scot


A NOTE ON INGREDIENTS

* If you are in the US/Canada and can’t get extra/super fine sugar for the UK caster sugar, you can make your own by grinding regular granulated sugar a little bit or processing lightly.  Do not go as fine as a powder, keep it as small granules.   Just note that US granulated is slightly smaller a granule size than our UK version.  See below for a photo of different sugar from the UK. (Read my article on differences of UK & US baking ingredients). Also note the recipe used Cornflour which gives it the melt-in-the-mouth texture. The US/Canadian name for this is Corn Starch.


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More Experienced Bakers

For more experienced bakers, skip the step-by-step photo recipe below and jump to the abbreviated version – The Recipe Card. Click below:

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Here’s a pic of my Cranberry, Orange & pecan version, baked by Diana!


New recipe – Chocolate & Coconut Scottish Shortbread


Traditonal Scottish Shortbread

Ingredients

  • 225g  Butter, cubed & softened 
  • (1 cup/2 sticks or 8 oz)
  • 110g Caster Sugar*  (3 3/4 oz)
  • (½ cup Extra/super fine sugar, see above)
  • 225g  Plain Flour 
  • (1 ¾ cups All Purpose or 8 oz)
  • 110g Corn Flour (3 3/4 oz)
  • (1 cup less 1 tbsp Corn Starch)   
  • Pinch Salt
  • Some Granulated Sugar for topping.


Equipment

  • Scales or Measuring Cups
  • Measuring Spoons
  • Large spoon
  • Stand or Hand Mixer, (or Medium-Large Mixing bowl & spoon)
  • Sieve
  • Pastry Cutter (optional)
  • Baking/parchment Paper
  • Baking Sheet/Tray x 2
  • Palette knife or sharp kitchen spatula
  • Timer or Phone Timer
  • Cooling Rack
  • OVEN: 180c/160c Fan oven/350f/Gas Mark 4


Instructions

1. Weigh out and cube the butter and leave out till softened.   I like to cut my butter into about 1cm (less than 1/2 inch) cubes as a smaller surface area will soften faster.  See Photo 1 below.

If you forget to take the butter out to soften, here’s a hack I reviewed to soften butter in about 10 minutes.


2. Weigh the sugar into your mixing bowl and add in the butter. Combine these two ingredients, firstly with a quick mix by hand with a spoon or spatula.  Then mix on low speed with a stand/hand mixer until light and fluffy, (known as ‘creaming the butter’).   You can of course do by hand with a spoon and some elbow power!  See Photo 1 for how it should look once creamed. Soft and paste like and easy to spread. Don’t over beat it though as much as you would for cakes.


3. Lightly oil/grease the baking sheets/trays before placing baking/parchment paper on top.  This is a good idea if your baking trays/sheets are completely flat, with no lips.  I have lost cookies before, when the paper slid off the tray – so best to avoid that 🙂

4. Place the bowl back on the scales with the sieve on top and set to zero (TARE). Weigh in the flour, corn flour/starch & salt through the sieve. (Alternatively add in with a measuring cup). Mix in by hand, don’t use a mixer . See Photo 2.


Using a Pastry cutter/pastry blender for Scottish Shortbread

5. Now I like to use a Pastry Cutter/blender for this part- it helps you incorporate the flours into the butter/sugar mixture much more easily and is quicker, (especially when your hands hurt sometimes like mine!)   See Photo 3 above.  With the pastry cutter, you push down on the bottom of the bowl and perform a crushing and turning motion, rotating left and right. Do this to all the mixture until the butter had taken in all the flour, (see Photo 3). Alternatively, you can do this ‘cutting in’ process, using 2 butter knives. Note though that the mixture will not come together into a ball at this stage. It will be very crumbly and that is fine. 


6. Next, in the bowl or on  a large sheet of baking/parchment paper very gently knead the dough just until it starts to come together, and no more.  It will change from a white lumpy powder into a beige smooth dough.  See Photo 4.

7.  Next form the dough into a very rough square shape, by using you hands and pressing down. Push in the end pieces to make sure the ends are the same height as the middle of the dough. Do this until the dough is about 1/2cm (5mm or 1/5in) thick. See Photo 5 below, for an idea of how it should look.  You can of course place baking/parchment paper on top of the dough and roll out, but I prefer to be gentler and do by hand.


8. Now using a sharp knife, trim around the dough until you have a straight square shape. Place the scraps of dough, back in the bowl.   Cut down the middle of the dough, and then cut ‘slabs’ as in Photo 5. I got 18 slabs, that were between 1.5 – 2cm (approx. 2/3 – 3/4 inch.) wide and about 8cm/3 inches long.  (Note that in Photo 5, I was making a half batch, but you get the idea!) Don’t worry if the slabs look too thin when cutting as they do expand once baking. So try to cut a little thinner than you want them to bake out at. 


9. Now very carefully transfer them with a palette knife to the prepared baking trays/sheets. If any pieces break/fall off, carefully put back and squash together.  Remember to leave a good 2.5cm/1 inch gap at least,  in-between the biscuits.  Now make holes with a fork all over the slabs, but very carefully not to go too far down and break them.   


10. Using the scraps left over, gently squish the dough together into a ball and flatten into a disc shape, pushing up the edges to make an even thickness like before. Cut this disc of dough into equal sized slices, (I got 8 pieces). Using your thumb & index finger, pinch the ends of the round dough to give the standard shortbread decorated edging & shape known as Petticoat Tails.   See Photo 6 for how it is done. Carefully transfer the dough to the baking tray & then make holes with a fork over the dough like before. (See Photo 7 below). Alternatively, make some more ‘slab’ shapes.

11.Place both trays/sheets in the fridge (or somewhere extra cold) for  60 minutes. If you omit this step, the shortbread will be too soft and not hold any of it’s shape. If you can’t get the baking trays/sheets into the fridge, you could try transferring with the paper, to regular trays.



12. When the time is nearly up, heat up the oven to 180c/160c Fan/350f/Gas Mark 4, (or sooner if your oven takes a long time to come to temperature).

13. Place the 2 trays/sheets in the oven and bake for approximately 15 minutes. You may need a little longer, but you want to take them out when the edges are just starting to turn a very pale golden colour. (See Photo 8). I turned and rotated the trays during baking to ensure an even bake. If the biscuits move when very gently pushed, they are ready. Be warned though that they are still soft, so take the trays out and leave for 5-7mins before touching them. At this just out of the oven stage, sprinkle plenty of granulated sugar on top of the biscuits.  


14. After the 5-7 minutes, transfer (very carefully) to a cooling rack by lifting the baking/parchment paper. Leave the biscuits to cool down completely.

15. Enjoy now with a cup of tea or coffee (or Whisky) or store in an airtight tin or container where they will last at least a week.


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Here’s some of the shortbread made by my friend Sally who just happened to appear on The Great American Baking Show this year on the holiday’s edition (2019). (See Photo 11). She flavoured hers with orange zest and cardamom, and added a nice glaze too! Check Sally’s blog out Bewitching Kitchen.


READERS’ PHOTOS & FEEDBACK

This is one of my popular recipes, but don’t just take my word for it. Read what others thought and see photos of their bakes using my recipe.

Go to Reader Photos & Feedback



Bake For The Holidays

You can also cut out this shortbread but make sure that the dough is very cold and cut very carefully. The soft texture of this biscuit, does mean it crumbles by nature, so not suitable for intricate designs or using a stamp or mold. Here are some below by my friend Diana, that she made for Christmas time.


And some made this year with chocolate:

Diana’s Christmas cutter Scottish Shortbread

Go to my flavoured Shortbread – Cranberry, Orange & Pecan Shortbread.


DIFFICULTY LEVEL- easy, beginner

Rating: 1 out of 5.

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Lessons Bakers

For those following the structured lessons, once this lesson is completed, process are normal to the next Theory Lesson – Lesson No. 10 (when available) or go to Savoury Lesson No.4. – Quicker Tear-&-Share Dinner Rolls (an introduction to bread making and using a quicker method).



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TRADITIONAL SCOTTISH SHORTBREAD BY A SCOT.

Try my recipe for traditional Scottish Shortbread as it is supposed to be made & with a soft & melt in the mouth buttery texture everyone loves.
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine British, Scottish
Keyword Biscuits, Christmas Gift, Cookies, Egg-free, New Year Biscuit, Scottish Biscuit, Traditional Recipe
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Chilling Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 40 minutes
Servings 24 Biscuits (approx.)
Author Caro
SAVE RECIPE Share on Facebook

Equipment

  • Scales or measuring cups
  • Large spoon
  • Stand or Hand Mixer, (or Medium-Large Mixing bowl & spoon)
  • Pastry Cutter/pastry blender (optional)
  • Baking/parchment paper
  • Baking Sheet/Tray x 2
  • Palette knife or sharp kitchen spatula
  • Timer or Phone Timer
  • Cooling rack

Ingredients

  • 225 grams Butter, unsalted, cubed & softened  (1 cup/2 sticks or 8 oz)
  • 110 grams Caster Sugar (3¾ oz), ½ cup Extra/super fine sugar, see above notes)
  • 225 grams Plain Flour  (1 ¾ cups All Purpose or 8 oz)
  • 110 grams Corn Flour    (3¾ oz, 1 cup less 1 tbsp Corn Starch) *see above
  • Pinch of Salt
  • Granulated Sugar for topping

Instructions

PREPARE THE BISCUIT DOUGH

  • Weigh & cube the butter & leave till softened.   If you forget to take the butter out to soften, here’s a hack I reviewed to soften butter in about 10 minutes.
  • Add the sugar to the butter in your mixing bowl & give a light mix together. Then mix on low speed with a stand/hand mixer until light and fluffy, (known as ‘creaming the butter & sugar’).   You can of course do by hand with a spoon and some elbow power!  
  • Line baking sheets/trays with baking/parchment paper and grease in place if the trays do not have a lip (or you could lose your biscuits).
  • Sieve in the flour, corn flour/starch into the sugar/butter mixture. Mix in by hand, don’t use a mixer .
  • Use a Pastry Cutter/blender for this next part- incorporates the flours into the butter/sugar mixture much more easily & is quicker, (especially if your hands hurt)  Push the pastry cutter down on the bottom of the bowl, rotating left & right. Do this to all the mixture until the butter had taken on all the flour. Alternatively, do this ‘cutting in’ process, using 2 butter knives. Note that the mixture will not come together into a ball at this stage. It will be very crumbly & that is fine. 
  • In the bowl or on  a large sheet of baking/parchment paper, very gently knead the dough just until it starts to come together, and no more. Form the dough into a very rough square shape, by using you hands & pressing down. Push in the end pieces to make sure the ends are the same height as the middle of the dough. Do until the dough is about ½cm (5mm or ⅕in) thick. Alternatively, place baking/parchment paper on top of the dough and roll out.
  • Trim around the dough until you have a straight square shape. Place the scraps of dough, back in the bowl.   Cut down the middle of the dough, and then cut ‘slabs. I got 18 slabs, (1½ – 2cm, approx. ⅔ – ¾" wide & about 8cm/3" long).   Try to cut a little thinner than you would want, as they spread a little on baking.
  • Very carefully transfer them with a palette knife to the prepared baking trays/sheets, leaving a good 2½cm/1" gap at least,  in-between.  Make holes with a fork all over the slabs, but very carefully not to go too far down & break them.
  • Using the scraps left over, gently squash the dough together into a ball & flatten into a disc shape, pushing up the edges to make an even thickness. Cut this disc into 8 pieces. Using your thumb & index finger, pinch the ends of the round dough to give a decorated edging & shape known as Petticoat Tails.  Carefully transfer the dough to the baking tray & make holes with a fork over the dough. Alternatively, make some more ‘slab’ shapes.

CHILL THE DOUGH

  • Place both trays/sheets in the fridge (or somewhere extra cold) for 60 minutes. If you omit this step, the shortbread will be too soft & not hold any of its shape. If you can’t get the baking trays/sheets into the fridge, you could try transferring with the paper, to regular trays.

BAKE THE SHORTBREAD

  • Heat up the oven to 180c/160c Fan/350f/Gas Mark 4, to coincide with the chilling time ending.
  • Place the 2 trays/sheets in the oven & bake for approximately 15 minutes. You may need a little longer, but you want to take them out when the edges are just starting to turn a very pale golden colour. Be warned though they should still be very soft, so take the trays out and leave for 5-7mins before moving them. At this just out of the oven stage, sprinkle plenty of granulated sugar on top of the biscuits.  
  • After the 5-7 minutes, transfer (very carefully) to a cooling rack by lifting the baking/parchment paper. Leave the biscuits to cool down completely.
  • Enjoy with a cup of tea or coffee (or Whisky) & store leftovers in an airtight tin or container, where they will last at least a week.

Notes

*See main recipe above for info on the sugar & cornflour.
*I am told Shortbread can be frozen, but I have never tried myself, so can’t say for sure how these will compare to freshly baked ones.
*Cornflour (Corn Starch) should not be omitted as this gives the biscuits their melt-in-the-mouth texture.   As well as using proper butter, this is what makes this a traditional Scottish recipe that we are used to here in Scotland.
*Do not skip the chilling stage as it is very important for these and most biscuit/cookie recipes.
*See main recipe for readers’ pics and feedback page to hear how others rave about these biscuits.
*You can also use seasonal cookie cutters for these biscuits, just not really intricate ones because of the soft nature of the biscuits.  See main recipe for pics & ideas.
Scottish coconut shortbread on a plate on a wooden table with xmas decsand whisky.
Go to my flavoured Shortbread – Cranberry, Orange & Pecan Shortbread.  A new flavour for Christmas 2021 – Chocolate Coconut Scottish Shortbread (above).
Please take a few seconds to rate this recipe – scroll down to the very bottom of the main recipe post & leave your feedback, thanks Caro xx
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Caro x


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Authentic Scottish Shortbread

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7 thoughts on “Authentic Scottish Shortbread

    1. I am so happy your dad loves them too! I see these being made plenty times more in your future 🙂

  1. These shortbread are amazing. They are the true melt in the mouth biscuit and make a lovely gift too. Will never use another recipe again. Thank you for sharing.

  2. These look yummy Caro, your step by step process and photos give clear instruction of what and how, thank you for sharing.
    I make shortbread quite regularly however never used the Pastry Cutter, I will definitely give it a try on my next batch. ?

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