I’ve had a craving for shortbread many times since I was a little girl traveling with my parents in England on the way to visit our large extended family in Holland.
We took a few days to ramble the summer countryside. In the afternoons, during a rain shower, we’d stop for tea in the Cotswolds and Lake District inns and enjoy crispy, little buttery confections like these.
Early this June at a friend’s graduation party, I spied a pretty plate of mouth-watering lavender shortbreads – and all those memories flooded back. Now, I have the bug to make these and a variation or two here at home.
With the following recipes, it’s easy to make one or two kinds ahead and chill (as in a cookie-dough roll in wax paper) or freeze. Serving them homemade and warm out of the oven – right when you want them – is a piece of cake!
They are perfect for any holiday or party.
Shortbreads on the Queen’s Tea Table
The very first shortbread recipe appeared in a Scottish cookbook dated 1736; early formulas called for yeast, but by 1850 most were utilizing only butter, flour, and sugar.
There are as many variations of it as days in the calendar.
Queen Victoria was said to like her shortbread seasoned with salt; the town of Goosnargh in Lancashire is flavors theirs with coriander and caraway.
Shortbread from Pitcaithly, in Scotland, is made with orange peel and almonds. And shortbreads, whether plain or molded into a pattern, are often dipped in chocolate.
The dough is often pressed into circular molds with intricate designs, to make it recall the Yule bannock, an ancient, rounded and notched cake said to resemble the sun. Finger shapes are also common, as are the wedges called ‘petticoat tails’, reminiscent of bell-shaped crinolines and supposedly favored by Mary, Queen of Scots.
The Basic Shortbread Ingredients
This is Martha Stewart’s Basic Recipe.
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 cup (two sticks) organic butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
- 2 cups organic (non-GMO) unbleached all-purpose flour (we prefer King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose, organic to any other) (Many stores carry it now and may put it on their shelf if you ask)
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter an 8 1/2-inch round cake pan, springform pan, or round cookie sheet.
- Sift together flour and salt in a small bowl. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium (or by hand), cream butter until fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add sugar and continue to beat until very light in color and fluffy, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Add flour mixture, and beat on low (or by hand), scraping bowl if necessary, until flour is just incorporated and dough sticks together when squeezed.
- Pat dough into prepared pan or roll out into a 8 1/2-9″ circle on cookie sheet. Use a paring knife to score dough into wedges; prick all over in even intervals with a fork.
- Bake until firm in the center and just starting to color, about 50 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack, and let cool completely. Cut into wedges. Cookies will keep, in an airtight container, at room temperature 3 weeks.
Baker’s Note: The dough (and its variations) can be prepared, wrapped, and refrigerated overnight or frozen up to three months, sealed tightly in a BPA-free Ziploc bag (remove all air before sealing); thaw frozen dough overnight in the refrigerator before using.
6 Variations on the Basic Shortbread Recipe:
Grateful Prayer and a Thankful Heart: Orange Spice Shortbread Dipped~
Gourmandistan: Lemon Thyme Butter Cookies~
Baked By Joanna: Cardamom-Pistachio Shortbread~
eCurry: Orange Ginger Shortbread~
Recipe Girl: Pumpkin Shortbread Cookies~
And lastly, That Winsome Girl: Lemon Shortbread~Ooh!
If Queen Elizabeth were to arrive at my door for tea, I would most certainly serve her these delectable delights and some Lady Grey tea!
Cheerio, for now, loves!
“Better is a dry morsel with quietness than a house full of feasting with strife.” ~Proverbs 17:1-3