Shortbread, as the name seems to convey is not bread but a Scottish flour cookie, also popularly referred to as a biscuit, with a crumbly texture. The cookie acquired the name shortbread as the fat present in the butter of the cookie, prevents the formation of long chains of protein. Also as butter or shortening is the main ingredient of the shortbread, the biscuit seems to have derived its name from the term “short“ for shortening. Shortbread cookies are eaten as a snack in many European countries. Popular short bread recipes include those made with strawberry, maple and pecan, ginger, raspberry, caramel, and chocolate chips amongst others.
History of Shortbreads
Though the shortbread seemed to have been first prepared in the 12 th century, popularly the invention seems to be credited to Mary, the Queen of Scotland, who was fond of eating cookies called Petticoat Tails which got their name from their shape which resembled that of petticoat, a garment meant to be worn by women. The shortbread is believed to be a new generation variant of the biscuit bread of the medieval period which was made by baking the dough twice, rolling into a biscuit and dusting it with sugar and spices. The shortbread does not contain yeast and hence is not leavened bread. Butter is used instead. In the olden days shortbreads were consumed by the rich and elite class and were made for special occasions like Christmas and Hogmanay( New year of Scottish people).
Ingredients Used For Making Shortbread Recipes
Shortbread is basically made of flour, sugar and butter. The traditional version of the dish is made with oat-flour, though corn-flour, wheat-flour and rice powder are also used for making shortbreads. The resultant texture of the cookies depends on the ingredients used for making it. Butter or shortening is the next most important constituent of the dish. White sugar is basically the sweetener for the cookies. Pecans, chocolate, cream, mocha, almond, mincemeat, raisin, cranberry are the other ingredients that are used for making delicious shortbreads. Rice flour added to the shortbread tends to make it very crumbly.
Preparation of Shortbreads
Shortbread is easy to prepare. Cookie dough is made by first mixing flour with butter till it resembles a coarse meal and then mixing it thoroughly to form dough. The dough is then rolled out and cut with cookie cutters into different shapes which are baked at high temperature. The baked cookies look golden brown. These cookies with a crumbly texture can be best decorated, after cooling, with icing or dusted with powdered sugar. The shortbreads become crumbly while cooling and they become stiff on cooling further. Shortbread recipes are created with a number of interesting toppings. Shortbreads are baked in three basic shapes, namely, wedge-shaped ( as in petticoat tails which are partnered with wine), finger-shaped rectangular biscuits and round biscuits. The short breads are also prepared in fancy shapes for special occasions. For example the shortbread cookies prepared for Girl Scouts Trifoils are shaped in the form of the trifoil logo.
Difference between Shortbreads and Shortcakes
Shortbread is different from shortcake which differs in its texture from the shortbread. The shortcake is made using a leavening agent whereas shortbread does not have a leavening agent as one of its ingredients.
Popular Shortbread Recipes
• Traditional Scottish Shortbread- a shortbread recipe for this may be made with flour corn-flour, castor sugar and butter. The butter and sugar are beaten together till light and fluffy, the flours are sieved together and mixed, and a dough is made with the ingredients. The dough is kneaded and rolled out into thick sheets which are cut with cookie cutter into cookies. The baked cookies are cooled and dusted with powdered castor sugar. The biscuits are then preserved in air tight containers.
• Christmas Shortbread – These festive shortbreads are basically made with sugar, butter, flour and vanilla. Other ingredients like fruits, nuts and chocolate chips are added later to the dough, if required. The ingredients are kneaded into a ball and flattened after which they are shaped as desired and baked. Festive shortbread cookies are topped with icing after cooling.
• Butterscotch and Pecan shortbreads – these biscuits are made by adding pecans to the cookie dough which also uses a large amount of butter. The biscuits are coated with chocolate sauce or topping.
• Hazelnut and almond shortbread- these cookies are made by adding chopped hazelnut or almonds to the cookie dough.
• Gluten free shortbreads – Gluten free shortbreads are made with gluten-free flour. Those suffering from medical conditions which prescribe the consumption of gluten-free flour can enjoy these shortbreads.
• Butterscotch shortbreads- they are made with an ample amount of butter in combination with other ingredients that are usually a part of shortbread preparations. Nuts such as hazelnuts can also be included in the preparation.