Thursday, February 9, 2017

old-fashioned scottish shortbread

I've had Scotland on my mind lately.

At the end of January, Scott and I hosted a big Robbie Burns Day party, where we ate Scottish meatballs and everyone wore plaid. Our friend Niall also read Burns poems in Old Scots wearing his Campbell kilt. It was glorious.

When I think of Scotland, I think of mountains and strong black tea and beautiful woolen blankets and ... shortbread.

I've made gluten-free shortbread before, but I was hankering after something a bit more old-fashioned in the shortbread department.

One cold January afternoon, I pulled out my recipe binder for cookies. I kept turning the pages until I found my Great-Aunt Marjorie's recipe for shortbread.

Well, Marjorie gave it to me but I think she got it from her mother-in-law. Although I'm not actually completely sure about that. In any case, it's called "Mom Allison's Shortbread" and Allison is a Scottish name, so I feel good about its authentic Scottish-Canadian roots.

All that to say — it's just what I was looking for. You bake it in an 8-inch tin and then cut it into "petticoat tails," which look like triangles, for the uninitiated.

The recipe says that letting it sit in a sealed tin for a couple of days brings out the flavour, and that is true. However, it was also fantastic an hour out of the oven. So it's good on all fronts: right away, two days later, ten days later. I can't give you any longer time frames because it won't last that long in our household.

one year ago: gluten-free sandwich bread
two years ago: cheesecake in a jar with passion fruit sauce and tomato soup with two fennels
three years ago: nuts and bolts and tuscan white beans


mom allison's shortbread
bakes an 8-inch round you may cut into 8 or 12 pieces
note: whether you use wheat flour or the gluten-free flours, you still also add the white rice flour

vanilla castor or berry sugar to sprinkle on top*
6 oz. all-purpose wheat flour
     or gluten-free: 
     2 oz. millet flour
     2 oz. potato starch
     2 oz. sweet rice flour
     1 tsp. xanthan gum
2 oz. white rice flour
3 oz. berry or castor sugar**
1/2 tsp. kosher salt (or 1/4 tsp. table salt)
5 oz. salted butter, at room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Whisk the dry ingredients together. Rub in the butter with your fingers or use a stand mixer to make a stiff dough.

Roll the dough out between two sheets of plastic wrap. Remove the top layer of plastic wrap and invert the dough into an 8-inch cake tin. Now, peel off the new top layer of plastic wrap.

Mark into 8 or 12 pieces and prick all over with a fork. Bake in the mid-oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until it's set and just the edges are slightly golden.

Take it out of the oven and sprinkle with vanilla sugar. Mark pieces off again.

Once it's cool, you can try some right away. You can also let it sit in a sealed container for a couple of days to bring out the flavour. We found it just gets better with time but it still great the first day.

* Make your own vanilla sugar by immersing a split vanilla bean into the sugar for some time. If you just think of this right before baking — no problem. It still works and you can use the leftover sugar for future baking projects.

** If you don't have this finer sugar on hand, just whiz it up in the food processor for a little while until the grains look smaller. This worked for me.

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