Shortbread goes way, way back in history. The name comes from the Medieval words 'biscuit bread' or double baked bread which was the leftover dough from bread making that was slow baked to produce hard biscuits that lasted longer than the bread itself. The word biscuit means twice cooked.
Shortbread was once considered a luxury and most folks only had it at weddings, Christmas and New Year. It is still very much part of Scottish New Year (Hogmanay) celebrations when the First Footer brings in a gift of shortbread.
This is just one of many types of shortbread (a round shape with triangles cut out of it and flavoured with caraway seeds) and there are two stories as to where the name comes from.
Many words in Scottish cuisine come from the Auld Alliance and Mary Queen Of Scots was very partial to shortbread and the name Petticoat Tails is said to come from the French for Petites Gatelles' or little cakes.
Or the name came from Elizabethan times when petticoats were made using a pattern (tally) of a circle with segments put together to form a complete round. Shortbread was made in a round and called petticoat tallis.
Shapes & Facts
Shortbread usually comes in three different shapes, the aforementioned petticoat tails rount that is cut into the famous triangles, shortbread bars or fingers and individual rounds like biscuits.
Walkers is the most famous shortbread manufacturer
Shortbread is exported all over the world.
Many countries have their own version of shortbread, from Greece to France, Italy to the USA but Scottish shortbread is by far the most famous.
Here is a really easy recipe for making your own shortbread;
- 6oz plain flour
- 2 oz rice flour
- 2 oz caster sugar
- 1 oz icing sugar
- pinch of salt
- 5 oz butter
How to make shortbread
- Preheat the oven to 140C/280F/Gas 2 and line a baking tray
- Cream together the butter with the sugars till light and fluffy
- Sift in the flours and salt and mix together to form a dough
- Roll out on floured surface in rectangle to 1 cm thick and cut into shapes
- Prick all over with a fork and place on baking tray
- Bake for approximately 30-40 minutes till just a tiny bit golden
- Cool on tray for 10 minutes then on a wire rack till cold