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Rich, buttery, crumbling on the tongue – shortbread is one of Scotland’s finest foods; it has also proved a remarkably good export. Visitors to Scotland will often take some home with them as a memento of their travels – the sturdiness of shortbread means it travels well. It is often packaged in tins which make excellent biscuit tins once the shortbread has been eaten.
Shortbread can be made in a variety of shapes, but the three most traditional are:
Oblongs. These tend to be quite thick and are usually decorated on top by using the prongs of a fork to create small holes in the surface.
Rounds. Small, round biscuits which can be eaten by the greedy in a couple of mouthfuls!
Round Ended Triangles. These biscuits quite triangles, for the shortest end is rounded... These are created by making a big round of shortbread and cutting it into segments in the same way as you would cut a round cake. It is often thinner than oblong or round shortbread biscuits. One of the best known versions using this shape is called Petticoat Tales – the edges of the large round biscuit are fluted using fingers before cooking, giving the impression of the bottom of a petticoat...
Other Shapes. Shortbread can be made in the shapes of hearts, squares, stars or gingerbread men. Pastry cutters may give you other ideas. Because shortbread uses simple ingredients and is easy to make it’s a good recipe to use to get children involved in cooking.
Traditional ingredients for shortbread are flour, butter and sugar – 6 oz flour, 4 oz butter and 2 oz sugar will make a good batch of shortbread – increase or decrease proportions as needed using the 6:4:2 ratio. You can also use a range of other ingredients to spice up your shortbread including almonds, caraway seeds, cardamom, cinnamon, chocolate, cocoa, ginger, hazelnuts and lemon or orange rind. People sometimes make their shortbread more buttery by adding a proportion of a lighter type of flour such as cornflour or rice flour. Although widely available now, in the past shortbread was a luxury item in Scotland, saved for holidays and special occasions; it was unusual to add many ingredients beyond the traditional flour, butter and sugar.
Traditional decoration includes using the prongs of a fork to make small holes on the top of shortbread and fluting the edges of large rounds using fingers. Shortbread moulds can produce stunningly decorated shortbread. Other suggestions for shortbread decoration include caraway seeds, chocolate chips and icing.
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