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Shortbread is baked at a low temperature to avoid browning.  When cooked, it is nearly white, or a light golden brown.  It may be sprinkled with more sugar while cooling.

Made with no preservatives and good simple ingredients, which give it the rich simple buttery taste.

Shapes to Delight

Shortbread is traditionally formed into one of three shapes: one large circle, which is divided into segments as soon as it is taken out of the oven, individual round biscuits (shortbread rounds); or a thick (3/4” or 2cm) oblong slab cut into fingers.

The stiff dough retains its shape well during cooking.  The biscuits are often patterned, usually with the tines of a fork before cooking.  Shortbread is sometimes shaped in hearts and other shapes for special occasions.

Luxury Treat

Shortbread was an expensive luxury and for ordinary people, shortbread was a special treat reserved just for special occasions such as weddings, Christmas and New Year.  The custom of eating shortbread at New Year has its origins in the ancient pagan Yule Cakes which symbolized the sun.  In Scotland it is still traditionally offered to “first footers” at New Year

History of Shortbread:

Shortbread resulted from medieval biscuit bread, which was a twice-baked, enriched bread roll dusted with sugar and spices and hardened into a hard dry, sweetened biscuit called a rusk.  Eventually, yeast from the original rusk recipe was replaced by butter, which was  becoming more of a staple in Britain and Ireland.  

Although shortbread was prepared during much of the 12th century, the refinement of shortbread is credited to Mary, Queen of Scots in the 16th century.  This type of shortbread was baked, cut into triangular wedges, and flavored with caraway seeds.  

Shortbread was expensive and reserved as a luxury for special occasions such as Christmas, Hogmanay (Scottish New Year’s Eve), and weddings.  In Shetland, it is traditional to break a decorated shortbread cake over the head of a new bride on the entrance of her new house.