Shortbread is an iconic Scottish cookie, prized for its unique texture and rich, buttery flavor. It’s traditionally made up of three essential ingredients: flour, sugar and a generous amount of butter. This simple combination results in a cookie that is both crisp and melt-in-the-mouth, a distinctive feature of shortbread. A delight to be savoured with a hot cup of tea, but be warned: this pleasure is quickly addictive!
Shortbread, with its rich buttery flavor, has a long history in Scotland, dating back to medieval times. Initially, it started life as a “bread cookie” made from dried, oven-hardened leftover bread dough, sweetened and spiced to enhance the taste. It was in the 16th century that shortbread began to take on its current form, with the addition of butter, an ingredient then considered a luxury.
The shortbread’s association with Scottish royalty, notably Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, in the 16th century, greatly contributed to its popularity. The queen is often linked to the popularization of a shortbread variant, Petticoat Tails, which are circle-shaped cookies cut into triangles. These cookies have become a staple of Scottish celebrations, especially at Christmas and New Year’s Eve (Hogmanay), when offering shortbread has become a tradition.
Over the centuries, shortbread has evolved and gained in popularity, not only in Scotland but all over the world. It comes in a variety of shapes and recipes, but always retains its distinctive character: a shortbread texture and a rich, buttery taste. This cookie symbolizes the simplicity and elegance of Scottish baking, and continues to be a favorite at family gatherings and special occasions.
Shortbread is notoriously heavy!
Made mainly from butter, flour and sugar, it’s still delicious! For the Scots, it’s precisely because it’s so high in butter and sugar!
Butter, an essential ingredient, gives shortbread its melt-in-the-mouth texture and distinctive aroma. Flour adds the necessary structure to the cookie, giving it its crisp, shortbread texture. As for the sugar, it adds a touch of sweetness and also contributes to the final texture of the cookie.
In the mouth, shortbread offers a unique experience: crisp on the first bite, then melt-in-your-mouth thanks to the richness of the butter. The taste is subtly sweet, enhancing the buttery flavor without being excessively mild. This combination of shortbread texture and rich, buttery flavor makes shortbread a particularly popular cookie, often associated with moments of relaxation and conviviality. Its simplicity makes it a classic Scottish pastry, appreciated for its ability to accompany both a cup of tea and a festive occasion.
In Scotland, shortbreads are extremely popular and widely available. You can find them in a variety of places: