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Scottish Shortbread – so awesome, I had to blog it!!!

DSC01868Forgive me, I know it’s not bread, but it’s that time of year again, when I bake up a storm for the sake of in-laws far and wide – hopefully wide, once they’ve tasted my yummy bakies!

So last year’s shortbreads were GOOD, but I wanted to kick them up a notch.

And, at the recommendation of Shoshana at Couldn’t be Pareve, I invested last week in a little bottle of LorAnn’s Buttery Sweet Dough bakery emulsion

(What a cute store, by the way; they’re on the Internet, but they’re right here in Mississauga, only about 25 minutes away when it’s not rush hour.  I wouldn’t say this is the best baking store in the GTA, but I had a great time browsing when I went in to pick up my emulsions.  Oh, yeah… I also bought some of this Princess Cake & Cookie bakery emulsion.  Oh, and on an impulse, a bottle of this Red Velvet emulsion, which includes the deepest, darkest red food colouring you could possibly imagine, with which I baked the most wonderful pure-buttermilk Red Velvet cake and… oh, never mind; on with my tale.)

So I had the right stuff, with the emulsion, but I wanted a killer recipe to go along with it.

I know REAL shortbread has corn starch.  The corn starch package used to come with this recipe, but that’s what I made last year and it lacked – oomph.  Plus, in cups and I’m a scale snob, so… fuggedaboudit

Found this maple-pecan shortbread bars recipe, thought about it for a second, then thought – nope; I’m looking for authentic.

A pretty obvious Google search yielded this Scotch Shortbread (by weight) recipe from Cooks.com.  But honestly, I don’t trust that site, or any other site that doesn’t have reviews.  Plus, this recipe uses regular sugar, and I really like the sandy, fine, almost melty consistency when I use icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar, to you in the U.S.A.).

At the other end of the spectrum, in terms of reliability, I found this basic shortbread recipe that was very well-reviewed at King Arthur Flour’s website.  If this site was that trust exercise you’re supposed to do when you’re team-building, I would fall backwards into its arms any day. 

But no corn starch!  Waah!  What’s a girl with a craving, I mean, parcels to fill, supposed to do???  Well, duh:  you MERGE the recipes.

I stuck the King Arthur recipe into a spreadsheet and tweeked the Scotch recipe from Cooks.com up and tweeked the King Arthur recipe down until I had a recipe that calls for the same amount of butter as the King Arthur and the same amount of sugar and cornstarch as the Cooks.com recipe. 

Betcha you’re worried I’m not going to share it with you now!  But I am…

AWESOME INTERFAITH IN-LAWS SHORTBREAD (by weight)

227g butter (8oz, 2 sticks, 1 cup) – salted works well for this
113.5g confectioner's sugar (4oz, about 1 cup)
salt, a light sprinkling, if butter is unsalted
85g cornstarch (3oz, about 1 cup)
2 tsp Butter Sweet Dough emulsion (or vanilla extract, or almond, or whatever you like)
170g cake & pastry flour (= 6oz, about 2 cups)
small amount of regular granulated sugar, for sprinkling

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F
  2. Spray a 9” x 13” x 2” (33cm x 22.9cm x 5cm) baking pan with spray oil.  (I used aluminum pans, that’s how I know exactly what size it is!)
  3. Cream butter with sugar in a large bowl until well-mixed.  If using unsalted butter, sprinkle a bit of salt on top while mixing and ensure that it’s well-blended.  The King Arthur folks say, “with no liquid in the recipe, it's impossible for added salt to disperse itself fully through the shortbread dough; you end up with unpleasantly gritty bits of salt in each bite.”  So be it.*
  4. Add cornstarch and emulsion/extract and mix well.
  5. Add flour and mix well.  You should NOT need to add water, but it may take a minute or more for everything to come together.  This is a very stiff, “cookie-dough” type dough.
  6. With slightly damp hands OR plastic wrap over the top, press into prepared baking pan.  My favourite way, once it’s spread out a bit in the pan, is to take another pan exactly the same size (it’s easy if you use aluminum!) and press it on top.  Then, I run my fingers around the inside of the SECOND pan, ensuring that the dough is spread evenly throughout the FIRST pan.  For some reason, you can feel how even it is really well through another pan.  I do this trick for press-in quiche and piecrusts, too.  Peel the second pan off carefully so it doesn’t stick.
  7. Poke the pan full of cookie with a fork in pretty, even rows so it doesn’t blow up like a balloon – or something.
  8. Bake at 300°F for 35-40 minutes.  Don’t let it get brown, but you do want to make sure it’s set properly in the middle, so a degree of golden at the edges is perfect.
  9. Remove from oven and sprinkle with granulated sugar.
  10. Allow to cool slightly, but remember to cut it after about 10 minutes, or at least, while it’s still quite warm.  If you wait too long sitting writing a blog post about how amazing it is, and the thing cools off, it will crumble when you cut it.

* I like how they describe the salt I’m throwing in as “unpleasantly gritty” but one person leaving a 5-star rating for this recipe mentions how they love to “add 1 TB chopped fresh rosemary and then sprinkle with a light dusting of sea salt before baking. I love the mix of sweet and savory.”  My salt is unpleasant – hers is somehow artistic because she tosses in a few pine needles?!?

Whatever you do… remember:  baker gets dibs on the less-desirable end pieces!  Save the pretty middle bits for holiday gift-giving.  Or, what the heck, bake up another batch for them… it’s pearls before swine, anyway!

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