Sundays with Chef Peter….
Hope you are all just bonny this fine Sunday! I thought we would go north this week to Scotland and one of their more delicious culinary achievements, Scottish Shortbread!
Shortbread is a classic Scottish dessert that consists of the three basic ingredients which are still commonly used today: flour, sugar, and butter. This dessert 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. The name of one of the most famous and most traditional forms of shortbread, petticoat tails, may have been named by Queen Mary. This type of shortbread was baked, cut into triangular wedges, and flavoured 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, how fabulous daahlings!
Shortbread was chosen as the United Kingdom's representative for Café Europe during the 2006 Austrian presidency of the European Union so we English better hope that Scotland never becomes independent! Scottish chef John Quigley, of Glasgow's Red Onion, describes shortbread as "the jewel in the crown" of Scottish baking! I love to have shortbread with a cup of tea and think they were made for each other.
Shortbread is so named because of its crumbly texture (from an old meaning of the word short). The cause of this texture is its high fat content, provided by the butter. The short or crumbly texture is a result of the fat inhibiting the formation of long protein (gluten) strands. The related word "shortening" refers to any fat that may be added to produce a "short" (crumbly) texture. Alternatively, the name may be derived from 'shorts', the bran and coarse part of meal.
My recipe for shortbread is:
300gms Cake Flour
200gms Soften Butter
Method is really very simple, just place all your ingredients into a bowl or mixing bowl and work to a dough (if using your mixer, use the paddle attachment).
If you have a traditional shortbread mould, brush it with cornstarch or flour and press the dough into the mould pressing down well and then trim the excess off.
Lightly knock your shortbread out onto a tray lined with none stick paper or silicone mat as I have done.
If you don’t have a mould or wish to do fingers, roll the dough to 1cm thick and cut it into fingers or any shapes you so wish!
Shortbread should be cooked at a low temperature (170 ̊c) as ideally you don’t want the shortbread to colour at all. It should be white.
Before baking, I lightly brush it with egg white and sprinkle it with sugar and while baking if you like a nice sugar crust you can sprinkle again with sugar.
Bake for 25-30 minutes and to check that it is cooked, just lift a piece and the underside should be lightly coloured.
Leave to cool and enjoy!
As mentioned before, shortbread is traditionally eaten at Christmas and New Year and when I was at the Oriental it was always one of the popular additions to our hampers. The great thing with Shortbread is that you can make it well in advance as it keeps well. So, if you’re thinking of nice homemade gifts for Christmas, here you go.
Now where is my cup of tea?
Till next week,
P.S. Do have a look at my article in the Phuket Gazette ... please...