Confession: I’m Scottish.
Double confession: I was born in Scotland.
It took me quite a few years to understand that I’m not Scottish because I was born in Scotland, but occasionally, I hold that prime little fact in the air as a, “You thought I was awesome before? Well now, your mind is being blown.”
It’s the whole military brat thing. Yes, I’m an American citizen; No, I do not have even a slight accent.
But, I do have a preternatural craving for shortbread. All times of the year, all times of the day, I want it. Hand me some Walker’s, and I’m a happy girl. Hand me a vat of butter, some brown sugar, and flour, and I’m over the moon.
I learned how to make the sort of shortbread that makes me weak in the knees in 2011, and this past Christmas, I gave it away dipped in dark chocolate. It was an enormous hit, so I’m walking around like a proud chicken with my shortbread pants on (I don’t even know what that metaphor/imagery really means).
Because I love each and every one of you, here’s my shortbread knowledge straight from the land of lochs and firths.
Okay, so this isn’t really my recipe, but how could it be? After quite a bit of trial and error, I found Linda’s Scottish Shortbread Recipe to be the very best. It leaves that perfect buttery, sweet, and crumbly flavor you crave without being too dried out or bland in any way.
First things first, I love shortbread, because you only need 3 ingredients.
- All-Purpose Flour
- Brown Sugar (not white)
- Butter (unsalted, please)
Seriously. That’s it.
And before you read the comments to Linda’s recipe and start thinking I’m off my rocker, wait. Shortbread is a remarkably simple dessert, which, like pastry dough, means it requires a little know-how.
Other home cooks said it was dry and flavorless. For one, that’s not possible. The brown sugar lends this rich, subtle molasses flavor and the butter rocks your world. It’s absolutely divine.
If you try this recipe and do not get the dreamy shortbread cookies you want, it’s because you added too much flour and/or didn’t cream the butter and sugar correctly.
I know this sounds a little rough. How could you not cream butter and sugar the right way? They’re…butter and sugar. How much more simple could it be?
Here are my tips for making world-rocking shortbread cookies:
- First, make sure the butter is room temperature. If it’s cold, it won’t cream the right way, which will both make the process much harder than it should be and will result in an inconsistent product.
- Use soft brown sugar. There are different ways to soften up dried out and old brown sugar, but really, don’t bother for this recipe. Since shortbread is such a simple cookie with so few ingredients, you really need to use quality items. Just make sure the brown sugar is soft and fresh, and your end result will be that much better! Save the dried out brown sugar for another dish.
- Shortbread is a two step process. First, you cream the butter and sugar and then add some of the flour to create a sturdier dough. But, if you mix everything in right away, you will not have shortbread like you’re craving. You must take the dough from the first step, then knead it in more flour. You’ll notice a major difference if you do this.
Personal Anecdote: The last time I made shortbread, I forgot that this happens. I ignored the directions, and tried to roll out the first round dough. At that stage, it’s basically still creamed butter and sugar. I rolled it out, sliced the pieces, added the cute fork holes, and tried to pick up the cookies to put on the pan. Each piece folded in on itself and it was a total nightmare. So, I checked the recipe, smacked my head against the counter, and then kneaded in more flour until the dough became the manageable yet malleable consistency required. The end result: some of the best shortbread I ever made.
- Watch the cookies. You want the shortbread cookies to turn slightly golden on the edges before you take them out of the oven. If you see a golden hue across the entire cookie, take them out immediately. That’s longer than enough. The cookies will still be delicious, but you want them when that golden color begins to blush around the edges.
- If doing multiple batches, make sure the pan isn’t too hot before you put the next round of cookies on. I’ve seen pictures of cookies that are golden brown in a bad way, and I can tell that the butter temperature was too high. Shortbread isn’t a high heat-tolerant cookie. When in doubt, rotate two pans while allowing one to cool in between batches.
- Remember that it’s a process. Be patient and gentle, and the shortbread gods will bless ye with some of the most mouth-watering and delicious cookies on the planet.
Now for the chocolate…
You’ve been so good reading all of those tips on creating the perfect shortbread cookie! Really, the process is very simple if you follow directions. Mix, then knead, roll, slice, and bake.
The chocolate is similarly simple. Since I’m a dark chocolate snob (this nose is up in the air regarding all of those terrible milk and white chocolates out there), I would only ever add that fruity, intense flavor of dark chocolate to something as sweet and buttery as shortbread. You *can* use those inferior chocolates if you must, but don’t tell me that you did.
When melting chocolate, I always use the double boiler method. It’s incredibly easy.
- Simply take a sauce pan (one large enough to place a metal bowl on top without sinking into the water), add water, and place a metal bowl on top. You must use a metal bowl. Please do not try to use a plastic bowl on a pot of simmering water.
- It takes a second or two to get the right water level. Place the bowl on top. You want the bottom to fit into the pot, but you don’t want it touching the water.
- Heat up the water, but don’t make it boil. You want a gentle simmer, so set the heat to about medium (or maybe a little lower depending on your stove).
- Next, add the chocolate to the metal bowl, and watch it melt! The process is a little slower than if you were microwaving, but you won’t have to worry about the chocolate seizing up or hardening around the edges.
Get yourself a big sheet of waxed paper (I used freezer paper, actually), coat the shortbread (when cooled) by spooning chocolate around the parts of the cookie you want covered. Shake off the excess, and place the cookie to cool on the paper.
The cooling process can take a while. Because I added such thick chocolate, it took quite some time, but I did stick batches of chocolate-dipped shortbread in the fridge to help the chocolate seize up into its happy little shell.
Really, it’s as simple as that. Make the cookies, dip them in chocolate, and eat! This is one of those crowd-pleasers that make people lose their minds.
Clever topping ideas:
- Extra chocolate chips
- Sea salt (fleur de sel or smoked would be amazing!)
- Cinnamon (or cinnamon sugar)
- Brown sugar sprinkle
- The sky’s the limit!
Shared at: HomeAcre Hop
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