Scottish Shortbread and Yetholm Bannock Recipe - Every L'il Baby Loves Shortnin' Bread
As the old song says, "Momma's l'il baby loves shortnin' bread". The "shortnin' bread" of that song is not, in fact, related to Scottish shortbread except in the mind of the child who heard the song and thought it must mean Granny's shortbread - which any baby would love. It has long been a staple at our family gatherings though I had never thought of it as particularly Scottish. Shortbread was simply one of those delectable goodies that magically appeared from Granny's oven, crisp and delicious, and ready to melt in your mouth.
Over the years, a number of different recipes for this delectable treat have come into my possession, and we have tried them all. We have also sampled the Scottish shortbread of many wonderful cooks. Some has been delicious - delightful morsels of buttery goodness. Some recipes, though, have not been quite up to Granny's exacting standards. In all honesty, we have come to realize that all shortbread recipes are not created equal.
Granny's original recipe is one of the easiest of recipes in terms of ingredients and method. In execution, it demands a very light hand and a careful eye to the baking time. It is very easy to turn out what we have come to call crispy critters, or badly over-browned cookies.
As children, we adored the over-baked offerings, as we were recruited to "dispose of the evidence" of a so-called bad batch. As our palettes matured, though, we came to recognize that most subtle shading between heavily browned and nutty, and almost-burnt butter.
- 2 cups butter (real butter)
- 1 cup sugar
- few grains salt
- 4 cups sifted flour
- 1/4 tsp vanilla (optional)
- Cream butter and sugar 'til smooth and fluffy
- Add vanilla
- Add flour 1 cup at a time and mix well after each addition
- Turn out on the mixing board and kneed until all the cracks have disappeared
- Spread on ungreased pan and prick with fork
- Score deeply but not all the way through
- Bake at 350 F for 20 - 30 min or until lightly golden
- Break along score lines when partially cooled
Here's a recipe from a dear friend of Granny's, handwritten in the margin of her cookbook. It's a bit more solid than my favorite recipe, but it is very tasty, nonetheless.
- 1 cup butter
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- yolk of 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 cups sifted flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- Cream butter and sugar until fluffy
- Add egg yolk and vanilla and blend thoroughly
- Sift flour with baking soda
- Add to butter mixture and blend well
- Spread in ungreased pan or cookie mold
- Prick deeply with fork and bake at 350 F fro 25 minutes or until lightly golden
Dough may be rolled out and cut into shapes, or placed in cookie mold and scored before baking
This recipe comes from the border area between Scotland and England - one of my grandfathers hailed from the Northumberland border country - and this particular sweet cookie bannock has been served at weddings and christenings in the border lands for centuries.
- 1 1/2 cups sifted flour
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 2/3 cup butter, softened
- 1/3 cup white sugar
- yolks of 2 eggs
- 1/3 cup flaked almonds
- 1/3 cup candied peel, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp lemon zest, finely grated
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 cup stem ginger, finely chopped
- Sift flour, ground ginger, and salt into a bowl
- Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl until fluffy
- Add egg yolks, beating until just blended
- Add in dry ingredients, candied peel, almonds, lemon zest, and vanilla, and mix to form a soft dough
- Press dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate 30 minutes
- Line a cookie sheet with baking parchment
- Divide chilled dough in two
- Roll out half the dough on a lightly floured surface, to form an 8" x 6" rectangle
- Transfer the dough to the parchment paper and sprinkle with the chopped stem ginger
- Roll out the remaining half of the dough and place it over the first half
- Brush with glaze and sprinkle with sugar and almond topping
- yolk of 1 large egg, beaten with 1 tbsp milk
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup slivered almonds
Refrigerate for the cookie dough for 30 minutes, then bake at 275 F for 1 hour, or until golden
Transfer to racks to cool, then cut into squares to serve
...and what would a hub on Scotland be without a wee dram or the skirl o' the pipes.
A good single malt would do well, but is in short supply here just now, so I'll offer some bonny Highland dancers.
© 2010, Text by Elle Fredine, All rights reserved