An Easter bake of shortbread biscuit topped with vanilla custard and blueberries.
Text & Photo © CM Cordeiro & , JE Nilsson 2023
My mother used to love Scottish shortbread when she was in her teens and early twenties, and it is still a convenient off-the-shelf item that can be bought in almost any grocery store in Singapore today. Her love for shortbread biscuits meant that I had plenty of them growing up, and I grew to love them for their rich flavor and crumbly texture. I would often eat them on their own, even if there was tea served alongside.
As someone who loves baking, I recently made a blueberry pie with a shortcrust pastry base and a combined oats and flour crumble on top. The warm, crumbly pie base coupled with the upcoming Easter weekend, inspired me to bake a batch of shortbread biscuits because they pair well with almost anything sweet or savory.
There are many recipe variations for shortbread biscuits, but I prefer the traditional Scottish 3:2:1 recipe of 3 parts flour, 2 parts fat, and 1 part sugar. The origins of Scottish shortbread can be traced back to the medieval era when it was known as “biscuit bread.” In culinary tradition, shortbread was a type of bread that was baked twice, making it hard and perfect for long journeys. It was not until the 16th century that sugar was added to the recipe, transforming it into the sweet treat we know today.
Making Scottish shortbread is relatively easy, and the recipe can be scaled up or down to suit your needs. My batch had a very short baking time of less than 20 minutes because they were all mini cupcake-sized pieces. After trying some shortbread biscuits straight out of the oven, I found that they were a bit too sweet for my personal taste, so I will reduce the amount of sugar or make them completely sugar-free in future batches. The ingredients for shortbread biscuits are few, but the key to making good shortbread is using high-quality butter. I used caramelized butter, which gave the biscuits some color after baking them for under 30 minutes at 150°C. You can roll out the dough and cut it into rounds or fingers before baking. Some recipes call for the addition of rice flour or corn starch, which gives the shortbread a beautiful crumble with each bite.
I think my mother loved shortbread not only a convenient food for her to have at her desk during working hours, but she also enjoyed its pairing versatility. This butter-rich biscuit is delicious on its own, but it can also be served with a variety of toppings, such as jam, whipped cream, or fresh fruit. It is also a popular ingredient in desserts, such as trifle, cheesecake, and ice cream.
In my family, shortbread is still a favorite treat during the festive season. My absolute favorite brand in Singapore for shortbread is Walkers, and you can recognize their distinctive red Scottish tartan-designed packages in grocery stores.
A madeleine de Proust with Scottish shortbread over the Pink Moon on 6 April 2023? Absolutely.