Shortbread hails from Scotland and evolved from medieval “biscuit bread”, twice-baked leftover dough from bread making, dusted with sugar and spices, that was dried out in a low temperature oven until hardened into a type of rusk. Through the years the yeast in the bread was replaced by butter and “biscuit bread” evolved into “shortbread”. Since butter was such an important ingredient the word “shortbread” derived from shortening. Shortbread may have been made as early as the 12th Century but has been attributed to Mary Queen of Scots who in the mid 16th century was said to be fond of Petticoat Tails, a thin, crisp, buttery round shortbread originally flavored with caraway seeds, baked and cut into triangular wedges which resembled the shape of fabric pieces used to make petticoats during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.
Shortbread is traditionally formed into one of three shapes: one large circle divided into triangular segments (Petticoat Tails), individual round biscuits (Shortbread Rounds) or a rectangular slab cut into “fingers”.
In the beginning shortbread was expensive and served as a luxurious treat for special occasions such as Christmas, Hogmany (Scottish New Year’s Eve) and weddings. Through the years it has become an everyday favorite… certainly one of ours! There are many varieties of shortbread in existence but most consist of three main ingredients: flour, sugar and butter. The consistency of shortbread is influenced by the type and texture of the dry ingredients… and our recipe includes the addition of cornmeal which lends a wonderful textural crunch. In addition, for flavor we’ve added the zest of a lemon, making this simple and lovely treat a perfect accompaniment to afternoon tea!
Lemon Shortbread Fingers
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 x 2-inch baking pan with foil:
Whisk together in a medium-sized bowl:
2 C all-purpose flour
1 C yellow cornmeal
1/2 tsp salt
In the bowl of an electric mixer cream together until light and fluffy, approximately 3 – 4 minutes:
1 1/2 C unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 C confectioners sugar
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp lemon extract
Mix for an additional minute to thoroughly distribute the flavorings. Add:
the dry ingredients
Mix on low speed until incorporated. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan:
Using a spatula and your fingers press the dough evenly into the pan:
Bake for 35 – 40 minutes, or until the shortbread has lightly browned:
While still warm, cut the shortbread into fingers using a sharp knife or a bench scraper. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before removing from the pan, using the foil to gently lift the fingers from the baking pan. The wonderful crunch and palate pleasing citrus of this shortbread makes a cup of tea even more pleasureable… and makes a terrific dessert companion with scoop of rich vanilla bean ice cream. Bon Appetit!
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