Place of origin
Region or state
|Flour, butter, white sugar|
Shortbread is a type of biscuit traditionally made from one part white sugar, two parts butter, and three parts flour (by weight). The use of plain white (wheat) flour is common today, and other ingredients like ground rice or cornflour are sometimes added to alter the texture. Also, modern recipes often deviate from the pure three ingredients by splitting the sugar portion into equal parts granulated sugar and icing sugar (powdered sugar in American English) and many further add a portion of salt.
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. 
Shortbread is different from shortcake, which can be similar to shortbread, but which can be made using vegetable fat instead of butter and always uses a chemical leavening agent such as baking powder, which gives it a different texture.
Shortbread biscuits are often associated with normal egg-based biscuits, but they hold their shape under pressure, making them ideal for packed meals.
Shortbread is baked at a low temperature to avoid browning. When cooked, it is nearly white, or a light golden brown. It may be sprinkled with more sugar while cooling. It may even be crumbly before cooled, but will become firmer after cooling.
Shortbread is traditionally formed into one of three shapes: one large circle, which is divided into segments as soon as it is taken out of the oven (petticoat tails, which may have been named from the French petits cotés, a pointed biscuit eaten with wine, or petites gastelles, the old French for little cakes); individual round biscuits (shortbread rounds); or a thick (¾" or 2 cm) oblong slab cut into fingers.
The stiff dough retains its shape well during cooking. The biscuits are often patterned, usually with the tines of a fork before cooking or with a springerle-type cookie mold (U.S.)/biscuit mould (U.K.). Shortbread is sometimes shaped in hearts and other shapes for special occasions. The classic Girl Scout cookie "Trefoils" are shortbread in the shape of the Girl Scout trefoil logo.
Shortbread is generally associated with and originated in Scotland, but due to its popularity it is also made in the remainder of the United Kingdom, and similar biscuits are also made in Denmark, Ireland and Sweden. The Scottish version is the best-known, and Walkers Shortbread Ltd is Scotland's largest food exporter.
Scottish chef John Quigley, of Glasgow's Red Onion, describes shortbread as "the jewel in the crown" of Scottish baking.
History of 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 flavored 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.
- Caramel shortbread, shortbread topped with caramel and chocolate
- Chocolate brownie
- Shortcake, a soft cake with a similar name
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- Chambers English Dictionary - 7th edition
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