Post by Alison Hein.
Scotland’s recent historic vote for independence has got me thinking a lot about this lovely place, its people and its traditions.
The Scots are an ingenious people. Did you know that marmalade, raincoats, tarmac, pneumatic tires, adhesive stamps, penicillin, the bicycle, and the telephone were all invented by Scottish people? I learned this from one of my well-worn and well-loved linen dishcloths gifted to me by my dear friend Anne after a visit to her native homeland many years ago. Anne brought me a second linen at that time, too – this one emblazoned with traditional Scottish recipes: haggis and clootie; cock-a-leekie soup, scones and bridies; and of course, shortbread.
Also ingenious in their simplicity, Scottish recipes require little in the way of provisions, and offer much in the way of flavor. My dishcloth shortbread recipe calls for only three ingredients – flour, sugar, and butter. I’ve modified this approach over the years, using a light brown sugar for depth and a smooth, subtle splash of vanilla for mellowing. Remember, shortbread is all about the butter, so be sure to use a high quality variety when you try this recipe. You must cut the cookies immediately after removing them from the oven, while the dough is still soft. Then, allow them to cool in the pan for a bit so they won’t crumble.
Scotland’s history is also rich with music and verse, like this lovely little snippet from the song Bonnie Scotland, I Adore Thee:
Bonnie Scotland, land of grandeur,
Where the sparkling streams meander,
Here will I delight to wander,
Bonnie, Bonnie Scotland.
So, make a quick batch of shortbread, brew some thick, dark tea the way the Scots do, hum along, and surrender – to a bonnie, Scottish breakfast in bed.
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
½ cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
Preheat oven to 325°. In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar together until light and fluffy. Stir in vanilla and mix well. Add flour gradually until a thick, crumbly dough has formed. Knead lightly until dough sticks together in a ball, then press evenly into a 9×9-inch pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until lightly browned, but not crisp. Immediately cut dough into 3×1-inch strips and prick tops with a fork or toothpick. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove and cool on a rack until firm. Store in waxed paper-lined tin.
Makes 27 cookies.