Monday, 28 October 2019

Gran's Scottish Shortbread recipe

You can call this Christmas shortbread, Scottish shortbread, Plain shortbread, Delicious shortbread, Granny's shortbread, or Vintage shortbread. What's in a name anyway, because the main thing is that this is a delicious recipe and a cinch to make. If you have plain flour, icing sugar, butter and a pinch of salt in your kitchen cupboards, you can make it. The only obstacle could be the 7 inch or 18 cm diameter tin needed to bake two shortbread circles in, but I will talk about that later.

 I have torrents of Scottish blood running through my veins, so when I made this I thought of all my Scottish ancestors, my dear Mum and also my favourite Great Aunt Eilleen (not on the Scottish side) but a great cook, who always produced delicious shortbread at Christmas time, which is the traditional time in Australia to eat shortbread.These are mouth wateringly good and have the distinctive buttery flavour unique to shortbread.

So this was a practice run for me my friends, as in case you didn't realise, it's only two months until Christmas (sorry) and I always like to introduce at least one  new cooking achievement at Christmas to surprise our family. This will be it. This is a very old recipe, which was given to me by a friend, also called Pauline,  who is a long standing member of my Book Club group. I've only just joined this group and am really enjoying it. Book club Pauline made this for the first book club meeting I attended, and then again at the third one held at her beautiful home, as part of a lovely afternoon tea spread, as it was one of the lady's birthdays. Pauline said that she was given this recipe by her Gran, and it was the first  sweet thing she ever cooked after she was married, and now it is the only biscuit she ever cooks. I feel very privileged to have been given this recipe, so thank you Pauline. 

I am really enjoying the Book Club, and what strikes me as special is that everyone who attends is valued for their individual opinion about the chosen book we have all read, and every comment is treated with interest and respect. It also doesn't matter if you haven't managed to read the whole book, as the conversation is always stimulating and quite intelligent, and afternoon tea is always delicious, a definite plus. The latest book we read was a collection of short stories by Western Australian author Robert Drewe, titled "The True Colour of the Sea". Each story was linked to water in some way. I haven't read a collection of short stories for a long time, but I loved this author's quirky writing style and how he engaged the reader from the first page. Well worth a read.

The only potential problem for me with this recipe was that because it is very old, it requires two x 18cm or (7 inch) shallow cake tins which can't be bought anymore. Perhaps they can be found in the cities where there are more specialist kitchen shops or at garage sales or op shops. I had two of them which were my Mum's but they are now in Cairns in my daughter's house. Cake tins, saucepans and cutlery sets have often been passed down through generations, however the healthy emphasis on decluttering has possibly curbed that tradition. When Mr. HRK got wind of my cake tin dilemma, he sprung into action and was off to the Incredible Tip shop before I could say Jack Robinson, looking for some stainless steel to make two specially designed cake rings, similar to the  egg rings we used to poach eggs in but much larger. Do you remember those? I remember them being difficult to clean. In the end he found what he wanted at Bunnings, of course, and I now have two custom designed aluminium cake rings, 18 cm in diameter, with a lip for easy removal. Perfect for the task in hand. I told him he should patent the design, but he is a very modest handyman.

Both of them fit on my large biscuit tray and they worked a treat for cooking the shortbread. Having said all of that my friends, a shallow 8 inch cake tin would probably work just as well,  as most of them have a  7 inch (18cm) diameter base anyway. With a high sided tin though, it is trickier to remove the shortbread triangles from the tin. The cake rings are both perfectly circular although the photo makes one look a little bent.

I  have a family Scottish tartan which my Mum and her Granny were very proud of, the Royal Stuart tartan. I was pretty excited about it as well,  and then we visited Scotland and it was everywhere in the tourist shops but of course I bought a scarf anyway, which makes a rare appearance in the North Queensland Winter, ha ha, or in these shortbread photos.

Mr. HRK also has a Scottish tartan, the MacGregor clan tartan; his ancestors originated from the unruly MacGregor clan in the Scottish Highlands, the name was even banned at one stage, not nearly as refined as mine ha, ha. I could tell you the very interesting story of how shortbread was really launched in Scotland by Mary, Queen of Scots, but can be traced back in a variety of forms to the 12th century, and how it is still traditionally offered to the "first footers" at New Year. However look it up here on Historic UK if you are interested in knowing more. There is plenty written about this iconic Scottish biscuit, and I love the history of foods, but I think we need to bake don't you?

Let's Cook:

Ingredients converted from the original imperial to metric measurement:

3 oz (87 g) sifted icing sugar

6 oz (175 g) softened butter
8 oz (225 g) sifted plain flour
pinch of salt


2 x 18 cm (7 inch diameter) shallow cake tins


Dust 2 x 18 cm (7 inch) diameter shallow cake tins with plain flour. I dusted my biscuit tray with plain flour, and greased the cake rings.

Heat oven to 140 deg. C

Beat together 3 oz sifted icing sugar or icing mixture, and 6 oz butter until pale and creamy. If the butter is softened, this takes hardly any time at all.

Add a pinch of salt to 8 oz plain flour and sift it.

Fold flour into mixture, about a quarter at a time.

Remove mixture from the bowl and bring together on a floured bench.

Divide into 2 equal portions and press into the cake tins.

 I then rolled it with a small bottle to smooth out the surface.

Mark around the edges by pinching the mixture between thumb and forefinger (not essential if this doesn't make sense).

Take a cocktail fork or skewer and press about a dozen holes into the mixture. Shortbread always looks very attractive and tastes sweeter if sprinkled lightly with caster sugar before popping it in the oven. I omitted that step but I will do it for the Christmas version.

Bake for about 40 minutes (if you like it even crispier/crunchier cook for a bit longer). Mine took 50 minutes and was perfect, but definitely check it after 40 minutes. It should be very slightly browned.

Remove the tins or the biscuit tray onto a wire cooler and immediately cut into 12 triangular pieces as with a pizza.

Allow to cool in the tins.

If you don't have scales that show imperial as well as metric measures, the following is pretty close:

3oz = 87 g   6oz = 175g   8 oz = 225 g

Shortbread continues to be a lovely gift to bake for friends at Christmas time, and wrapped in tartan or presented in a beautiful biscuit tin, with a tartan ribbon, I think it is still considered to be special holding a certain mystique about it.

Thanks for dropping by,

Best wishes,



  1. They are my absolute favourite. Yours turned out bakery perfect :-))

    1. Lovely to hear from you Angie. Thanks, I was pretty happy with it.

  2. i must give this recipe a try pauline. my sister-in-law makes the best shortbread ever but as we don't see her anymore (family problems) i will have to make my own:-) i too have lots of scottish (and german) blood in me and we have a clan tartan which is just ... horrible - all green and dark blue- yuk! cheers S

    1. I'm lucky that I like the colours in our family tartan, and I have German blood as well from my fathers side.

  3. oh i meant to say - what a clever hubby you have!


    1. Thanks Sherry he doesn't cook much but he can turn his hand to so many other things which is a great help.

  4. Your shortbread looks like a dream! That does sound like the perfect book club. OMG two months? I'm not ready!!

    1. Thanks Lorraine, yes I need to start preparing Christmas cakes etc. so that I will be ready.

  5. Your cake rings are going to be very useful I am sure, and not only for this delicious shortbread. I have very little Sinclair tartan but I think next time we go to Scotland I should get a scarf :)

    1. Thanks Tandy, with your Winter climate you would get to wear it I'm sure. I rather like tartan accessories.I'm sure I will find a variety of uses for my cake rings.

  6. Oh yum, looks so perfect, can't wait to try those!☺

    1. Hi Natalia, I hope you can try shortbread, once tried, never forgotten. Thanks for leaving a comment.

  7. Pauline, you have a clever hubby. We are from the MacGregor clan too. Mum was born in Glasgow so I have lots of Scottish blood too. Your biscuits will be perfect for Christmas.

  8. Chel, My Mum's Granny actually comes from Glasgow as well and I have loved visiting there in the past. I'm sure I was raised with lots of Scottish values. My other blog about my great grandfather talks a lot about Glasgow. Thanks for dropping by Chel. Be careful with all of the heavy lifting.


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