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Traditional Scottish Biscuits
Member Name: sy2kgbr
Advantages: Easy to make and uses inexpensive ingredients.
Disadvantages: Quantities for 500 people are very heavy to carry home from the shops.
Faced with the challenge of serving up a British treat for 200+ young French children and without a large amount of money to play with, I discarded various recipes on grounds of cost, bearing in mind that when you purchase enough supplies for bulk baking, every single cent adds up. Together with another teaching assistant (who had 300+ of her own to worry about), we decided the the easiest, quickest and most economical thing to serve up would be shortbread.
Although the experience of making enough shortbread to feed the 500 has made me feel slightly sick whenever I see the word "Walkers", I did learn the secret of perfect shortbread. It was a lengthy trial and error period (I blame the Irish girl for ditching the measuring equipment, it really is important!) and instead of getting you stressed and covered in flour trying to figure it out, I'm going to share my hard earned secrets!
Shortbread is supposedly made from one part white sugar, two parts butter and three parts white flour, but in practice, sticking to this ratio does not make brilliant shortbread, especially if you're measuring in grams. The actual quantities required for perfect shortbread are as follows:
- 250g flour
- 175g butter
- 75g sugar
Sift the flour and and sugar into a bowl. Mix them together with a wooden spoon, making sure you mix both ingredients together properly, or bits of the shortbread will taste far too sweet and others will taste of cardboard.
Cut up the butter into rough cubes / blocks rather than just throwing in a 175g lump of butter, as this will make it far easier for you to work the butter into the mixture. You can use cheap butter, but margarine just doesn't work, so don't even try it. Room temperature butter can be difficult to work in (yes, it's soft, but its texture is impractically sticky), so either straight from the fridge or taken out and left to soften for a little while works best.
You should end up with a doughy texture, which will turn into lovely shortbread. The traditional way to bake shortbread is either to make petticoat tails (you'll need a round tray or quiche tin for this) or fingers (long rectangular shaped biscuits), but you don't have to stick to tradition if you don't want to.
What I found worked well was flattening the shortbread out onto a regular tray and marking it into cubes, to make little nibbly bites. Serve a few with your cuppa and you have a lovely not-particularly-heathly snack break!
Bear in mind that shortbread has a crumbly texture once ready, so you can't cut it into complicated shapes. Different sized lumps is probably the most exciting thing you can do it to. You can prick the shortbread with a fork, but if you only do this lightly, the holes will gradually fill in when the shortbead cooks and you'll have to take it out half through through the cooking time and repeat the process.
Cook the shortbread at 160 C for at least 30 minutes and up to 40/45 minutes, depending on its colour. If it looks pale, it's not cooked properly. You want a nice golden colour. Black or dark brown means you've burnt it, in case you needed telling!
After you've cooked, removed and cooled the shortbread, you can dunk parts of it in melted chocolate and leave to set, if you're in a particularly wicked mood. Chocolate and shortbread goes together wonderfully, but it depends how much your calorific intake bothers you.
Shortbread is fairly easy to make once you have the right recipe, and since this is a tried-and-tested version created through pure experimentation (no copy and pasted recipes pulled off google for me!;p) I hope you find it of some use. My pupils loved it (although instead of calling it shortbread, they decided the biscuits were in fact called "Shona's Cakes from Corsica") and hopefully you will too.
Summary: A traditional Scottish recipe.