All Things Scottish: Day 5

As we come to the end of our week of Scottishness, I want to make an observation. The Scots have a rep as a frugal people. I think this is true, but not in the negative way most people think. I think they just do not muck about with frippery, wasteful excess, or artifice. They have a knack for cutting immediately through the chaff and getting right at the heart of a matter. And this extends to food.

Fact: the two foods/taste sensations most prized, most deeply ingrained in the human collective unconscious are FAT and SWEET. Look it up, evolution made us that way.

The Scots, with their uncluttered genius, take care of this in one fell swoop. They design a food with a mere three ingedients; the most simple, straightforward, and absolutely delicious means of delivering the maximum quantities of FAT and SWEET to the mouth with the minimum of fuss or waste.

Shortbread. It’s just a wee bit of flour designed as a carrying system for butter and sugar. It may be the world’s most perfect food. And it is classically Scottish!

Make some today!

Essential Shortbread

1 cup (2 sticks) butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 1/3 cup flour
1 tsp. vanilla (optional)

Preheat oven to 300.  Lightly grease two 9-in. round cake pans

Cream together the butter, sugar, and vanilla, then beat in the flour.  The dough will be stiff.  Divide the dough in half and press it into the prepared pans, smoothing the surface evenly with your fingers or the bottom of a measuring cup.  Prick the dough all over with a fork, in an evenly-distributed pattern.

Bake for 35 minutes, until golden brown around the edges.  Remove shortbread from oven and loosen the edges with a knife.  Wait 5 minutes, then carefully turn the pan upside down to turn the shortbread out onto a clean work surface, all in one piece.

Using a pizza wheel or sharp knife, cut each round into 12-16 wedges.  Transfer the wedges to a wire rack to cool.

(Fun n’ tasty variation:  Place 1 cup of the flour from above into a food processor with 2/3 cup dried cranberries.  Process on high for about a minute, until the berries are finely minced.  Add to recipe along with the remaining 1 1/3 cups flour, as per above. ) 

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