Scottish shortbread is long on flavor Treats: Buttery snacks born in the Highlands practically melt in the mouth.

November 06, 1996|By Michele Nevard | Michele Nevard,LONDON BUREAU OF THE SUN

A train journey into the Scottish Highlands brings you into a world of breathtaking scenery, a land of legends and a larder of interesting food.

Diet in the remote parts of Scotland is largely determined by availability. Cities like Aberdeen may carry the occasional exotic fruit but the story is different off the beaten track.

You can pick abundant wild strawberries in summer and probably follow in the path of Prince Charles strolling out from Balmoral Castle, but generally the menu is determined by ingredients that keep. So it's no wonder that Scotland is renowned for food like its Scottish shortbread.

There's a small local store in Braemar, a tiny highland village where the annual Royal Highland Games are held. Among shelves creaking with scores of miniature whiskey bottles, you will find packets of locally baked shortbread. It doesn't travel to the south or have any distinctive tartan packaging, but it contains some of the best shortbread I've ever tasted. The yardstick is that it must be buttery, it must have a good crumble-factor and almost dissolve on the tongue as it releases its biscuity flavor. When it's that good, the packet almost disappears instantly.

Here's a recipe that will do justice to that Scottish shortbread. The test is how long the treats will stay in the cookie jar.

Scottish shortbread comes in varying thickness and different shapes. Most of the shortbread sold in stores tends to be thick and chewy. But this recipe is for thin biscuits and makes approximately 15.

Scottish shortbread

1 stick butter (room temperature)

1/3 cup sugar

1 cup of plain flour (sifted)

Set oven to 300 degrees.

Break the butter into small pieces and then beat together with the sugar until soft and smooth. Sift in the flour and work the mixture into a paste. Toward the end you will need to use your hands, kneading it until all the ingredients are fully mixed together.

On a surface dusted with sugar, roll out the paste to about 1/8 -inch thickness. This mixture is prone to breaking up so be careful with the rolling and keep dusting with sugar. Don't use too much extra sugar, but don't worry if you think you have -- it will just make the biscuit much more crunchy. The main reason for being careful with the sugar is that it may make it more difficult to slide the finished biscuit off the baking tray. So, make sure you grease the baking tray.

A tip: If you end up with crumbly biscuits, crunch them with a rolling pin and use them on top of ice cream.

After the mixture is rolled out, use a 3-inch fluted round cutter. If you don't have a cutter, a glass will do. Prick the top of the biscuits with a fork several times and place them on a high shelf in the oven for approximately 30 minutes. The biscuits should be a pale color and not browned or they won't taste very good.

After removing the biscuits from the oven, let them sit for a few minutes to harden slightly, then carefully transfer them to a cooling tray. If you can wait for them to cool, store them in a seal-tight container; if you can't, you had better get baking again quickly.

Pub Date: 11/06/96

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