shortbread recipe

Shortbread for Christmas

What better biscuit to bake for Christmas than shortbread? Gingerbread is definitely a close second.

However, this blog is about shortbread….

The Scotts claimed to have ‘invented’ shortbread in the 12th century when shortbread started out as biscuit bread or rusks. Biscuits were made from left-over bread dough, sometimes sweetened, and dried out in the oven to form a hard dry rusk.

Over time the leavening agent (something like yeast) was exchanged for butter. This made it an expensive and extravagant delicacy which was then only bought for celebrations such as Christmas and in Scotland, the Hogmanay, which is the Scottish New Year.

The short of shortbread

I’ve often wondered why it is called ‘shortbread’. What does the short actually mean? So the large amount of butter is what makes shortbread short. Both fat and sugar minimize and break down gluten development resulting in ‘short’ protein strands and thus in a more tender result. The higher the amount of fat in a dough the more tender it will be, or more crumbly. As opposed to stretchy dough.

Shortcake, however, is not the same as shortbread, because milk and in some cases eggs and cream are added. Unlike shortbread, shortcake can also be made by replacing the butter with vegetable fat.

Shortbread though, is typically made with one part white sugar, two parts butter and three parts flour.  To alter the texture corn flour or even ground rice is sometimes added.  Shortbread biscuits are also great to take away because they hold their shape under pressure, unlike their egg-based cousin biscuits – so ideal for a packed lunch!

When our two daughters were still toddlers my mom gave me this biscuit-recipe book as a gift – thoughtful granny!!!  I think between us we have made most of the recipes in the book!

Shortbread for Christmas
Bumper biscuit recipe book.

So, with your mouths watering I’ll give you a shortbread recipe from this book called Butter Finger Biscuits.  It is delicious and you can also make it as a yummy homemade gift for someone special.  Just wrap it in some pretty paper and tie with a colourful ribbon!  And with Christmas around the corner, why not add some cinnamon, chocolate pieces or orange in the dough for a festive flavour.


300g butter, softened

180g castor sugar

400g flour (sifted)

pinch of salt

100g corn flour sifted

castor sugar for dredging

  • Cream together butter and castor sugar until pale and fluffy. 
  • Sift together flour, salt and corn flour and mix into creamed ingredients. Knead lightly.
  • Press into deep, greased 380mm by 280mm baking tray.
  • Prick well with a fork and bake at 190 degrees C, 25 – 30 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and dredge with castor sugar.
  • Cut into fingers while still warm.
  • Remove to wire cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
  • Store in an airtight container. Makes about 44 fingers.
Shortbread for Christmas

Happy baking and eating!

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