There are very few foods in the world that can make a person think of Scotland quite so strongly as shortbread does. The only other close contender would be haggis–and that food tends to evoke rather mixed sentiments when mentioned to anyone outside of Scotland! Yeah, there are Scotch eggs too, but it seems an important reminder that while they are decidedly British in invention, it is somewhat harder to pin them particularly on Scotland.
Scotch whiskey is a beverage, after all, so it doesn’t really count when it comes to Scottish foods. While no Robert Burns Night observance would be complete without some shortbread, it seems that having a day dedicated to the making and eating of shortbread can’t really be a bad thing on its own.
After all, who doesn’t like shortbread? So now there are two different days where it is delightful (if not compulsory!) to enjoy shortbread. This is true, even though everyone knows that shortbread is good year round and no one really needs an excuse to make and enjoy shortbread on any day of the year!
Now it’s time to celebrate National Shortbread Day!
History of National Shortbread Day
For those who might be wondering about the history of shortbread itself, now is the time to learn a bit about it. As it turns out, shortbread has medieval origins and supposedly Mary, Queen of Scotland, invented modern shortbread in the 16th century by adding sugar to an existing recipe. Rumor has it that these were originally flavored with caraway seeds, but Queen Mary decided to sweeten it up a bit.
Of course, it can’t be verified whether or not that story is true, but it’s a fun idea to go along with. Honestly, that story sounds a bit like one of those popular myths such as George Washington’s cherry tree but, for all anyone knows, it could actually be based in fact.
What is known to be true is that Scotland has been inseparable from shortbread since the 18th century. After all, the first printed recipe for shortbread was published by one Mrs. McLintock back in 1736 and the association has stuck ever since.
While the mid-18th century was a critical period in Scottish history, even something as mundane as a recipe became a marker of national identity. Therefore, it is important to say that shortbread is delicious and is worthy of such an honor.
How to Celebrate National Shortbread Day
Celebrating National Shortbread Day is a delightful pursuit that brings with it thoughts of Scottish Highlands and plaid kilts. For ideas on how to celebrate the day, here are some ways to get started:
Eat Scottish Shortbread
Many people would probably say that the best way to celebrate National Shortbread Day would have to involve shortbread in some form or another! For some, that might mean going out to get those cute little boxes of imported Scottish shortbread in some specialty shops.
This sweet, crumbly, delicate treat is especially delightful when enjoyed with a cup of tea. Either keep it simple by having tea alone or with a friend, or go big and invite over a group of friends and family to celebrate by making and eating far too much shortbread!
Embrace Scottish Culture
Part of celebrating National Shortbread Day involves embracing a variety of cultural traditions and activities that are native to Scotland. This could be something small, like wearing a kilt to work for the day, or something large like taking a trip to Scotland. This would be a great day to spell everything in the British style by adding the ‘u’ (i.e., flavour, favour, labour and humour).
Learn Fun Facts About Shortbread
Made more for special occasions than everyday occurrences, shortbread comes with its own set of Scottish traditions. Learn about some of these bits of trivia and impress friends or coworkers by sharing them on National Shortbread Day:
- Shortbread has been typically eaten for weddings, Christmas, New Year, and Burns’ Night, which is the celebration of Scottish poet Robert Burns.
- For weddings, sometimes a decorated shortbread cake would be broken over the head of a new bride at the threshold of her new home.
- Early on, Scottish bakers worked hard to defend their precious shortbread from being categorized as a ‘biscuit’ in order to keep it from incurring the special biscuit tax imposed by the government.
- Shortbread is made in many shapes, including rounds, fingers or triangles (“petticoat tails”) which were reminiscent of the petticoats that would have been worn during the time of Mary, Queen of Scots.
Make Shortbread at Home
Some people might think that buying shortbread is not quite adequate. In this case, why not attempt to make your own version of shortbread right at home?
Although it might seem hard, it’s not really all that difficult to make shortbread. In fact, most recipes are fairly simple, basically involving just one part sugar, two parts butter and three parts flour. It is possible, of course, to add various things to it as well. Anything from dried fruits to chocolate chips to lavender would be a welcomed addition, but the basic recipe remains the same.
Given the fact that it’s simple and easy to experiment with, it doesn’t seem like there is really any excuse for anyone to not make some delicious shortbread for National Shortbread Day.
What’s that? Are you saying, “but I don’t have a recipe for shortbread, how can I make it?” Well, this situation is perfect, then, because there’s a recipe for shortbread included right here. This is just so that excuse cannot impede anyone from actually making and enjoying shortbread.
So here it is:
2 1/4 cups (12oz) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (4oz) sugar
1 cup (8oz) butter
Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C and mix all of the ingredients together until they form a stiff dough. At this point, it’s time to add any additional ingredients like chocolate chips or lavender. It doesn’t make much difference whether choosing to mix by hand or using a mixer.
Roll out the dough and form round shapes, which can then be scored into triangles. Prick each piece with a fork to avoid getting air bubbles. Another option is also to use a shortbread mold as well. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes. Then sprinkle it with sugar immediately upon removing it from the oven.
Congratulations, you now have freshly-baked shortbread to enjoy for National Shortbread Day and all-year round!