Put delicate shortbread and zippy ginger together for a perfect holiday treat.
The sweet holiday season is upon us. Decadent chocolate, gooey caramel and super-sweet peppermint are all nice, but to my mind, nothing beats a well-made shortbread cookie. That rich, subtly sweet, melt-in-your-mouth flavour just can’t be topped by any iced sugar cookie or bar. Like most, I have shortbread recipes and will go to the wall to defend why they are the best.
Regardless, any recipe worthy of the shortbread name will include the same fundamental ingredients: real butter, sugar and flour. The variations thereafter are as numerous “as sand on the seashore”.
It will come as no surprise that shortbread traces its roots back to the peasant class of Scotland. Shortbread’s predecessor was bannock (biscuit bread), made by baking leftover bread dough on a very low heat until it hardened into what we might call a cracker today. Over time, the yeast was replaced with butter and the flour with oats, creating a rich, crumbly biscuit.
The earliest shortbread was flavoured with caraway seeds and it is said Mary Queen of Scots was a fan. In fact, she is credited with boosting shortbread’s popularity by making it acceptable for the rich to eat this with tea. Over time the wealthy replaced oats – the grain of the common people – with flour and sugar – only used by the upper classes because of their cost. And the shortbread we know today was born.
Our family’s favourite shortbread comes from a recipe provided by a cooking instructor and friend, Jan Knox. Jan is no longer with us, but her recipes has been delighting my family for 30 years!
A favourite with our friends and family. I use a food processor for easy preparation but the ginger must be incorporated by hand. I don’t add the ginger powder but do if you like it really gingery. BTW, I’m generous with the crystallized ginger measurement!
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup icing sugar
- 2 ½ cups flour
- 1 tsp. ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 3 tbsp. chopped preserved ginger
Blend the butter until smooth and work in the sugar, then flour, ground ginger and salt. Once you have a ball of dough, work in the ginger with your fingers. Compact into a long roll in waxed paper and refrigerate for at least two hours.
Preheat oven to 325 F. Cut into ¼ inch slices. Bake on an ungreased baking sheet for 8-10 minutes. Be careful not to overcook; the edges should just be starting to turn golden.