This week I am blessed to host Sweet Melissa Sunday’s baking group. I am a little late posting with the family emergencies that I ran into and explained in previous posts. I do hope you can forgive me when you taste these wonderful little cookies. The recipe for the Pecan Shortbread Cookies can be found on page 84. I do agree with Mellissa Murphy, these cookies remind me more of a Mexican Wedding Cookie than the traditional shortbread cookie.
I really enjoy looking at the history and ethnicity of food, so the shortbread is no different. Here is what I found looking at Scottish Shortbreads…
Scottish cookery has always differed from that south of the Border. The Romans influenced English cooking but as they did not venture far into Scotland, historically Scottish cuisine developed slowly. Scottish cooking methods advanced through the influence of the French at the court of Mary Queen of Scots and later through the elaborate dishes served to English lords with Scottish estates. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert acquired Balmoral in the 19th century and whilst they brought with them the rich food of the English court, they also liked to serve traditional Scottish dishes to important visitors.
Through the ‘Taste of Scotland’ scheme that promotes authentic and innovative Scottish cooking, Scottish cuisine is enjoying a renaissance and now many believe that the best food in Britain is to be found north of the Border.
Scottish cooks have always been famous for their soups, haggis (a dish traditionally served on Burns Night) and their baking, especially scones, pancakes, fruit cakes, oatcakes and shortbread.
The story of shortbread begins with the medieval “biscuit bread”. Any leftover dough from bread making was dried out in a low oven until it hardened into a type of rusk: the word “biscuit” means “twice cooked”. Gradually the yeast in the bread was replaced by butter, and biscuit bread developed into shortbread.
Shortbread was an expensive luxury and for ordinary people, shortbread was a special treat reserved just for special occasions such as weddings, Christmas and New Year. In Shetland it was traditional to break a decorated shortbread cake over the head of a new bride on the threshold of her new home. The custom of eating shortbread at New Year has its origins in the ancient pagan Yule Cakes which symbolised the sun. In Scotland it is still traditionally offered to “first footers” at New Year.
Shortbread has been attributed to Mary, Queen of Scots, who in the mid 16th century was said to be very fond of Petticoat Tails, a thin, crisp, buttery shortbread originally flavoured with caraway seeds.
There are two theories regarding the name of these biscuits. It has been suggested that the name “petticoat tail” may be a corruption of the Frenchpetites gatelles (“little cakes”).
However these traditional Scottish shortbread biscuits may in fact date back beyond the 12th century. The triangles fit together into a circle and echo the shape of the pieces of fabric used to make a full-gored petticoat during the reign of Elizabeth I. The theory here is that the name may have come from the word for the pattern which was ‘tally’, and so the biscuits became known as ‘petticoat tallis’.
Shortbread is traditionally formed into one of three shapes: one large circle divided into segments (“Petticoat Tails”); individual round biscuits (“Shortbread Rounds”); or a thick rectangular slab cut into “fingers.”
Well enough said, I look forward to reading your cookie reviews!
These make beautifully light cookies. They are no what I would consider an overly sweet cookie. The cookies are also not what I would consider a shortbread cookie. These cookies are very similar to the ones my grandmother made when I was little. She always called them Russian Tea Cookies, but I also know they are similar to Mexican Wedding Cookies. I left my pecans in pretty big chunks, which added to the flavor with the roasted pecans. Thanks for all that gave the cookies a try. I do hope everyone has had a blessed Easter and Passover.