Recipe: Scottish Shortbread With Ginger

Hi everyone.  Glad you stopped by!

Anyone have a sweet tooth today?  Because if you do and are looking for something tasty to satisfy it, then you’re in the right place.

From Lorna Doone’s to the Girl Scout’s trefoils to the distinctive red, plaid boxes of Walker’s, there are many pre-packaged shortbread options from which to choose.  My personal favorite happens to be made by Shortbread House of Edinburgh – particularly the biscuits (cookies) with warming stem ginger.  Mmm mmm good.  Today I’m going to attempt to make my own version of their yummy treats.

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If you live in the U.S., these biscuits (cookies) can be purchased from Amazon and sometimes can be found in local shops.  Recently, I was thrilled to find a display of them for sale at World Market.

 

Once a luxury to the every day people of Scotland, shortbread began with medieval “biscuit bread” – that is, bread made with leftover biscuit dough.  Over time, the yeast in the bread was replaced by butter and eventually evolved into shortbread as we know it today.

Shortbread is traditionally made in three shapes:  a large circle divided into segments called shortbread petticoat tails, a rectangle cut into strips or bars called shortbread fingers, and round biscuits (cookies) called shortbread rounds.  I’m going to be making the rounds today.

Let’s begin!


Recipe:  Scottish Shortbread With Ginger 

*Recipe adapted from several that I found.

Set oven to 375°.

Please note:  A good kitchen scale is invaluable when it comes to British baking, as measurements are listed in grams.  My apologies to the American bakers who may have a little more difficulty in measuring the flour.

Ingredients:

•2 sticks (225g) butter  (Butter should be at room temperature.  Leave it out overnight.  Trust me on this.)

•4 oz (112.5g) caster (super fine) sugar  (Alternatively, you can use regular sugar and pulverize it with a mortar and pestle –  a less expensive and just as effective option.)

•1/2 lb (225g) sifted plain, all-purpose flour

•4 oz (112.5g) rice flour (Rice flour helps give your shortbread that perfect sandy texture.)

•3+ Tbsp. chopped crystallized ginger (This amount depends on how gingery you want your biscuits to be – Mr. C says more ginger is better!)

*I found the crystallized ginger at The Fresh Market here in the States.

•pinch of salt if desired – if using unsalted butter  (I forgot to add the pinch of salt and honestly didn’t even notice.)

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Recipe yields: 30 biscuits (cookies)

The Process:

1) Cover an un-greased baking sheet with non-stick, oven-proof parchment paper.

2) Sieve together the all-purpose flour, rice flour, and salt.  Sieving 2-3 times is best.  Don’t worry, it doesn’t take as long as it sounds.

3) In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar together.  Your arm will become very tired, but hey…biceps!

4) Stir crystallized ginger into the butter/sugar mixture.

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5) Using cold hands, combine the sifted flours with the butter/sugar mixture until you      have a soft dough.  You WILL think you screwed something up because at first it’s all a crumbly mess.  But keep working the dough and eventually everything will combine nicely.  Be very careful NOT to overwork the dough, though, because your end result will not be as good.  The faster you can do this and the lighter your touch, the better the texture of your biscuits.

6)  Using your hands, press the dough flat.  Take a small cookie cutter or glass roughly  1.5″ in diameter and cut out circles.  Place circles on lined baking sheet.  In my case, I didn’t have a small cookie cutter, so I just grabbed the shot glass.  Hey, also came in handy for pouring myself a wee dram.

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7)  Bake at 375° for 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 360° and continue baking for an additional 5 minutes.  You may have to experiment with this, depending on your oven and your elevation.  This is what seemed to work best for me.  

Your biscuits are done when they lightly golden – not brown.  Be careful not to burn your bottoms!

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You could pinch around the edges if you wanted to make them look prettier.  Mine aren’t very fancy but they sure tasted good.

8)  Cool completely on a wire rack and enjoy.

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A cup of tea is a nice complement, but may I suggest pairing your biscuits with a dram of your favorite single malt?  A Scotch from the Speyside region goes especially well!

All in all, Mr. C and I were very pleased with how these turned out.  Next time I would definitely add another tablespoon or two of ginger and I might experiment with pinching the edges to make them look pretty, but other than that, there isn’t anything I would change.  Well, except to make even more!

Let me know if you decide to give these a try and tell me what you think.  Anything you would change or do differently?

Have a great week, friends.

Cheers,

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What the Kelp?!

Hey gang!  Welcome back.

Today may I present to you… The Kelpies of Falkirk, Scotland.

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Well, as I saw them, at least.  Sadly, that would be as Mr. C and I whizzed past them on the M9 (I think).  I wish I could tell you that we had scheduled time to visit The Helix to walk the trails, take a paddle boat for a little spin on the lagoon, and to capture some artsy fartsy photos of these really cool equine sculptures.  But nope.  Because for some reason, I thought Falkirk was located in the Highlands and not a mere 27 miles from Edinburgh!  Imagine my surprise when all of a sudden I spotted these big guys coming up fast at 70 mph out the car window.  I mean, what the Kelp?!  I barely had time to grab my camera before they were a memory.

C’est la vie.  Perhaps we’ll catch them next time.

So…you may ask…just what are these colossal, imposing, shiny, metallic horse heads looming off the side of the motorway?  (No, they aren’t an homage to ‘The Godfather’.) They happen to be the world’s largest pair of equine sculptures – made of stainless steel and standing at nearly 100 feet tall!  The Kelpies are the result of a collaboration between Scottish Canals (the part of the government responsible for managing Scotland’s inland waterways) and artist Andy Scott.  Constructed in just ninety days, they are the heart and pride of The Helix – a multi-mile parkland born out of a Falkirk green space initiative.  The recreation space, which also now has a canal link between the Forth & Clyde Canal and the River Carron, has seen over two million visitors since The Kelpies opened to the public in 2014.

The sculptures are composed of 928 unique steel plates and are not only a reminder of the Scottish legend of The Kelpies (which we will explore in a future post), but are also a nod to the sturdy workhorses of Scotland’s past.

“Chosen by Scottish Canals at the inception of the project, The Kelpies name reflected the mythological transforming beasts possessing the strength and endurance of 10 horses; a quality that is analogous with the transformational change of our landscapes, endurance of our inland waterways and the strength of our communities.

Andy Scott’s vision for The Kelpies follows the lineage of the heavy horse of industry and economy, pulling the wagons and ploughs, barges and coal ships that shaped the structural layout of the area. Retaining The Kelpies as the title for these equine monuments, Andy sought to represent the transformational and sustainably enduring qualities The Helix stands for through the majesty of The Kelpies.”  –The Helix

Have any of you ever visited The Kelpies?  If so, what was your reaction?  I’m pretty impressed and I only saw them from the car!  Lest you think I’m going to sign off after giving you only one crappy photo from the highway, never fear.  Here are the artsy fartsy photos I wish I had been able to capture myself -ha!  Much thanks to Pixabay for loaning me theirs.

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Hope you enjoyed.  Have a wonderful week ahead and see you next time.

Cheers,

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Inchcolm Abbey

Hi Friends,

Did everyone had a nice weekend?  I spent mine planting lots of pretty pink flowers, eating delicious food, visiting with family and friends, and writing a word or two.  The long Memorial Day holiday is almost over and tomorrow it’s back to business as usual.

In today’s blog post, I’d like to point out a really interesting site located on the island of Inchcolm in the Firth of Forth (the estuary off Scotland’s east coast that flows into the North Sea).  Mr. C and I first spotted the structure from the grounds of Lauriston Castle in Edinburgh.

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As viewed from Lauriston Castle.

We had no idea what we were looking at that day and assumed it was a castle ruin.  It wasn’t until we chartered a sailing tour of the Firth (a blast – more on that in a future post) that we saw this remarkable structure in clearer view.  Turns out it was Inchcolm Abbey, the most well-preserved group of monastic buildings in Scotland.

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To get to the island of Inchcolm and the medieval abbey, one must take a ferry, which departs from South Queensferry, Scotland (roughly ten miles from Edinburgh’s city center).  To see the abbey by foot and to touch those ancient stone walls for myself is an adventure I would very much like to have one day.

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In my curiosity, I did a little research about Inchcolm Abbey.  Here are ten interesting things I learned:

  1.  Inchcolm Abbey is the most well-preserved group of monastic buildings in Scotland.
  2. In 1123, Alexander I took shelter on the island of Inchcolm during a fierce storm.  Because he was so thankful that his life had been spared, he vowed to build a monastery as an expression of his gratitude.  Sadly, he died a year later.  In his absence, his brother David I asked Augustinian canons (priests) to establish the priory instead.
  3. Inchcolm was raised to full abbey status in 1235.
  4. Inchcolm is known as the “Iona of the East” (as opposed to Iona Abbey on the small island of Iona in the Inner Hebrides).
  5. Though the abbey enjoyed years of peace in its isolation, it was also often a target of the English military during Scotland’s wars with England from the 1300’s to the mid-1500’s.
  6. Visitors of the abbey can see a preserved 13th century medieval fresco that depicts a funeral procession.
  7. A hermit is said to have inhabited the island prior to the foundation of the monastery.
  8. The oldest relic on the island is a 10th century tombstone.  (Wow, that’s the 900’s, people!)
  9. Inchcholm served in the defense of Scotland during the first and second World Wars.
  10. The island is known for its population of seals.  Aww.  I’d like to see that.

 

So there you have it, Friends.  Another fantastic Scottish find.  Aren’t they all, though?

Enjoy the rest of your week and I’ll see you again next time.

Cheers,

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