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Shortbread-art - 6/1/08


"Shortbread" by Johnnae llyn Lewis, CE.


NOTE: See also the files: shortbread-msg, cakes-msg, Sugar-Icing-art, Digby-Cakes-art, gingerbread-msg, cookies-msg, Cft-Banquets-art, desserts-msg.





This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.


These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at florilegium.org




by Johnnae llyn Lewis, CE


        In an issue dedicated to our Youth, it seems that at least one early cookie recipe should be presented. One of the best and earliest for even young children to master is that treat known today as shortbread. Finding an authentic early recipe labeled as "shortbread" is not as easy as making and enjoying them. The Good Huswifes Handmaide for the Kitchen, published in 1594, included a recipe To Make Short Cakes. That recipe includes the flour, butter, and sugar of the classic modern versions with the addition of eggs or egg yolks, cloves, mace, and saffron. This may seem strange but even modern shortbread recipes often contain other ingredients such as eggs or cream and spices.

To make short Cakes.

Take wheate flower, of the fayrest ye can get, and put it in an earthern pot, and stop it close, and set it in an Ouen and bake it, and when it is baken, it will be full of clods, and therefore ye must searse it through a search: the flower will haue as long baking as a pastie of Uenison. When you haue done this, take clowted Creame, or els sweet Butter, but Creame is better, then take Sugar, Cloues, Mace, and Saffron, and the yolke of an Egge for one doozen of Cakes one yolke is ynough: then put all these foresaid things together into the cream, & temper them al together, then put them to your flower and so make your Cakes, your paste wil be very short, therefore yee must make your Cakes very litle: when yee bake your cakes, yee must bake them vpon papers, after the drawing of a batch of bread.


We recognize it as a short bread or cake because the recipe ends with the helpful admonishment:  "and so make your Cakes, your paste wil be very short, therefore yee must make your Cakes very litle: when yee bake your cakes, yee must bake them vpon papers, after the drawing of a batch of bread." (Short means friable or brittle with a crumbling texture.) Another recipe that created a "short" product was that of the Shrewsbury Cakes.


What about recipes in Scotland? Many works contain fanciful and romantic tales regarding Scottish foods, but in fact Scottish culinary sources are generally lacking with the first cookbook not being published until the 1730's. Shortbreads in Scotland can now safely be dated back to the Earl of Angus's dated household accounts of 1608. In that year shortbreads in one instance were purchased; in another entry it was noted that flour was sent out for their baking. So yes, they did have "shortbreads" in Scotland very close to within the Society's timeframe.


One reason that we may lack early recipes is that the recipe was so very straightforward. Food historian Catherine Brown writes that it was so simple that it was learned in childhood as "6, 4, 2," meaning for instance 6 ounces flour, 4 ounces of butter, 2 ounces sugar. Sift the flour and slowly work in the butter and sugar. The dough should soft and pliable and never overworked which makes it tough. Roll and cut into shapes on a lightly floured board or mold following the instructions as given for the mold. Place on a buttered or greased cookie sheet or bake on parchment papers or use Silpat liners. Prick with a fork or sharp knife-point to allow steam to escape. Bake in a preheated 300 degree F oven. The timing depends on how thick the cookies are. Very thick cookies may take almost an hour. Thinner individual cookies may bake in as little at 20 minutes. Trays of shortbread bars may take 30-40 minutes. Keep checking. They should be a pale golden brown when done. Enjoy!




The Good Huswifes Handmaide for the Kitchen. 1594/1597 http://homepage.univie.ac.at/thomas.gloning/ghhk/


Brown, Catherine. Scottish Cookery. 1985. Edinburgh: Mercat Press, 1999. http://www.foodinscotland.co.uk/books.html


Geddes, Olive M. The Laird's Kitchen. Three Hundred Years of Food in Scotland. Edinburgh: HMSO; The National Library of Scotland, 1994.


Mason. Laura and Catherine Brown. Traditional Foods of Britain. An Inventory. Totnes, Devon, U.K: Prospect Books, 1999.


Lewis, Johnnae llyn. "The Period Palate: Shortbread" by Johnnae llyn Lewis. Tournaments Illuminated. Winter 1981 (# 61)


The earliest printed Scottish cookbook came out in the 1730's. Peter Brears did an excellent summary of Scottish cookery books in his introduction to Elizabeth Cleland's "A New and Easy Method of Cookery" from 1755. See http://www.kal69.dial.pipex.com/shop/system/index.html for part of

that introduction and information about the book.


Copyright 2006 by Johnna H. Holloway. <Johnna at sitka.engin.umich.edu>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited.  Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org