Vegan Salt –the blog

{January 20, 2010}   The Shortbread Experiment

If you’re Scottish, or even part-Scottish, you’re probably aware that next Monday is Robert Burns Day.  Scots all over the world will be celebrating Scotland’s beloved poet by reading his poems aloud and eating haggis with tatties in a festivity known as “Burns Supper.”   I’m no exception.  Fortunately, I’ll be attending a fully vegan version, from the haggis (something even most meat-eaters get squeamish about tasting) to the shortbread, a simple Scottish cookie.  At least, I thought it was simple when I accepted the assignment of supplying the party with shortbread.

Notice the the sugar is raw and the flour is unbleached? This means neither has been processed with animal char (bones and skins), which is a common whitening process. And the butter says "vegan" in small red print on the left side. How convenient!

There’s a shortbread recipe in Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, but it’s for the pie-wedge style, which looks  like this when done. What I want to take to the Burns Supper is the rectangular, flat, cookie-looking shortbread I see at the Scottish Festivals.  So I searched the internet today, and found that most people agree on the ingredients (flour, butter, and sugar, optional vanilla and salt), but disagree vastly on everything else.   Everything from equal parts of each ingredient to a mere 2 teaspoons of sugar showed up.  So I decided to experiment.

For the record, my grocery store had only one kind of vegan sugar in stock, so the ingredients on the left are what I was working with.

The first batch was too tall...

First batch— I ran the sugar through the food processor briefly, since this kind has rather large granules.  Then I combined 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup butter, and 1 cup flour, which seemed to be a rather common ratio in my search.  First I blended the butter and sugar, of course, then added the flour.  It was far too runny, so I added another 1/2 or 3/4 of flour until it was a thick dough.  Then I pressed the dough into the bottom of a bread loaf, cut it into squares, and baked at 325° for 25 minutes.  It looked perfect, but the insides were doughy, which I noticed too late, after letting them cool.   (The edges tasted delicious, but while these were baking, I’d already made another batch of dough…)

..and the second ones were too crispy.

Second batch–This time I doubled the sugar, so I had 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup of butter, and about 1 1/2 cups of flour.  I also split this loaf into two pans so I could make thinner cookies, and increased the temperature to 350.  These cooked for 20 minutes, and came out a little too crispy (several broke while I tried to get them out of the pan) and a bit too sweet as well.  Here you can see both failed recipes side-by-side.  Don’t worry, they’ll all be eaten in the end.

The third recipe turned out rather well.  To see the final recipe, plus pictures, click “Read the rest of this entry”

Start by blending 1/3 cup sugar (I think I’ll try to find organic powdered sugar for next time) and 1/2 cup butter. Add almost 2 cups of flour.  (I know, the picture just shows one.) Mix this with your hands until you have a thick dough.

Divide in half and press into the pan bottoms.  (I suppose one brownie pan might work as well.)  Cut lines in dough to make 8-12 equal pieces.  Press fork into dough to decorate.  Bake at 350° for 20 – 25 minutes.  You’ll want to take them out before the edges brown.  I left them in a touch too long.

Remove and allow to cool slightly before removing from pan.  Break pieces apart and place on rack to finish cooling.  Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

The third batch was just right!


Jordan says:

oh man Krys!
I love short bread! Thanks so much for figuring this out! I am most likely going to make me some really soon, using your recipe. After, I am done with these vegan brownies I just made, of course.

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