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The History of Shortbread

The History of Shortbread

Shortbread is a favorite here at Emerson Creek Pottery. The buttery, crumbly treat is best prepared using our shortbread pans due to their ease and the lovely decorations they can create. But first, let’s talk about where shortbread comes from.

A Medieval History

Originally referred to as “biscuit bread”, shortbread got its start during the medieval era in Scotland. Never wanting to waste anything, medieval cooks would use leftover dough and scraps from bread making and dry it out in a low-temperature oven until it hardened into a biscuit (the word biscuit actually means “twice cooked”!). As time went on and resources became more available, cooks began swapping the yeast for butter and shortbread became what it is today.

Simple Becomes a Luxury

For decades, shortbread was considered an expensive luxury. Once butter was introduced, what once began as a way to repurpose kitchen scraps became a staple only in the wealthiest of kitchens and was typically reserved for special occasions such as weddings and holidays. In certain areas of Europe, for example, it was considered tradition to break a decorated shortbread cake over the head of a new bride on the threshold of her new home. This tradition, it was said, was to bring her good luck and a happy marriage.

How Shortbread Got Its Name

Once just referred to as “biscuits”, at some point throughout history, shortbread found its name. There are certain theories that believe that the name came from Mary, Queen of Scots, in the 16th century. It was said that her favorite dessert was Petticoat Tail, which were a thin, crisp, buttery shortbread flavored with caraway seeds. One theory surmises that the name Petticoat Tail may be a deviation from the French term petites gatelles (“little cakes”).

Make Shortbread at Home

To make shortbread at home, there are a few traditional and tried-and-true recipes you can follow. View our favorite recipe here.

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