Whole Wheat Shortbread


Shortbread is said to have been a favourite of Mary Queen of Scots but dates back another 400 years before her reign so it is not surprising it is traditionally associated with Scotland.

Shortbread is one of those cookies that has a rule: the 1 – 2 – 3 rule – the ingredients should be in the ratio of 1 part caster or superfine sugar to 2 parts butter to 3 parts flour.  Simple.  Three simple ingredients bought together – well – simply.

  • 2 oz caster or superfine sugar
  • 4 oz butter, cubed
  • 6 oz flour

Sift the flour and sugar together, with some salt if you wish, then lightly rub in the butter until it resembles lumps of sand.

Draw it all together and lightly knead before placing the lump on a baking tray which does not have to be greased. Press it flat with the back of a spoon until it is round in shape and quite thin.

Bake it in a preheated oven set at 160 deg C  / 320 deg F /gas mark 3.  Let it turn a faint golden colour, anything from 8 – 12 minutes or even longer.

Take it out and let it cool for 10 minutes on its tray on a cake rack, then cut it into serving slices, and leave it on the baking tray until it is quite cold.  It will crisp up and make it easier to store in an airtight container.

It will be divine, crisp and buttery and perfect with a cup of tea.

Variations can be made with chocolate powder, replacing some of the flour with rice flour or even using nut butters but the rule is still in force.

But using whole wheat flour can alter the rule if you want to achieve the same melt in your mouth result, especially if it is the only flour that is used.

Using whole wheat flour, the ratios are 2 oz turbinado or demerara sugar : 5 oz butter : 7 oz whole wheat flour.  You will need to be more careful in handling this cookie dough since it breaks up easily and keep it thicker, up to one inch.  It is harder to make individual cookies.  It will be a darker colour to begin with and the timings increase to 20 minutes or so with the oven set slightly hotter at 180 deg C / 350 deg F / gas mark 4.

Using a combination of whole wheat flour and all purpose flour, the ratios are still 1:2:3.  That is, 2 oz sugar: 4 oz butter: 3 oz of whole wheat flour and 3 oz of white flour.  A cookie cutter works well with this combination.

This is a good recipe for the food processor or electric mixer but as in all good things baked at home, the quality of the ingredients is important, and none more so than the butter – it gives the shortbread a flavour that cannot be duplicated with shop bought goodies, unless you have paid over quite a bit of money for an artisan product.