Shortbread -- a tried and true Scottish delight for centuries

Even if you've never been to Scotland, chances are you're familiar with shortbread, the famous, traditional biscuit-type cake or cookie sent in huge quantities from Scotland to relatives and friends all over the world. Shortbread has been known in Scotland for three or four centuries, and there are dozens of recipes for it. Some are very simple, using just butter, sugar, and flour. Some say rice flour makes the best texture, while others add an egg, chopped citron peel, almonds, and additional ingredients.

The shape, too, can vary slightly. Sometimes shortbread is formed into rounds and pricked with a fork. Other times it is shaped into strips and sliced in small rectangles.

Most recipes agree that the shortbread should be pale in color, as recommended in this one from Eleanor MacIsaac, whose Scottish family from Prince Edward Isle has been making shortbread for years.

The use of word icebox in the title shows that long after gas and electric refrigerators were well established in kitchens, the word lingered in vocabulary. It is still used to describe cookie dough that can be refrigerated in between bakings, as in this recipe. Icebox Scottish Cakes 1 1/2 cups shortening and margarine or butter, mixed 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar 3 cups flour 1/2 teaspoon salt 2/3 cup finely slivered almonds 1 teaspoon pure almond extract 1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract

All mixing and creaming should be done with hands. Combine shortening and butter and cream together with hands; add sugar and rub together until well blended, then add half the flour and salt, mixing well with hands.

Add almonds, flavorings, and remaining flour and knead until thoroughly mixed. It may seem like too much flour but will eventually blend.

Shape dough into 4-inch long strips about 2 inches wide and 1 inch deep. Wrap dough securely in waxed paper and refrigerate overnight. Remove from refrigerator and cut into slices 1/2 inch thick and bake on lightly greased cookie sheet at 350 degrees F. about 20 minutes or until color is a pale, light brown. Turn cookie sheet around after first 10 minutes. Watch closely. Makes about 4 dozen.

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