Ever read Outlander? Don’t do it. Not unless you’re willing to give about three weeks’ worth of time, energy, and emotion over to Diana Gabaldon. I’m riding shotgun on the bandwagon full of female fans that have been accumulating since the nineties, and I canna, wilna stop (please read in the brogue of a Scottish Highlander).
I was unaware of this 8-book series until about a month ago. I owe it to a dearest coworker for lifting the Outlander veil from my eyes, first suggesting the book series, then the Starz show adaptation. That weekend, I started the first book. Halfway through the book, I started the series. A month later and 4 books in, I feel like I have only now come up for air and can resume normal living.
To that dearest coworker, I am sorry for only talking about this book series for the past month. I’ll try to be better. And will continue to send you Outlander gifs.
It’s one of those rare books that has the unsettling ability to transport you to a different world. In this case, the 18th century Scottish Highlands. Combining history, sci-fi, romance, drama, and comedy, I’ve become enamored of it. In reading the first two books, I lost all appetite except for that of red wine. I tried convincing myself to like Scotch. I spent whole weekends curled up reading for 8+ hours. Sleep – my favorite pastime – became a tedious chore. Facebook and Instagram were lost to me, instead replaced by devouring Wikipedia articles on clan tartans and Bonnie Prince Charlie. I found myself unconsciously dropping the ends of my vowels, slipping into an accent I know very well I cannot pull off. I found hints of Jamie Fraser in Kevin’s curly auburn hair, and am working verra verra hard to convince him to purchase a kilt.
At 18 years old, I was fortunate enough to visit Edinburgh and just glimpse the Scottish countryside. Now, I mention the prospect of planning a trip to the Highlands at least once every 48 hours to the boy. My persistent badgering has proven itself, as he has agreed to such a trip, only at a much more financially-savvy time of year than my fluttering heart would like.
I forgot I had a food blog during those weeks. Rather, I forgot about food. The only way to pull myself out of the Outlander trance and make anything in the kitchen was if I made something that made me think of Outlander. Enter Scottish Shortbread.
I’m not sure if these actually appear in the book. Doesn’t matter. They originate from Scotland, and that was enough to remind me I cannot live on Cabernet Sauvignon alone, hard as I might have tried in reading these bewitching books.
The ideal American version of shortbread can probably be found in the classic Girl Scout cookies. I can eat an entire sleeve of those (and have) with no problem. But these veer more toward the traditional side, at least according to the internet. I haven’t consulted a plump, jolly Scottish grandmother baking from her cozy kitchen in the Highlands, so I can’t be sure. But they’re unlike anything store-bought that I’ve ever eaten, and they’re delightful. The traditional recipe is simple: one part sugar, two parts butter, three parts flour.
Thick and crumbly. Buttery and sweet. They have a way of melting in your mouth, yet are substantial enough that each bar lasts longer than you anticipate.
Some call shortbread plain. I call it the showcase of the foundational ingredients that make baking worthwhile: butter, sugar, flour. That’s it. Not even a pinch of salt. Nor a teaspoon of vanilla. You could drizzle it in chocolate or some shmancy glaze, but I prefer to eat them plain, shamefully covered in the crumbs of my guilty pleasure.
You can certainly roll the dough out and create various fun shapes, but I think this recipe is best served in the industrial-sized bars. A no-nonsense cookie that will see you through any obsession-inducing book series.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have the next book in the series to finish and all 8 episodes of the show to rewatch.
- 1 cup granulated white sugar
- 2 cups high quality unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. In intervals, add the flour until the mixture is thoroughly combined.
- On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for a minute or two, or until it is smooth and pliable. Flatten with your hands into an 8″x8″ baking dish, keeping the top as level as possible. With the tip of a knife, outline 6 columns and 3 rows. Within each bar, prick with the prongs of a fork 3 times, evenly spaced.
- Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 35-40 minutes, or until the edges are golden and the center is firm. Let cool a bit, and then fully cut the cookies while still in the pan along the outlines you made before baking. Remove with a fork or small spatula and enjoy!