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Afternoon tea without a shortbread biscuit? Not possible!

The crusts are trimmed from the tea sandwiches and the scones are in the oven, so now we turn our attention to another staple of a proper English afternoon tea: Shortbread.

Mary, Queen of Scots

Mary, Queen of Scots (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Shortbread originated in Scotland in medieval times. It took a couple of centuries to evolve to its present form thanks to Mary, Queen of Scots who reigned in the latter half of the 16th century.

Shortbread has a high butter content. The traditional recipe is one part sugar, two parts butter and three parts flour; some recipes use a 1:1:1 ratio, and there are variations in between.  But buttery it must be. In 2008, the UK Food Standards Agency updated its labelling rules to indicate “pure butter shortbread” is not blended with any other fats. Nothing beats the taste of pure butter when baking.

Every baker has her favourite shortbread recipe – some include cornstarch, others rice flour; some bake shortbread plain, others bake shortbread with little extra like anise, Madras curry or lavender buds. Here is our recipe for lavender shortbread, one of the more popular biscuits on our afternoon tea menus.

Our Simply Splendid Receipt for Lavender shortbread biscuits

Half a cup of icing sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
Half a cup of cornstarch
3/4 cup of sweet butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon organic lavender buds

Lavender shortbread teapots from Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas

Sift together flour, icing sugar and cornstarch; beat butter with electric beater set at medium. When the butter becomes creamy, blend in flour mixture and beat at low speed briefly until a ball of dough is formed. Rollout dough on a floured surface to desired thickness, cut into desired shapes and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake at convection setting 325 degrees until a toothpick inserted into shortbread comes out dry. Do not allow the shortbread to brown. Organic lavender buds can be purchased at most health food stores but for absolutely the freshest organic culinary lavender you can straight to the farm. We recommend Seafoam Lavender Farm in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Seafoam Lavender Farm