Bonny Scottish Shortbread Cookies

Here's your nightly math! Just 5 quick minutes of number fun for kids and parents at home. Read a cool fun fact, followed by math riddles at different levels so everyone can jump in. Your kids will love you for it.

Bonny Scottish Shortbread Cookies

July 16, 2014
By   |   Math Fun, Parent Blog

This summer, our travels are taking us to the bonny hills and dales of Scotland. For one glorious week, we’ll be taking in the sights and sounds of Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Loch Lomond.  To celebrate, the kids and I made a batch of traditional Scottish Shortbread to enjoy with a glass of milk (or, if you’re British, a cuppa tea).

Shortbread is one of the easiest cookies to make; it only requires 3 basic ingredients, and the dough stands up to any amount of kneading and handling from eager little hands.

Shortbread Cookie Recipe by Weight

Traditional recipes call for a ratio of 1 part sugar, 2 parts butter, and 3 parts flour by weight:

  • 2 ounces sugar
  • 4 ounces butter
  • 6 ounces flour

Shortbread Cookie Recipe by Volume

If you don’t have a kitchen scale, you can measure out ingredients by volume.  However, the ratio of ingredients by volume is slightly different:  1 part sugar, 2 parts butter and 4 parts flour. The ratio of flour to the other two ingredients increases when measured by volume because flour is less dense than butter or sugar.

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups flour

As you measure out your ingredients, don’t forget to challenge your little baker to double or halve the recipe!

To make shortbread dough, cream the butter and the sugar together in a bowl.  Then gradually add the flour until the mixture forms a thick dough.  You can use an electric mixer, but it’s fun to use your hands!

To form the shortbread cookies, roll out the dough onto a floured surface to about 1/2 inch thickness.

Geometric Shapes

Shortbread comes in many shapes:  rounds, squares, bars, and triangles are the most common.  Use cookie cutters to cut the dough into rounds, or use a knife to cut the dough into squares, bars, or triangles.  Young children will enjoy identifying all the different shapes, and figuring out how to make triangles from rectangles and squares.  You can also form your shortbread the traditional way, by patting the dough into a round baking pan, and scoring the dough into triangular wedges like a pizza.  It’s a great opportunity to introduce the concept of wholes, halves, and fractions!

Bake the shortbread in a 300-degree oven for about 40 minutes.  The low temperature and slow bake time gives the shortbread its classic, pale golden-brown color.  What temperature do you favorite cookies bake at and how long do they bake in the oven?

Here’s some shortbread history while you’re waiting for those tasty cookies. Shortbread has been a part of the Scottish diet since the Middle Ages. Its present form was developed in the 1500’s, when Mary, Queen of Scots, was known to enjoy eating a traditional form of shortbread called Petticoat Tails, shaped from shortbread rounds cut into triangular wedges and named after the pieces of fabric used to make women’s petticoats during that time.  The Scots initially regarded this rich, buttery biscuit as a holiday treat, but today shortbread is enjoyed in every country and at any time of the year.

As soon as you take the shortbread out of the oven, prick it with a fork (kids enjoy making dot patterns in their shortbread), sprinkle with Caster Sugar (or fine granulated sugar), and enjoy a wee taste of Scotland.

Image licensed by Ingram Publishing

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About the Author



Ana Picazo first fell in love with math (trigonometry, to be precise) in 10th grade and went on to earn undergraduate and graduate engineering degrees. She met her computer engineering husband at a financial software company and they have passed their love of math on to their three children. Ana blogs at Finding Bonggamom and The Savvy Source for Parents.

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