Downton Dish: Shortbread with Raspberry Jam

The gang’s heading to Scotland (which made perfect sense in an episode that ran as a Christmas special in the UK)! I could direct you to a traditional haggis, neeps, and tatties, but I’m pretty sure I’d lose about half my viewership if I did. Instead, let’s go back to dessert—delicious, delicious shortbread, all crumbly and buttery. Want to take it up a notch? Add a bit of jam. Soooo good. My decision to run shortbread here will probably make sense outright; the jam, well, that’ll probably make a bit more sense towards the end of the episode. It’ll almost certainly make more sense if you read my recap of it. For now, let’s just say that these two things go really well together and leave it at that.

Shortbread goes back to the medieval period in Scotland. Back then, leftover dough from bread making was dried out in a low oven until it hardened into a sort of rusk. Eventually, the yeast was replaced by butter, and shortbread became an expensive luxury item reserved for special occasions such as weddings, Christmas, and New Year. New brides in Shetland traditionally had a decorated shortbread cake broken over their heads on the threshold of their new homes. Mary, Queen of Scots, was said to be particularly fond of Petticoat Tails, a thin, buttery shortbread originally flavoured with caraway seeds. The name is said to be a reference to the biscuits’ shape—a gored circle that resembles the petticoats of the time.

Scottish Shortbread

Recipe by Delia Smith

Ingredients

175 g/ 6 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature

75 g/3 oz golden caster sugar, plus extra for dusting

175 g/6 oz plain flour, sifted

75 g/3 oz fine semolina (optional, but it gives the biscuits a lovely sandy texture)

 

Method

Preheat oven to 150 degrees C/300 degrees F

Beat the butter with a wooden spoon to soften it, then add the sugar, followed by the sifted flower and semolina. Work the ingredients together, pressing them to the side of the bowl with the spoon, and then using your hands until you have a smooth mixture that doesn’t leave any bits in the bowl.

Gently press the mixture into a shortbread mould or into an 8 in diameter tart or flan tin with a loose base. Gently prick the shortbread all over with a fork so it doesn’t puff up in the middle.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 60 minutes, until it’s pale gold and feels firm in the centre. Remove from the oven and, with a palette knife, mark out 12 wedges. Let the shortbread cool in the tin or mould, turn it out, and cut into wedges. Dredge in more caster sugar and serve or keep in an airtight box.

Raspberry Jam

Recipe by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Ingredients

3 kg fresh raspberries (you can also sub in frozen—I’ve heard it’s best to let frozen fruit thaw in the sugar so it macerates before you start cooking with it)

1.5 kg jam sugar (sugar with added pectin—you can also use regular sugar and add pectin to it—around 1 ½ T per cup of sugar)

 

Method

Pick over the fruit, discarding any leaves, stalks, and questionable berries. Put half the berries in a large basin and roughly crush them with your hands (if you have kids about, they’ll probably love helping you with this bit!). Place them in a heavy stainless steel or copper pan large enough to be no more more than half full when all the ingredients are added. Add the remaining fruit and the sugar.;

Stir over low heat for a few minutes to dissolve the sugar, then turn the heat up and bring to the boil., Boil hard for exactly 5 minutes. At this point, you’ll have a slightly loose jam with a nice, fresh flavour. You can go ahead and pot it in warm sterilised jars OR boil the jam for two more minutes and then test for setting point by dropping a teaspoon of it onto a chilled plate, leaving it for a few minutes, and seeing if it crinkles when you nudge it with your finger. At that point, pot it in prepared jars for future enjoyment on toast, crumpets, and shortbreads.



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