Ok. I don’t often do this but I’m going to quote part of Sharon Tyler Herbst’s preamble to the recipe for these verbatim:
Shortbread, traditionally associated with Christmas and Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve), is now a year-round favorite. The classic large round shape comes from the ancient Yule Bannock, which was notched around the edges to signify the sun’s rays. This recipe … is almost half butter.
More about Hogmanay and Bannock in a moment. First this: That’s right. She said half butter. Oh yum. That butter is mixed with powdered sugar, vanilla, a little orange zest and salt, cornstarch and flour. Simple as can be.
Ms. Herbst gives two options for forming the cookies. I chose to make small rounds and so rolled the dough into a log about an inch and a half in diameter, approximately 14 inches long, and wrapped it in plastic, chilled it for several hours and then cut it into quarter inch slices. The other option is to make three 6 to 8 inch rounds, score each into eight wedges, prick them all over with the tines of a fork and notch the edges all around with inch-long slits. Either way they taste the same. Which is delicious.
I may have a Scottish name, and some Scottish ancestry in with the English, Dutch and German, but I am not familiar with the celebration of Hogmanay. And, while I’ve read the word bannock more than once, I hadn’t been aware that there are different bannock for different occasions. Of the several websites I found in my online wandering about on the subjects, the two below were the most interesting to me, both in terms of the information they provide and the likelihood of their accuracy.
Oh, and that thing Ms. Herbst says about the notches on the larger discs of shortbread mimicking the sun’s rays? That’s probably bogus. But it made for interesting reading.