Wartime Scotch Shortbread


Hurricane Bill is on his way and last night I couldn’t sleep, so instead, at 2 am, I got up, went to the kitchen and made some ‘Wartime Scotch Shortbread’..

The flour supplied to the public in the 1940’s, was a minimum of 85% wholewheat flour made from homegrown wheat (UK). It was said to have an unpopular grey appearance but I guess that really was all that was available and all recipes that called for flour would have been made out of this..

Wartime Scotch Shortbread

Melt 4 oz margarine, add 8 oz plain flour and 2 oz sugar, mix well and knead until the mixture bins together. If it is a little dry crumble it again and add a splash of milk and re knead. Put in an ungreased baking tin and press mixture down firmly so it is about 1/2 inch thick. Prick the surface and then cut into 10-12 portions.

Bake in centre of moderate oven for 30 + minutes.

Remove, sprinkle lightly with sugar


“This post is part of Twinkl’s VE Day Campaign, and is featured in their Best Wartime Recipes to Celebrate VE Day from Home post”

40 thoughts on “Wartime Scotch Shortbread

  1. Abousloutley Srumptious, just finished making them and they were delishous next time I make a dessert I will look in my cook book cause i wrote it down 😀 ;3 Thanks ;3

  2. I have made this before – what I have done is cut in round and put on top of fruit – very tasty

      • This is not so. Grammatically Scottish refers to anybody or anything Scottish or from Scotland whereas Scotch (capital S) is a drink, but also (with a low case s) used as meaning ‘to put a stop to something’ such as to ‘scotch a rumour’

  3. I was wondering about desserts here thinking that they didn’t have much sugar in the war and wondered if there would have been some to reflect this , without sugar.

    • They did use saccharin but it wasn’t the best tasting and they did cut down the amount of sugar they used substituting some sugar some grated vegetables with a high sugar content. Most of my recipes on my blog are recreated from Ministry of Food wartime pamphlets etc…I will try and source some more recipes using substitutes. C x

      • I just saw one of the MOF’s pamphlets where they suggest cutting the sugar ration with ground up saccharrin to make it go further.

    • Sometimes they used golden syrup, specifically Tate n Lyles. However, if you had nothing else, you could use the sweetness of fruit juices, beets, or anything else that was fruity. Most sugars in the UK was also not from the Caribbean and came from sugar beets. Sugar beets are still used today.

  4. I thought it was really cool to make it and it tasted really nice after. We made a mini shortbread and they are made for my daughters class and teacher because her topic is World War 2.😂🍪🍪

  5. Really good recipe. Tastes plain at first but then the sugar hits you. I can imagine people eating these in WW2. Thanks 😀😀

  6. Real Scottish shortbread would only use unsalted butter, never margarine as it is too greasy & would ruin the texture. Here is a classic recipe for those who are interested.
    7 oz (175g) plain white flour
    1 oz (25g) fine semolina
    4 oz (100g) cold grated unsalted butter
    2 oz (50g) caster sugar
    Mix the first 2 ingredients together, rub the butter in to make a crumb then stir in the sugar.
    This mixture makes 350g of dough which will make 12 biscuits or 1 large farl (round) of petticoat tails (wedges).
    For a farl press the mixture into a tin or into a round on a tray & mark into wedges, prick the surface to prevent it from puffing up too much (you can sprinkle this lightly with caster sugar or ground hazelnuts now) & bake at 180c/350F for about 25-30 minutes or till just golden. Allow to rest until completely cold as it is very fragile whilst warm.
    For individual biscuits either make equal sized balls, bars or roll out & cut into rounds then bake at 160c/325F for about 20 minutes or till just golden. Allow to rest until completely cold they are very fragile whilst warm.

    • You can substitute ground rice for the semolina. Also can substitute an ounce for some of the flour in a crumble topping for a crisper crumb.

      • Re crumble topping ideas: have you tried mixing in oats, coconut, ground hazelnuts, chopped walnuts, rice flakes or rye flakes ?, all equally good. I just use whatever I can find in the cupboard. Last week I had some cooked barley (unsalted, I eat barley, rye flakes or whole oats in place of potatoes, I’m on a diabetic eating plan) left over so used it in savoury crumble topping, it was a lovely texture and taste – another experiment that worked out well. I can always feed not so good experiments to my chickens so I don’t waste anything.

      • FYI semolina can be made from either wheat flour or rice flour (check the ingredients on the packet if you have an alergy) also fine polenta can also be used in place of semolina, which is maize based. It’s addded for the ‘sandy’ texture rather than anything esle, but some English versions use cornflour instead which makes it less ‘sandy’, more like melting moments.

  7. Fab tasting quick recipe, thank you for sharing 🙂 Ideal for a sweet fix when you are skint at the end of the week/month as you’ve probs got the ingredients in your cupboard.

  8. If you liked the shortbread try some of the steam puddings at the end of the carrot and sultana pudding pages. It’s a great way to use up stale bread, put together really fast and can be made either sweet or savoury – enjoy !

  9. I’m going to make the Blackberry Shortbread to take to the Baking Club I belong. We are
    having a Remembrance themed evening and wearing 40’s style clothes. Should be a good evening.

  10. Try this basic biscuit recipe with your own ideas of flavour variations.
    Basic Biscuit Dough
    250g room temperature salted butter
    150g caster sugar (you can use less)
    ¼ tsp vanilla extract
    260g plain or wholemeal flour, sifted
    ½ tsp baking powder
    Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy then beat in the vanilla. Work the flour into the butter mixture (then work in any additions* now) then shape into a sausage, wrap and chill. Slice thinly, lay on a prepared lined baking sheet, leaving room to spread and bake at 180°c for about 12-14 minutes. – it depends how this they are and how crisp you want them. Cool and eat as they are or sandwich in pairs then dip into melted chocolate for a decadent treat.
    Additions*: use sparingly as variations on a theme, here are some ideas
    Chocolate (cocoa powder) and cherry (tiny bits)
    Coffee (powder) and walnuts (finely chopped)
    Chocolate (cocoa powder) and peanuts (finely chopped)
    Coconut (desiccated) and cherry (tiny bits)

  11. My mother used potato flour to make our shortbread when I was young. Also she used margarine ( couldn’t afford butter right after the war) and the marg was white. It did come with colour packets to make it yellow but she’d save it and add it to other marg and brighten it up.
    Another thing she did was take stale buns and put them into a paper bag . Roll the top down , sprinkle the bag with a little water and pop it in the oven for a few minutes. Then take it out of the oven and we’d eat it right away while it was still warm and soft. Once it cooled it wasn’t soft ant more and became crumbs to use for breading meat or veg before cooking in the oven or frying( we seldom had anything fried).

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  14. Oatmeal Shortbread
    100g plain flour
    1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
    225g soft salted butter
    150g caster sugar
    275g oat flakes or porridge oats
    Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas 4 & prepare your tray. Whizz the oats in a blender to the texture you prefer for the finished biscuit. Add all the other ingredienst and whizz to bring the dough together. On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough out thinly, cut, arrange on the tray and bake for about 15-10 minutes till pale golden & slightly firm. Cool on the ray before transfering to a wire rack.
    These are amazing 1/2 coated with rich dark chocolate.

  15. I made this this morning as a treat. My mother and I really enjoyed them. I used butter instead of margarine, as that’s all I keep on hand. I’m always happy to find treats that are lower in sugar.

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