Margaret is the epitome of a Christian leader and the patron saint of Scotland. Despite her royal lineage she had a difficult upbringing, with her family often in exile or starving for the English throne. While escaping England, her family become shipwrecked in Scotland, where King Malcolm offered protection and Margaret a hand in marriage.
Being a pious Christian woman, who had seen how the church was operating all over the continent, she executed reforms. She was a good influence on her husband and in many ways ruled with him. She became an example of what a “just ruler” should be. She helped plant many monasteries including Dunfermline, where she was buried, and restored the famous Abbey at Iona. She also believed that it was the ruler’s vocation to assist the poor and needy with the giving of alms.
We are having warm and buttery Scottish shortbread biscuits to honor this saint. They are simple, yet a perfect winter treat, often associated with Christmastide. The legend has it that it was St. Margaret’s descendant, and future Scottish ruler, Mary Queen of Scots, who had the Scottish shortbread invented. Mary was highly devoted to St. Margaret, so much so that when she was in difficult labor with the future King of England James, she had Margaret’s head exhumed and brought to her. Margaret is still an inspiration to all leaders, especially women, who follow in her footsteps.
Shortbread CookiesDifficulty: Easy
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
14 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into thin slices
- Preheat oven to 450F with rack in middle position.
- Pulse 1/2 cup rolled oats in food processor until they are as fine a powder as possible.
- Using a stand mixer fixed with a paddle attachment, mix the 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour, 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, 1/4 cup cornstarch and 1/2 teaspoon salt with the oats on low speed until combined.
- Add the slices of butter one piece at a time and mix until a dough forms and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, 5 – 10 minutes.
- Place the collar (don’t use the pan bottom) of a 9″ springform pan on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Press the dough evenly into the collar, smoothing the top of the dough with your hand and the back of a spoon. Using a 2″ round cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out the center of the dough and place the round center piece on the baking sheet outside the collar. Replace the cookie cutter to the center of the dough. Open the springform collar but leave it in place around the dough.
- Bake for 5 minutes at 450F. Reduce the oven temperature to 250F and continue to bake until the edges are pale golden, 10 – 15 minutes.
- Remove baking sheet from the oven and turn off the heat. Remove springform collar. Using a knife, score the surface of the shortbread into 16 even wedges, cutting down about halfway through the shortbread. Using a wooden skewer or toothpick, poke 8 – 10 holes in each wedge. Return the shortbread to the oven, propping the door open with the handle of a wooden spoon. Let the shortbread dry in the turned-off oven for about 1 hour.
- Remove shortbread and let continue to completely cool outside the oven for an additional 1 – 2 hours. Cut shortbread on scored marks before serving.