Shortbread owls

Deliciously buttery and meltingly crumbly biscuits from Cinnamon Tree Bakery

How long is a piece of string? How deep is half a hole? These are generally considered to be the great rhetorical questions, so unanswerable they are usually used as a retort. Yet to these we would add something more—a query so baffling, you could dedicate a lifetime’s research and be none the wiser: what is a biscuit’s shape?

Your first instinct might be ‘round, of course’. But think again. Gingerbread men, jammy hearts, chocolate fingers—and that’s just your everyday biscuits. At Cinnamon Tree Bakery, we have seen everything from skeletons to elephants baked. Most beloved of all, for reasons social psychologists might ponder, are the owl shortbreads. “They are so popular, people even pose for a photo with them,” says Maximo at the stall.

Of course, with their dark chocolate eyes, almond beak, and rotund biscuit bellies these birds are made for Instagram. Yet the proof of the pudding is not in ‘likes’, but in the taste.

Crumble meltingly
Are they buttery? Do they crumble meltingly upon impact? Are they sweet, but with a piquant hint of salt that takes them beyond the realm of mere biscuit and sends them soaring through shortbread-sphere? Are those come-hither eyes good chocolate, as opposed to those ‘chocolate’ drops you used as a kid when making cupcakes for the school fete?

The answer, of course, is yes: yes, yes, and yes again. The bakers are Scottish, and this much is obvious, from the owl’s humorous expression to their exceptional quality of crumb. Made from 100 per cent natural ingredients, they are “mostly butter” Maximo confirms—so they are a model of how shortbread should taste, if not a model for appearance.

Owls are lovely, but let’s face it: in Cinnamon Tree’s hands, a shortbread by any and every other shape would taste as sweet.