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As the weather turns crisp, I find myself craving the comforting flavors of childhood – in particular, my grandmother’s famous Scotch Teas.
These incredibly easy bar cookies were a staple in her kitchen, making frequent appearances at family gatherings and church bake sales.
She used an old recipe from her pre-1946 Better Homes & Gardens cookbook, so these cookies are a tried-and-true classic.
Though simple, their rich buttery sweetness and crunchy oat topping made them irresistible. Now that I’m grown, I’ve taken over the tradition of baking Scotch Teas for my own family.
They’re just as delightful as I remember!
Why You Will Love Scotch Teas
- They’re a cinch to whip up. With just a few pantry staples, these bars can be prepped start to finish in under 30 minutes. No special equipment or techniques required.
- The ingredient list is short, 5 common ingredients you likely have on hand. You only need basic baking ingredients like butter, sugar, oats, and salt. Feel free to play around with add-ins like chocolate chips, raisins, or nuts.
- They’re pleasingly soft and chewy. Thanks to the simple press-in crust and modest baking time, these bars have a wonderfully tender texture.
- You can customize them. Bake them thicker or thinner, plain or loaded with mix-ins, and enjoy them warm or cooled – they’re delicious every way.
- They’re old-fashioned goodness in a bite. One taste of these sweet golden bars dusted with oats transports you straight back to childhood.
- Perfect for snacking or lunch boxes. Scotch Teas satisfy a sweet craving without going overboard. Their versatility makes them great for any time.
TipTips for Making Perfect Scotch Teas
- Use room temperature butter for easy mixing. Cold, hard butter will make pressing in the crust difficult.
- Don’t overbake. These bars are best when still soft in the center. Check early and err on the side of underdone.
- Let cool completely before cutting. This allows the bars to set up for cleaner slicing.
- Customize with anything from coconut to cinnamon chips. Crushed pretzels or graham crackers also make tasty mix-ins.
- For perfectly uniform bars, line the pan with parchment before pressing in the crust.
- Use a combination of rolled and quick oats for lots of toasted oat flavor.
The Main Ingredients
I prefer using brown sugar rather than white in this recipe. It gives the bars a deeper, almost caramel-like sweetness that pairs perfectly with the nutty oats. Light or dark brown sugar works equally well. Molasses-y dark brown sugar will result in a more pronounced flavor.
Butter is essential for the rich taste and tender texture of these bars. I don’t recommend substituting oil. For proper mixing and crust consistency, the butter should be room temperature.
Old-fashioned rolled oats add wonderful chewy texture and toasty oat flavor. Quick oats work too, yielding a slightly more delicate crust. For best results, use a combination of both types.
Just a teaspoon raises the oat mixture ever so slightly, giving the bars a soft, cake-like crumb. It helps prevent a dense or overly firm texture.
A small amount of salt balances the sweetness and accentuates the flavors. Don’t omit it.
How to Make Scotch Teas
Prep the Pan
Grease an 8×8 inch pan thoroughly. For perfectly cut bars, line the pan with parchment, leaving some overhang on the sides.
Make the Filling
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, remove from heat and stir in the brown sugar until dissolved. Set aside to cool slightly.
Mix the Crust
In a large bowl, combine the oats, baking powder, and salt. Pour in the butter mixture and stir until fully incorporated.
Press into the Pan
Transfer the oat mixture to the prepared pan. Use a spatula or your fingers to firmly press the mixture into an even layer on the bottom of the pan.
Bake at 350°F for 18-22 minutes until lightly golden on top. Cool completely in the pan. Lift out using the parchment overhang and cut into squares.
What to Serve With Scotch Teas
- Hot coffee or tea
- A cold glass of milk
- Fresh fruit like strawberries or banana slices
- Vanilla ice cream for an impromptu dessert
- A drizzle of chocolate or caramel sauce
- Dairy-free margarine can be used in place of butter
- For a vegan version, replace butter with coconut oil
- Gluten-free oats or crushed rice cereal work as wheat-free alternatives
- Add a flax egg (1 tbsp flax + 3 tbsp water) for an egg-free recipe
What’s the difference between Scotch Teas and Scottish Shortbread?
While Scottish Shortbread is more of a tender cookie made with lots of butter, flour, and sugar, Scotch Teas have an oat crust and no flour. Shortbread is often rolled and cut into wedge shapes, while Scotch Teas are pressed into a pan and cut into bars.
How long do Scotch Teas keep for?
Properly stored in an airtight container at room temperature, Scotch Teas will keep for 3-5 days. For longer storage, they can be frozen for up to 3 months.
Why are they called Scotch Teas?
Scotch Teas originated in Scotland, hence the name. The “tea” refers to the tradition of serving them at afternoon tea.
What kind of oats work best?
I prefer using a blend of quick oats and old-fashioned oats. The quick oats make the bars tender, while the old-fashioned oats add chew. But either type works!
Can I use rolled oats instead of quick cooking oats?
Rolled oats will make the cookies heartier and denser in texture. For a closer match to the original, stick with quick cooking oats.
Can these cookies be made gluten-free?
Yes! Use gluten-free oats and double check your baking powder is gluten-free too. Easy to adapt for gluten sensitivities.
Can I make ahead and freeze Scotch Teas?
Absolutely! Let the baked and cooled Scotch Teas freeze until firm, then wrap individually in plastic wrap. Place in a freezer bag or airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature before serving.
Scotch Teas ( Scottish)
- Medium saucepan
- Large mixing bowl
- Spatula for mixing and pressing in crust
- 8x8 inch baking pan
- Parchment paper (optional)
- Wire cooling rack
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup butter room temperature
- 2 cups quick oats
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8x8 inch baking pan.
- In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add brown sugar and stir until dissolved, 1-2 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.
- In a large bowl, mix together the oats, baking powder and salt.
- Pour the butter mixture over the oat mixture and stir until fully blended.
- Press the mixture firmly into the prepared baking pan.
- Bake for 18-22 minutes until lightly browned. Cool completely before cutting into bars.