Does anything say Christmas more than a plate of shortbread?
In our house Santa is quite partial to shortbread – and peated single malt whisky – so we tend to leave out some of each, just to make sure the big fella is looked after on Christmas Eve. It really is a treat best savoured over the festive season.
At it’s simplest, shortbread is a mix of just 3 ingredients: butter, flour and caster sugar. That’s it. In a way it, as a biscuit, is everything I love about the magic of baking. How can you take these 3 things (plus a couple of tablespoons of water) and get something so rich and special just by bringing them together into a dough? Truly miraculous.
Anyways, you can, if you want, add rice flour or semolina – substitute 50-60g of the plain flour with rice flour – and it will add an extra little sandy something that separates shortbread from pretty much every other biscuit. I like it without, Grant likes it with, so it’s your call, really.
Another thing, you can choose to roll it out and cut into shapes or to press it into a slice tin and cut into fingers after baking. If you do the latter, you’ll need to cook it for longer – probably closer to an 40 mins than 15-20 minutes, but keep an eye on it. It needs to be cooked through but not too golden.
Okay, there are plenty of shortbread recipes out there and I’m not saying mine is any better than any of them. I do, however, like it. There is only one stipulation I’d make – make sure your butter is really good butter. When something is this simple there’s nowhere to hide.
And one final thing, these make a really good last minute dessert when served with strawberries and cream.
What you need
- 250g butter, fridge cold and cubed
- 110g caster sugar
- 360g plain flour (see note above re substituting 50-60g with rice flour)
- 2-3 tablespoons water
What you do with it
Preheat the oven to 170C (150C fan) and line a baking sheet with parchment.
In a large bowl mix together the flour and sugar and then rub the butter in using your fingertips unil it resembles sandy breadcrumbs. At this point I tend to pop it back into the fridge for about 10 minutes, but then I live in Queensland and it’s summer.
Stir through enough water to form a dough. Take it slowly with the water and I find it’s best to use your hands for this. Let’s face it, they’re already floury.
On a floured surface roll out to about 5mm and cut into rounds.
Bake for 10-15 minutes. Let them cool on the tray for 5 minutes before transferring to a rack.