Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Simple Shortbread

Gosh! I must be on a bit of a biscuit binge at the moment… but here is another simple biscuit recipe that tastes delicious and is extremely versatile.
What I love about this recipe is that the ratio of ingredients is so easy to remember and is basically 3:2:1 of plain flour:butter:sugar. It is a classic shortbread recipe which I have baked here in the shortbread mould that I recently bought but you could just as easily make individual biscuits by rolling out the dough to about half a centimetre thick and using a circular 6cm cookie cutter to stamp out. You can make thinner biscuits, but you will need to decrease the baking time.
The basic dough can be flavoured with lemon or orange zest or you can experiment using different spices. I sometimes make thin, individual biscuits flavoured with freshly ground black pepper which I serve as an accompaniment to the strawberry mousse that I often make when fresh Irish strawberries are in season (these may sound a little odd, but the pepper compliments the strawberries so wonderfully). The point is that this recipe is extremely versatile provided you keep to the basic ratios given above.
If I were to impart any advice, it would be to use the best butter that you can lay your hands on. You can use unsalted butter, but if I’m completely honest, I rarely do because I like the very subtle salty flavour. This is NOT a recipe where margarine can be substituted. It has to be butter and given that I believe that Ireland produces the best butter in the world – I always use Irish butter!
My food obsessions not only include the eating of food, but also cover an OCD like compulsion to continuously add to my extensive food book and magazine collection. I am a complete sucker when it comes to buying new cake tins and other kitchen equipment. I'm lucky in that I have quite a lot of storage space in my kitchen, but every cupboard is overflowing with various tins, tools and implements.
My two daughters love all things even vaguely related to One Direction and whilst I'm sure that I would find it amusing to meet Harry, Louis, Zayn and the other 1D boys, it would be nothing compared to the idiotic, incoherent, star-struck fool I would become if I met some of my favourite chefs. I would be an absolute simpering eejit. Alas, the opportunity to do this does not look like it’s going to present itself in the near future so I shall continue to console myself with the acquisition of more cookery equipment!
My latest purchase was a circular wooden shortbread mould, into which you place your shortbread dough to imprint a pattern before removing from the mould prior to baking. I found that it worked very effectively although the thistle pattern which was carved into the wood did not imprint as distinctly as I had hoped it might.


300g plain flour
200g butter, softened
100g caster sugar plus a little extra to sprinkle over the shortbread


1. Preheat the oven to 170C/Fan Oven 150C/Gas Mark 3. Line a baking tray with non-stick baking parchment and set aside.
2. Place the butter and caster sugar in a large bowl and using a hand-held electric whisk, beat together until light and fluffy and a pale colour.
3. Add the flour and work into the butter and sugar mixture with a wooden spoon to form a dough. Knead briefly with your hands to bring together into a bowl and place on a lightly floured work-surface.
4. Divide the dough in half with a sharp knife. Form each half into a circle and roll out gently with a rolling pin until it is roughly the size of your shortbread mould (My mould is 20cms wide). Lightly flour the mould and press the dough into it. Gently remove and place on one end of the lined baking tray. Repeat with the rest of the dough.
5. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes until the shortbread is a light golden colour. Remove from the oven and score each round into eight wedges and lightly sprinkle with a couple of tablespoons of caster sugar. Leave to cool. The shortbread keeps very well for several days in an air-tight tin.

Makes 2 rounds of shortbread.