When I first started cooking, I lacked the confidence to do this and, understandably because of my inexperience, I followed recipes religiously and would not consider attempting to cook anything unless I was able to get the EXACT ingredients specified.
I have always loved reading food magazines and cookbooks. I will often compare similar recipes by different chefs/writers to see how they have tweaked recipes and find that this is a great way to learn how recipes can be adapted.
Ultimately, I have always loved food and was never a fussy eater; I have always been eager to try anything new or unusual and I am in no way squeamish about what I eat. This definitely helps when you are trying to create new and interesting flavour combinations.
To illustrate this point, I am posting this recipe for Coffee Shortbread with White Chocolate & Hazelnuts. This is essentially the basic shortbread recipe that I use all the time with the added addition of some espresso powder. I also decided to dip the finished biscuits in white chocolate and sprinkle some chopped roasted hazelnuts on the chocolate before it hardened.
I used coffee this time, but different herbs such as lavender, thyme or basil could be added. You could also experiment by adding ground spices, citrus zests or a handful of dried fruit. Just use the basic recipe and include other ingredients.
I do not want to suggest that all my recipe “experiments” are successful. They aren’t, but most of them are tasty if sometimes a little unusual. You can’t really go wrong if you rely on the flavours that personally appeal to you.
Ingredients:300g plain flour
200g butter, softened
100g caster sugar
2 heaped teaspoons of finely ground instant espresso powder
50g white chocolate
25g hazelnuts, skinned, roasted and roughly chopped
Method:1. Preheat the oven to 170C/Fan Oven 150C/Gas Mark 3. Line two baking trays with non-stick parchment and set aside.
2. Place the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and using a hand-held mixer, beat together until light and fluffy and pale in colour.
3. Sieve the flour and espresso powder together and work into the creamed butter and sugar mixture with a wooden spoon to form a dough. Turn out the dough onto a very lightly floured surface and form into a ball shape.
4. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough until about 1cm thick and using a petal cookie cutter (roughly 6cms in diameter) stamp out biscuits from the dough, leaving space between each biscuit. Place on the lined baking sheets and then refrigerate for about 15 minutes to allow the dough to firm up a little.
5. Bake in the pre-heated oven for approximate 15-17 minutes until the shortbread is cooked through. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about ten minutes on the baking trays before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
6. Melt the chocolate in a small bowl. Dip half of each biscuit into the white chocolate and then place on non-stick baking parchment. Sprinkle a few roasted chopped nuts onto he chocolate before it hardens. Repeat this for the remainder of the biscuits. Once the chocolate hardens, the biscuits are ready to serve.