Monday, 9 February 2015

Viennese Shortbread Fingers

Every now and again, I like to make a big batch of biscuits to have on hand in the biscuit tin… something nice to nibble on with my beloved cup of tea. These days there are many varieties of biscuit for sale in the shops and supermarkets, but ultimately, I prefer something homemade, if at all possible. Making your own biscuits/cookies is usually a very quick and easy thing to do and they really do taste so much better than their mass-produced cousins.
 
When I was a child there wasn’t the choice that there is nowadays in the shops and the most decadent biscuits we ever bought were chocolate-covered digestives… and we only had those when guests were expected! Other than that it was plain Digestives or Rich Tea. Interestingly, my grandmother who played a huge role in influencing my love of cookery, never really baked biscuits… the only thing I can ever recall her making was shortbread or flapjacks, but nothing more adventurous than that, though both of these tasted wonderful. I thought my friend Sara who lived across the road was so lucky, because her mum used to make Millionaire’s Shortbread….which to me, at that age, seemed like the ultimate in hedonistic home-baking. To this day whenever I make Millionaire’s Shortbread, I always think of how envious I felt of Sara and her brother and sisters! See my recipe for Millionaire’s Shortbread here.
 
Most home-baked biscuits can be stored quite successfully in an air-tight tin for a few days, unlike those that are commercially produced which seem to stay crisp and crunchy for a far longer time, courtesy of the preservatives and anti-humectants that tend to be included. Yes; biscuits are an indulgence, and by no stretch of the imagination could they be considered a dietary necessity, but if I’m going to treat myself, I’d far prefer to eat something that contains the best of ingredients and where I know exactly what has been used. On that basis, I don’t mind that homemade biscuits may not last long as store-bought versions, because they just taste far superior and usually far more delicious!
 
This is a great recipe; really simple to make and results in a short and buttery biscuits. Rather than use caster or granulated sugar for sweetness, powdery icing sugar is used. This along with the inclusion of some cornflour makes a biscuit that just melts in the mouth. The baked biscuits can be sandwiched together with vanilla flavoured buttercream or a splodge of jam if desired, but I like them just dipped in some melted dark chocolate.
 
The key thing when making these biscuits is to allow the butter to soften to room temperature so that all the other ingredients can be incorporated easily to create a soft dough that can be piped. I used a star nozzle fitted to a disposable piping bag to create ‘fingers’, but you could also pipe rosettes, about 5cms in diameter if preferred.
 

Ingredients:

250g butter, very soft but not melted
60g icing sugar
225g plain flour
70g cornflour
½ tsp vanilla extract/paste
To finish:
100g dark chocolate, melted
 

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 160C/Fan Oven 140C/Gas Mark 3. Line two large baking trays with non-stick baking parchment and set aside.
2. Place the butter and icing sugar into a large mixing bowl and cream together until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes) with a hand-held electric mixer.
3. Sift the plain flour and cornflour together and gradually mix into the butter mixture along with the vanilla extract/paste to create a soft dough. Do not over-mix as this will result in ‘tougher’ biscuits.
4. Spoon the dough into a disposable piping bag fitted with a 1cm star nozzle. Pipe out 6-7cm long fingers onto the line baking trays leaving about 2cms between each ‘finger’. You should get about 30 biscuits. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-17 minutes until barely coloured. Remove the trays from the oven and allow the biscuits to cool for about 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.
To finish:
5. Dip one end of each biscuit into the melted chocolate and lay on baking parchment to harden.

Makes approximately 30 biscuits.