My shortbread recipe has gone down really well with family, friends and colleagues. I’ve tweaked (and in my humble opinion greatly improved) the recipe over time, and learnt a few tips along the way to get a really good result. Once you have a recipe you’re happy with you can always add your own flavours too, giving you endless possibilities.
For the simplest recipe, just follow this guide:
1 part sugar
2 parts fat
3 parts flour
Simple. As. That.
That’s an easy way of remembering the ratio of ingredients. Use caster sugar, unsalted butter, and plain flour, and you can’t go wrong. So, if you’re starting off with 50g of sugar you’ll have to use 100g butter and 150g flour.
For a better recipe we need to get a bit more technical. My last batch came out brilliantly, and the ingredients were:
50g caster sugar
100g unsalted butter at room temperature
100g plain flour
50g rice flour
1 tbs ground rice
2 drops vanilla essence
5ml almond extract
I haven’t worked out a catchy rhyme for that one yet, but luckily it has become second nature, and no relative can escape getting a box of my shortbread for birthdays etc. from now on.
1. Mix the butter and caster sugar, almond extract and vanilla essence. If you’re doing this by hand you’ll learn pretty quickly why the butter needs to be soft….
2. Combine the flour, and mix until you form the dough. I do this by hand, literally, and rub the ingredients together to make buttery breadcrumbs, which can then be squished into a ball.
Here’s my first tip: the key for getting that classic, crumbly texture that will set your shortbread apart from a regular batch of biscuits is to handle the pastry as little as possible. The more you knead, squish, roll and play with it, the less ‘shortbready’ it will be.
3. Refrigerate the pastry for an hour before you bake it. I often leave mine in the fridge at least overnight, ready to bake when I need it.
4. Since the pastry is better if handled less, this doesn’t lend itself well to being repeatedly rolled out and stamped with a cookie cutter. Instead, roll it into a log, wrap in clingfilm/baking paper and keep it in the fridge. When you’re ready to bake slice it into thick rounds and place them on a baking tray.
5. Pop into a pre-heated oven (mine is fan-assisted and set to 180°C) until golden brown, which can take anywhere between 15 to 25 minutes depending on the size of my biscuits so I recommend checking regularly!
6. 5 minutes or so before they’re ready to come out sprinkle them generously with more caster sugar.
7. Take them out of the oven and leave them on the baking tray for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.
This version of the recipe will give you a drier, more crumbly shortbread. If it really is too dry for you can always add a little melted butter to it. If you’re planning on using a cookie cutter I’d recommend opting for a metal one, and try and make the most of the space so you don’t have to needlessly roll and re-roll.