Hi everyone! Hope you are all hanging in there with crazy school lunch mornings and sports afternoons starting up again and those late nights because that’s the only time you have to yourself!
This is my Nana’s favourite…plain, classic shortbread. She hates it when I fiddle with the recipe and add nuts, chocolate or lemon curd, she just likes it ‘simple Simon’! I can’t disagree with her because, a; She’s my Nana and I’d never win and, b; With it’s light, buttery flavour and tender sweetness, this shortbread is indeed impossible to resist.
So, last week I had a shortbread afternoon and made this classic shortbread for her and then went on to make some lemon ones and some pretty lil’ heart-shaped ones which would’ve been cute on Valentine’s day if I had’ve had my act together sooner (cough, cough)!
This is my ‘go to’ shortbread recipe that I’ve been making, like, FOREVER and it has no eggs or milk to bind it together, just flour and cornflour (the cornflour gives it it’s tender texture) slowly added to the creamiest of creamy, creamed butter and sugar.
The dough is moulded into a log and then sliced up, giving you country style, rustic looking biscuits that are just perfect to serve up with an afternoon cuppa tea or coffee with a mate.
225 g / 8 oz butter
½ cup castor (superfine) sugar
310 g / 11 oz standard flour (2 loosely packed cups)
155 g / 5 ½ oz cornflour (1 loosely packed cup)
¼ teaspoon salt
Icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar) for dusting
Optional – 1 tablespoon lemon zest (from 1 medium-sized lemon) or 1 teaspoon vanilla paste (or the seeds scraped from 5 cm / 2 in of a vanilla bean).
Makes x 12 – 16
- The amount of flour for this recipe is important hence why I also weighed it for you). If it’s slightly too much the dough will be too dry and crumbly to mould and if it’s too little, the dough will be too soft and sticky to roll out.
- As there are no eggs or milk in the recipe to bind it together the butter is what does it so it needs to be super soft.
- I usually use castor sugar (superfine) in my baking as it helps to create a finer texture.
STEP BY STEP
Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper and spray it with non-stick cooking spray (or lightly grease it with a ¼ teaspoon butter).
As I mentioned the butter must be super soft for this recipe so cut the butter into small cubes and place it in the microwave and use the 50% / ½ power setting for 1 minute and then 30-second increments after that until it is (you don’t want any melty bits though, this will make the dough too soft and sticky).
Not all older microwaves have the half power function so another thing you can do when you need soft butter for creaming is this…
…Again, cut it into small cubes and then place it on a plate. Next, fill a heatproof bowl with boiling water and then straight away tip the water out. Place the hot, upturned bowl over the butter and leave it there for say 5 minutes for a small amount of butter and 10 for a larger amount, or simply until it reaches your desired softness!
- For this recipe, I left the bowl on until it had cooled down and the butter was perfect!
Next, in a medium-sized bowl, mix the flour, the cornflour and the salt together.
Getting started on the actual shortbread, place the nicely softened butter, the castor sugar (and the zest or the vanilla if adding it) in a large bowl and…
…using an electric beater on a medium speed beat it for around 3 minutes or until it’s pale, light and creamy.
- If you are blessed enough to have one, using a bench mixer with the paddle is excellent for making shortbread, it always blends the drys into the creamed butter and sugar perfectly.
Then scrape down the bowl and…
…add half of the dry ingredients.
Turn the beaters down to low and mix in the drys but only three-quarters of the way in.
Then add half of the remaining drys and…
…three-quarter mix them in too.
Add the remaining drys and mix until totally blended, making sure you scrape down the sides and also remove any dough from the beaters, mixing that in too.
- It won’t be one big piece of dough it will be large, soft crumbs, you will use your hands later to mould it together.
Once the last of the drys are mixed in, mould some of the dough in your hand. The heat from your hand should help it bind together reasonably easily.
- If it doesn’t mould together and feels too dry and crumbly (this can happen either from the butter no being soft enough or the drys being added too quickly) you can fix it by adding a little milk. Just add 1 teaspoon at a time (testing it after each addition) until it just begins to mould together and again, looks like large, soft crumbs but be careful you don’t add too much, you can’t come back from that.
Put the dough out onto a clean, dry bench and…
…knead it until it’s in one, two or three solid pieces
Then, still using your hands, join the pieces together to form approx. a 25 cm / 10 in L, 5 cm / 2 in W, 4 ½ cm / 1 ¾ in H, log.
So, it will have a curved top and the bottom will be flat, resembling the shape of a half-circle or a solid rainbow…but it won’t be perfect and that groovy, it’s not supposed to be.
Time to preheat the oven to 150°C fan bake oven or 175°C conventional oven, on bake, with a rack situated in the centre of the oven.
Back to the shortbread…
Slice the log into 1 ½ – 2 cm / ½ – 1 in biscuits…
…you can use the first one as a guide or use a ruler to cut marks into the log first.
Lay them out on the tray (putting the two end ones rounded side down).
- I recommend placing biscuits/cookies on trays in uneven rows to let the heat and air circulate through allowing them to bake and brown more evenly.
Press them each twice with a fork…
…and bake them for 25 minutes or until they have started to turn a light brown around the outsides and are also a light brown underneath.
Once baked, leave them on the tray for 5 minutes and then transfer them to a cooling rack.
Leave them on the rack until they have cooled down and then if you like, dust them with icing sugar.
It pays to make sure the shortbread has 100% cooled down before placing in an airtight storage container or they’ll go soft super quick.
Keepin’ it fresh – As shortbread isn’t baked that long, they can soften quickly, (biscuits that are baked longer and cool down to become harder will keep longer) so keep them in a really good airtight container and also because they contain a lot of fat (butter) keep them away from any heat, including sunshine or the butter will turn rancid. Many will keep them for weeks but because mine aren’t baked that long I’m careful with them, so I like to eat them within a week but of course, they never, ever last that long!