This shortbread recipe has been part of my repertoire for years and I can’t imagine being without it now as it is just so quick and straightforward to make. It’s also a very more-ish nibble to enjoy at any time. The biscuit recipe that I use came from a cookery book that I own, Cakes and Cake Decorating by Rosemary Wadey. I left it behind at my parents’ house in Birmingham several years ago and I keep meaning to bring it back with me sometime but I never actually do. Not that I’m exactly short of recipes to try out, as my newspaper and magazine recipe stash gets larger by the week.
In the meantime, my mum copied out a few of my favourite recipes and this is one of them. In return, I regularly despatch shortbread home to my dad, who is a big fan of this buttery treat. I used to bake from Rosemary Wadey’s book when I ran a market stall and so the book had plenty of use (witnessed by the many sticky and greasy marks). When I’m baking, I tend to flip between metric and imperial measures. This is one where I’ve always used the pounds and ounces version so I would probably find it completely impossible to make in metric, such is the effect of ingrained habit.
I usually double the quantities given above and press the dough into a shallow oblong tin (about 20 x 30cm), though I do like the shortbread made in rounds as given in the method above. I used to have a thistle decorated shortbread mould which produced a very attractive shortbread round with fluted edge. Failing a mould, you can pinch the edges to decorate the border before baking and then cut into ‘petticoat tails’. Sometimes I take a circle from the centre before cutting the tails, which also looks pretty. However you cut them, sprinkle with castor sugar after baking and remember to leave the biscuits until cool before handling as they are easily breakable when warm. Be careful not to over bake; the shortbread should be a light golden brown. The flavour can be bitter if you over bake. I find that I have to be really careful with this as I tend to underestimate the time it’s been in the oven (why, oh why do I not use the timer more often I ask myself!)
The basic shortbread recipe is a good one, though you could tinker with it a bit and substitute some of the plain flour with rice flour as suggested. At other times, I’ve added grated lemon or orange zest; dried fruit makes a nice change and I’ve also turned the plain shortbread into chocolate with the substitution of some flour for cocoa powder. I even daringly spread a layer of chocolate icing on top before cutting it into squares. The mixture is versatile enough to roll out and cut into shapes if you want, though you would need to chill the dough and not roll too thinly.
I am a great fan of anything that you can bake in an oblong or square tin and cut up into lunchbox or picnic friendly portions. This kind of baking is also ideal for all of those school cake sales that pop up with alarming regularity during the academic year. If I can support a good cause or Transition Year project with a quick tray bake rather than anything more fiddly, then so much the better.
Now I wonder if there are any pieces left in the cake tin to go with my morning coffee….
Let us know if you have any recipes that you return to again and again.
Additional Picture Credits: book cover taken from Ebay (with thanks)