This recipe is very special to me. That might sound strange as it really just comprises three ingredients, but this is probably my favourite thing that my Grandma used to make. I have great memories of making these with her and of course, eating them! The last time I remember she made them was for my twenty-first birthday. I called her and told her that I was having an afternoon tea for my birthday, and she asked whether she could provide any food for it. I immediately said no, as my Mum and I had been busy organising all the things we would need and probably didn’t need anything else. I instinctively felt bad saying no, as I knew Grandma probably wanted to bring something. My Grandma always brought food to everything, that was the way she contributed to things. A couple of days later I suddenly realised that I definitely DID want Grandma to bake something for my birthday! No birthday, and certainly not one that was an afternoon tea, would be complete without shortbread! I rang her up, and asked if she would bake some and she was happy too. I’m so glad she did as, though we all still had a few years left together at that stage, it was, I realised after she died, the last time she ever made my favourite shortbread for me.
This recipe for shortbread is quite easy but, the temperature of the butter will determine how crumbly the dough becomes. I find that butter at around room temperature is best. My Grandma never iced her shortbread, she always cut a red glacé cherry in half and placed it in the centre of the biscuit before baking. They are very nice this way, and quite festive for Christmas time. But of course, I could never only make them at Christmas!
160 g unsalted butter
60 g caster sugar
250 g plain flour
Pre-heat oven to 150 degrees Celsius and line two large baking trays with baking paper.
Place the larger quantity of butter and the sugar into a food processor and pulse until combined.
Add the plain flour, and pulse until the dough looks like the breadcrumbs. At this stage, if the dough does not start to come together well, add the extra butter and pulse until it is combined and the dough comes together.
Tip the dough out onto a floured work surface. The dough may still look crumbly at this stage, but once brought together with your hands, and rolled out with a rolling pin, it will become a more consistent dough. Shortbread is a dryer dough than others so don’t worry if the edges of your dough are particularly brittle.
Once the dough is rolled out, cut out shapes with biscuit cutters. To ensure the shapes don’t break when you transfer them to a baking tray, slide a spatula under the biscuits to help lift them to the tray.
Space biscuits evenly on the trays and bake for about 20 minutes. If your oven, like mine, doesn’t cook evenly on each tray, you might like to swap the trays over or turn them around half way through the cooking time to ensure the biscuits cook more evenly.
Cool on trays or wire racks.
The quantity this recipe yields is dependent on the size of biscuit cutters you use. When I used this recipe for the biscuits I made in the photo above, the recipe made twenty-two biscuits.
Shortbread are lovely on their own, or once cooled you can ice them. When I first started icing biscuits, I used the royal icing that can be bought in a packed at the supermarket. It is quite good to use if you are just starting out and one packet will ice more than one batch of shortbread. If you want a more smooth and glossy finish of icing however, the packet mix royal icing isn’t the one to use. For such a finish it is best to make your own royal icing. I have been using the recipe from ‘Sweet Bake Shop’* and have found it to be fantastic.
*Sweet Bake Shop website has now changed (last checked 10/10/14). Website previously contained recipes and instructions. The website now represents the evolution of Sweet Bake Shop, which is now an actual store front in Vancouver, Canada. The website no longer contains recipes, however there are some video tutorials by Sweet Bake Shop owner Tessa.
Originally Posted January 8, 2014.