In honour of getting to watch The Great British Bake Off all the way through for the first time here's another baking post...
Shortbread was something that we baked all the time when we were children. I remember it being something that was quick and simple to throw together with an almost impossible to forget recipe - 3 ingredients flour, butter, sugar - 2/3rd's as much butter as flour, and 1/3rd the amount of sugar. That's how we were taught at school (in Scotland where shortbread is a bit of a thing) and that's how I've always made it, but I hadn't made it for a long time.
Last week I saw a bit of Fiona Cairns Home of Fabulous Cakes though, and the shortbread she was making was definitely different. Apparently there have been developments in the last 30 years on the biscuit front which when it comes to shortbread feels almost like the reinvention of the wheel. Investigation in half a dozen baking books confirmed my suspicions; things have changed. I was having people round for whisky which is obviously an excuse for shortbread and after due consideration decided on the Fortnum and Mason version - where better to look for a classic? It seemed the simplest too.
|Not the best picture but they were eaten to quickly to take another.|
The secret here is rice flour of which I've happily had a bag in the cupboard for some time just waiting for a biscuit project. The recipe calls for 150g of plain flour, 60g of rice flour, 150g of butter, and 60g of golden caster sugar. It's a lot of butter and that along with the rice flour gives a very short dough and a very crisp biscuit.
I'm very grateful to have a food mixer these days, it allows for some short-cuts and is particularly helpful when you don't want to overwork a dough/get your hands dirty. I over softened the butter so opted to chuck everything in together and mix it up quickly. Ideally the butter and sugar would be creamed first and then the flours quickly worked in before the whole lot was pressed into a tin and scored into 14 fingers then baked for 30 mins, removed from the oven, re-scored into fingers and baked again for another 30 mins. I decided to cut my shortbread into hearts instead and as it was thinner it only needed about half an hour in a low oven ( 150 degrees C/ Gas mark 2). The recipe didn't mention resting the dough, but I did for a bit anyway, mostly because I had to go out and buy milk.
The resulting shortbread was definitely better than the slightly tough sort I vaguely remember from times past. These particular biscuits also taste incredibly like the sort you buy - in a good way, and are destined to make many reappearances whenever I can think of an excuse to bake them.