Whenever I go travelling I always bake something to take with me as a hostess gift. Sometimes it’s a loaf cake, other times it’s a batch of brownies; this time though I fancied a change. As I was going back home to Essex for a couple of days, I decided to make some shortbread, which is my sister-in-law’s mother’s favourite biscuit.
Everyone who had tasted these commented on how moreish these babies were, my sister-in-law’s mother especially. I particularly enjoyed them with an espresso and a few chapters of the Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman mid-afternoon.
This recipe that I used comes from Fiona Cairns, the woman who did the wedding cake for Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011. The book Bake & Decorate, which this is from, states that the recipe is from Fiona’s grandmother, and that’s the type of recipe I love. Ones that have a story attached.
Classic Shortbread – adapted from Bake & Decorate by Fiona Cairns
This particular recipe results in a melt-in-the-mouth biscuit, if you prefer your shortbread crumbly, change the cornflour to rice flour.
Also extremely easy to make, I’m all for ease here. I can see this being a part of my baking repertoire for decades.
500g butter, softened
200g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
500g plain flour, plus extra for rolling out
Cream the butter and sugar well. Mix in the flours, I mix them in bit by bit, until a dough. Shape into a ball, place in a large plastic food bag, and chill for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180c/fan 160c/gas 4. Line several baking trays with baking parchment. Dust your work surface and rolling pin with flour, and roll out the dough to 5mm thick. Using cutters in whatever shapes you desire, cut out your biscuits. As you can see, I went for plain circles, somehow I find that particular shape calming. Arrange on your prepared baking trays, sprinkle with sugar, and bake, in batches, for 15 minutes, swapping trays over after ten minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the trays for ten minutes before transferring to cooling racks to cool completely.
If softening the butter in the microwave, don’t go too far with it, like I did. Luckily they still turned out alright.
If you don’t need all the biscuits, put them, uncooked, in layers in a freezer-proof box with sheets of greaseproof paper between each layer. Defrost for an hour before baking.
You can ice these if you desire, or even half dip them in melted dark chocolate.
A Little Update
I’ve recently taken up a voluntary job doing deliveries and collections for a charity shop in the nearby town to where I live in Hampshire. I’ve also started swimming again for the first time in fifteen years.