Classic shortbread contains just three ingredients, flour, butter and sugar and it all depends on the quality of these three ingredients and careful blending.
Shortbread is a cookie to really sink your teeth into. Crumbly, dense and rich, it's made with a generous amount of butter, which gives it its melt-in-the-mouth texture. Traditionally it is pale golden-brown in color and is baked in a round, flat shape, pricked with a fork and sprinkled with sugar. My Festive Shortbread is gently spiced with Ceylon cinnamon, freshly ground ginger and a bit of ground cloves.
Once baked my version of the classic shortbread will not only smell amazing from all that good butter used but will also have a wonderful warm color from the spices I have added.
Festive Shortbread (Festliches Shortbread)
- 150 grams unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, softened
- 75 grams superfine baking sugar (caster sugar)
- 150 g AP (plain) flour
- 75 g rice flour* NOTE: most recipes call for a mix of plain wheat flour and rice flour or cornflour, for a very soft texture, but you can also use semolina for a slightly crunchier result.
- ¾ tsp Ceylon cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- a pinch of fine sea salt
- Demerara sugar, to finish (optional, you can also use superfine sugar here)
- In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy using a hand-held whisk or wooden spoon.
- Sift the flour, rice flour and spices into the bowl, add the salt and mix together until well combined. The mixture will look crumbly at this stage.
- Put the mixture out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead to form a soft dough. It might be difficult at first but keep going and it will come together.
- Prepare two large pieces of baking parchment. Roll out the dough between the parchment to a thickness of 1cm (½ inch) NOTE: the baking parchment will make it easier to roll. Peel away the top layer of baking parchment and cut the dough into Christmas shapes using cookie cutters. Re-roll any leftover dough to cut out more shapes. NOTE: only do this once to avoid over-working the dough. Alternatively: Line a 22 cm (9 inch) cake or tart pan with baking parchment, and pat, or lightly roll, the dough into a shape slightly smaller than the pan. Prick the surface of the shortbread round with a fork or a wooden skewer. Sprinkle with some Demerara sugar.
- When you have used all the dough, put the shortbreads onto prepared baking sheets, prick the surface of the cookies with a fork and sprinkle with some Demerara sugar.
- Bake the shortbread in the oven until very lightly colored - about 20 minutes for cookies, 30–35 minutes for a shortbread round.
- Leave to cool on the baking sheets or in the baking pan for a few minutes, then lift the shortbreads onto a wire rack.
- Leave to cool completely.
- Shortbread will keep for up to 4 weeks in an airtight cookie tin.
Remember that shortbread has so few ingredients that you can't get away with cutting corners. First and foremost the success of this recipe relies on really good-quality unsalted butter for its flavor. Good quality sugar is also essental. Rice flour gives it that special sandy texture that sets it apart from the common cookie, and a pinch of salt helps to balance that rich, delicious sweetness. Then add warm spices for a festive touch. And to gild the lily, sprinkle the shortbread with Demerara sugar - that will lend a wonderful sparkle and crunch.
Treat the dough gently, if you have the time and patience chill it (for about 15 minutes), sprinkle liberally with sugar and cook it gently and serve it with a cup of my Winter Tea (recipe here). And for that delectable, friable texture, it's also important to keep a light hand. Overworking the mixture will develop the gluten in the flour and make the shortbread tough.
For my German readers: you can find a good-quality rice flour from "Müller´s Mühle" (link here) at most high-end supermarkets or go for organic rice flour at your favorite Natural Health Food Store.
If you are like me and really enjoy a good shortbread, you can take a look at my Vanilla Bean Petticoat Tails Shortbread (recipe here) - or my Lemon-Lavender Shortbread (recipe here) - or the Chestnut and Almond Shortbread (post here) that I baked from a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe using chestnut flour, wholemeal buckwheat flour, and almond flour.
Please make sure to drop by again the day after tomorrow when we will open our next special surprise in my Virtual Advent Calendar and pay a visit to the lovely country of Sweden for St. Lucia Day on December 13th!