In my quest for the perfect shortbread I discovered the gold standard seems to be a 3-2-1 formula for quantities of flour-butter-sugar and Claire Clark’s family recipe is held highly as one of the best so in honour of my annual trip to Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival I thought I would bake up the most Scottish thing I could think of. While this was lovely vanilla-y shortbread I have to say I prefer mine buttery with a hint of salt so probably wouldn’t add the vanilla seeds again but take your pick between vanilla or salt.
225g spelt or plain flour, sifted
150g unsalted butter, softened
75g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, seeds removed or a pinch of salt
50g granulated sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 180c or gas mark 5 and line a baking sheet with baking parchment.
Sift the flour into the bowl of a stand mixer and add the sugar and vanilla seeds or salt.
Chop the butter roughly over the dry ingredients and then set the mixer on low with the k beater until a dough forms.
Transfer the dough to a floured surface and gently roll out until approximately 1cm thick and cut into 15 fingers.
Move the fingers carefully to the lined baking sheet leaving some space between each biscuit as they will spread slightly and cook for 15 minutes.
Turn the tray around and cook for a further 10 minutes until the shortbread are a pale golden colour then remove from the oven and lightly dust with granulated sugar before leaving to cool on the tray.
Long time followers will know I am in my element at the moment as it’s nectarine season. I also love nutty shortbread…. and cream….. and although I have been making this hazelnut shortbread for years, I had never followed the recipe suggestion of serving them sandwiched with cream and sliced nectarine. This recipe was torn from an August 2008 issue of Asda magazine and I have to say it’s a pretty good combo!
I have failed to ever find ground hazelnuts at the supermarket so make your own by preheating the oven to 180c or gas mark 4, tip the 150g hazelnuts onto a baking tray and bake for 10 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes then rub the papery skins off with kitchen towel. Any stubborn nuts can be baked for another 5 minutes until the skin comes off when rubbed. Once cool, finely chop or whizz in a blender/nut mill until you have a breadcrumb like consitancy with a few nutty pieces to give some crunch to your shortbread.
In a desperate attempt to do some baking without having something irresistible in the house afterwards to scupper my pre holiday healthy eating, I have turned to canine baking! This recipe for carrot and caraway dog biscuits is from River Cottage: Cakes and the biscuits have been well received by my friends dogs. My workmates weren’t so sure and thought they were a bit dry but 50 mins in the oven will do that!
These are my go to store cupboard cookies and I found the recipe for these Peanut Butter Cookies in Jo Wheatley’s A Passion for Baking. The trick to getting the perfect texture seems to be a swift bang on the worktop half way through the cooking time. These cookies are fabulously crisp and chewy…the holy grail of cookies and with the addition of Reese’s Peanut Butter Chips are elevated to dream cookie levels in my opinion.
Unfortunately, the chips are not easy to find in the UK and I was lucky that I had a friend visiting Chicago at the end of last year so she bought me a few bags back. I have heard Selfridges, Panzers and Partridges stock a good range of Reece’s stuff though the recipe works just as well with milk or white chocolate chips or peanuts.
Here is a last post of 2014 before I head to Cornwall for the holidays. This is another good edible gift idea which I like to present in glass jars with a ribbon or great to offer to guests who pop in for a cuppa over the festive period. Lebkuchen are a traditional German soft spiced gingerbread biscuit glazed with icing sugar and water. You can also dip the bottoms in dark chocolate to make them even more yummy.
My housemate is going trekking in Peru next week so I felt the need to make something Peruvian to mark the occasion. Anticuchos (beef heart kebabs) weren’t quite doing it for me and I felt marmalade sandwiches were a bit basic then I stumbled upon Alfajores. Delicate shortbread biscuits sandwiched together with dulce de leche and dusted with icing sugar.
Pronounced Al-fa-ho-res, these little biscuits melt in the mouth thanks to the cornflour in the biscuit dough. Traditionally, these biscuits are round in shape and most recipes I researched called for a 2 inch plain or fluted round cutter but you could use any small cutters. I cheated and bought Bonne Maman Confiture de Caramel rather than making my own dulce de leche but it was quite runny and tricky to sandwich the biscuits together so I won’t short cut again!