My classic shortbread
This is the shortbread recipe I return to again and again – it’s wonderfully ‘short’ and buttery. Marvellous as is with a cuppa, it also makes an easy and delicious dessert if you serve it with poached or roasted fruit – in summer, almost invariably for us the fruit is a bowl of rosy poached white nectarines or sticky roasted plums, and in winter fingers of roasted rhubarb. As I’m a great fan of candied ginger, I often add a small handful of finely chopped glace ginger to the dough before pressing it into the tin. If you’re doing this, thin slices of the same ginger look lovely decorating the top.
Makes 1x 24cm round (12 wedges)
225g #unsalted butter, at cool room temperature
½ cup (110g) caster sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups (300g) plain flour
½ teaspoon salt
A little white granulated sugar, for sprinkling
# Continental (cultured) unsalted butter with its unique, slightly tangy flavour is best for this. It’s available in most supermarkets.
The first thing to do is to put a 23-24cm fluted, loose-based tart tin into the fridge to chill.
Now put the butter and caster sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer (or you can use a regular bowl and hand-held electric beater.) Beat them together on medium speed for 4 minutes, until the mixture looks light and creamy. (It’s best not to over-do the beating as it may incorporate too much air into the mixture which will affect the shortbread’s texture.) Reduce the speed and mix in the vanilla.
Turn off the beater and add the flour and salt. Mix them in on low speed (if the beater is going too fast you will discover, as I have more than once, that you’ll end up covered in a fine coating of flour!) Mix only until the flour is incorporated, stopping and scraping down the sides as you need to, to make sure it is evenly mixed. Press the dough into the chilled tart tin, patting it down gently to get it as even as possible. I usually finish off by rolling a small tumbler or jar over the top to smooth the surface.
Make a decorative border by pressing the tines of a fork all around the edge of the shortbread (or use a finger instead of the fork, to give a more scalloped effect.) Now rest a ruler across the top of the tin and use it as a guide to cut the round into 12 even wedges. Finally, prick each wedge a few times with a fork. Cover the tin and chill the shortbread for at least 2 hours (or up to a day ahead of baking it.)
Preheat your oven to 155C. Sprinkle the shortbread with a couple of teaspoons of granulated sugar, then bake it for about 1 ¼ hours, or until it is pale golden and smells delicious. Remove the tin from the oven to a wire rack. Let the shortbread cool for 8 minutes then, with the ruler as a guide, use a fine pointed knife to carefully cut along the score marks right down through the shortbread. Leave it to cool completely in tin.
Store the wedges in a tightly sealed, airtight container. One of the really nice things about shortbread is that as long as the container is airtight it will keep well for up to a month.