June 1, 2020

The Berry Project: Special Shortbread Biscuits

Sugar sprinkled biscuits shaped as clouds

I come from a family of short-bread lovers. My maternal grandmother, who has been battling with dementia for a good few years now, lights up at the very mention of shortbread, particularly if it’s from Edinburgh. On my last visit, she asked me quite out of the blue, where her shortbread was (I usually bring some down from Edinburgh), which was quite the surprise as she often doesn’t recognise me, yet alone remember that I now live up North and have the same affinity for shortbread as her. She was very perturbed when I confessed I’d forgotten to bring any down with me and made me promise to bring some down on my next visit. The way food can trigger memories is just wonderful – in that brief moment, I caught a glimpse of my grandma pre-dementia and I reminisced about her sitting in her favourite dining chair with a Sudoku in one hand, a cup of tea in the other whilst munching away on a shortbread or two (she always had much more self-control than my grandad when it came to consuming biscuits!)

If I thought my grandma would eat home-made biscuits then I’d definitely take up Mary Berry’s suggestion of buying a pretty tin and filling it with a variety of home-made biscuits and gifting it to her. But as my Grandma remains very picky about her shortbread, favouring the shop/brand-variety (Shortbread House of Edinburgh, Isle of Mull Shortbread or her beloved Marks and Spencers), I opted to half this recipe instead and enjoy them with Richie.

The recipe is possibly one of the simplest I’ve made yet, containing just four ingredients; plain flour, light muscovado sugar, butter and a little demerara sugar for dusting. You firstly mix the flour and sugar together and then gently rub in the butter before kneading it into a dough. The mixture really comes together in seconds – it is quite a dry mixture so needs a little bit of careful handling when you go to roll out it out. My dough cracked around the edge – I did contemplate adding a little water but as there was no suggestion to do this in the recipe, I refrained and found that I could cut shapes out from the middle with ease and a bit of patience. Mary suggested cutting the shortbread into 5mm circles with a fluted cutter but I opted instead to use a little cloud stencil, which worked wonderfully and was a bit more fun that your traditional rounded shortbread.

The brilliant thing about this recipe is that the biscuits take just 15 minutes to cook. Once they’ve turned a pale, golden colour they’re good to enjoy with a cup of tea or iced coffee. If you’re a complete baking newbie or want to rustle up a sweet treat quickly, this special shortbread recipe is a good pick – so simple but satisfying. There’s an entire shortbread section in the Baking Bible so it will be interesting to compare the different types and see which recipes come out on top. There’s a Millionaires’ Shortbread recipe that has caught my eye – I love a more intricate bake and can’t resist caramel in any form so that will be high on my to-bake-next list!

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