It felt like a biscuit/cookie kind of weekend, and what better kind to make than a really good shortbread? I mean, a really, really tasty, melt-in-your-mouth kind of I-could-almost-be-in-Scotland shortbread? And two is always better than one, so I went for vanilla and chocolate – they may be basic, but they are still two of my favorite flavors, and when these shortbread are well done, there’s almost no other cookie I’d rather have.

Almost without exception, when I make it to London, I make a stop in Fortnum & Mason’s, and I usually walk out with at least one tin of their shortbread – it’s been a family favorite ever since I brought it home the first time.

So when I want to make my own, I consult my Tea at F&M book for their shortbread recipes, which come just about as close in taste and texture as one can to what you can buy. So these are my tweaked versions of both of these recipes.

For the vanilla shortbread, I had at one time actually bought golden caster sugar online, as I couldn’t find it anywhere local to me. So I used it for the recipe this time, though a fine white caster sugar would work just fine as well. And if you can’t tell from the pictures what makes this so good, I’ve got one word for you: butter!

For the chocolate version, I used powder sugar, and cocoa powder and chopped dark chocolate for extra chocolatey flavor. I also made the shape of the chocolate shortbread the same as the vanilla rather than the round shapes noted in the original recipe, and baked it with the same method.

I have two favorite 8″x8″ pans that have been in my family forever, so even though they are larger than what the original recipe calls for (which is 17cm/6.7 inches), I use these pans and just leave a little space at the one end. As the cookies do not really spread, it works fine, and also then leaves me a little space to maneuver to get them out of the pan without breakage.

By the time they come out of the oven and I’ve sprinkled them with a little golden caster sugar (okay, a generous amount of caster sugar!), and they’ve cooled off for at least 30 minutes, they are ready to eat. And by this time, I am more than ready to taste-test!

So I’ve left these recipes in grams rather than converting. With a lot of baking, I find it’s better to weigh instead of measure, anyway, for preciseness required by baking. I hardly know how I’d bake anymore without a handy kitchen scale!

Vanilla shortbread

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 150 g. softened, unsalted butter; extra to grease
  • 60 g. golden caster sugar; extra to sprinkle
  • 150 g. all-purpose flour
  • 60 g. rice flour
  • 1.5 tsp. vanilla (I tend to be generous with vanilla so I can really taste it)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit/150 Celsius. Prepare a 7″x7″ square pan with a little butter. If you do not have a square pan this size an 8″x8″ or 9″x9″ will do; just don’t fill the pan completely, leave an inch or two extra space on one end.

First, cream together the butter and sugar; add the vanilla and mix in. Stir in the sifted flours and work until combined and the sides of the bowl are clean; knead just lightly.

Press the mixture into the greased pan, smoothing out the top. Draw lines to differentiate the shortbread fingers – once down the middle and five divisions on each side to make 12 total cookies. Prick the tops with a fork several times to mark them as well.

After baking for 30 minutes, take them out of the oven and mark them again. After another 30 minutes in the oven, take them out (60 minutes total baking time). Mark them yet one last time before sprinkling with additional caster sugar.

Let them cool for at least 30 minutes in the pan before trying to remove them from the pan; that way they will be completely set and less likely to break. You can then remove them gently from the pan. They’ll keep well for a few days in a tin (if they last that long!).

Chocolate shortbread

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 125 g. butter, plus extra to grease
  • 40 g. powder sugar
  • 10 g. quality cocoa powder
  • 10 g. dark chocolate bar (>70% cocoa solids), chopped very finely
  • 1/2 Tbsp. instant coffee, very finely ground
  • 125 g. all-purpose flour
  • 40 g. rice flour
  • Have a little golden caster sugar on hand to sprinkle

Directions

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit/150 Celsius. Prepare a 7″x7″ square pan with a little butter. If you do not have a square pan this size an 8″x8″ or 9″x9″ will do; just don’t fill the pan completely, leave an inch or two extra space on one end.

First, cream together the butter and sugar.

To prepare the instant coffee and chocolate, I pulse the instant coffee and the bar chocolate together in a coffee grinder to make sure the pieces are small and get well distributed.

Stir in the two chocolates and coffee, then add the sifted flours and work until combined and the sides of the bowl are clean.

Press the mixture into the greased pan, smoothing out the top. Draw lines to differentiate the shortbread fingers – once down the middle and five divisions on each side to make 12 total cookies. Prick the tops with a fork several times to mark them as well.

After baking for 30 minutes, take them out of the oven and mark them again. After another 30 minutes in the oven, take them out (60 minutes total baking time). Mark them yet one last time before sprinkling with additional caster sugar.

Let them cool for at least 30 minutes in the pan before trying to remove them from the pan; that way they will be completely set and less likely to break. You can then remove them gently from the pan. Store in a tin for the next few days, or as long as they last!

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