The perfect shortbread can be quite elusive. Read our essential guide and try our classic recipe – you could discover a new family favourite!
Shortbread – Tips For Success
Good shortbread is pale, buttery, crunchy, and ‘short’. This means it crumbles at every bite, giving that characteristic shortbread texture. It shouldn’t be soft or chewy like cookies, and it shouldn’t be browned. How do you achieve this kind of perfection?
It can be difficult to consistently make good Shortbread, even using the same recipe. That’s because shortbread’s texture depends on your mood and the kitchen temperature. This very Sensitive Dough doesn’t like to be handled too much. But that’s not to say that you should be folding and incorporating air – rather, you should be trying to work the mixture as little as possible to keep it cool and ‘short’.
There are two main things that can go wrong with the shortbread dough (before it’s cooked): first, overworking the dough will put the flour’s gluten (proteins) into action. Gluten is what stretches out and makes chewy bread or cookies – and you definitely don’t want it working on your shortbread.
Secondly, getting the butter too warm (because of your hands or kitchen temperature) or breaking it up too much will prevent the shortbread from forming those crumbly layers. Aim for some smaller (breadcrumb sized) and some larger (think oat-sized) pieces of butter. These should melt in the oven, not the bowl, creating air pockets that give a light, crumbly finish.
When cooking, it’s vital not to overcook shortbread. As it contains no eggs, the dough requires very little cooking and you certainly don’t need to brown it. Cook until just tinged with gold at the edges and your shortbread will finish cooking on the rack.
Classic Shortbread Recipe
Remember the two keys to success: keep the dough cool (open a kitchen window), and work in the butter gently and swiftly.
- 250g unsalted butter (choose the best quality butter that you can find)
- 225g plain flour
- 2tbsp cornflour
- 125g icing sugar, sifted
- Pinch of salt
Sift the Flours and Sugar together with the salt into a large bowl or food processor. Cut the butter into small pieces and drop them in, then, using a wooden spoon, plastic blade or pastry cutter, combine everything until it starts to come together.
Preheat the oven temperature to 170 degrees C. Turn the mixture onto a lightly-floured board and knead very gently until it comes together to form a dough. Roll it to about 1cm thick and cut out rounds or shapes. Transfer to a cool baking tray. Use a fork to prick each round once.
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Note: If you don’t want to roll and cut the biscuits, roll the dough into a 5cm diameter log and put into the fridge for half an hour, then use a warm knife to cut slices. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the biscuits are just beginning to get a golden tinge at the edges. Cool on a wire rack thoroughly before dusting with icing sugar to serve.