three, two, one . . . perfect shortbread every time

shortbread biscuits
When you hear the countdown "three, two, one" you might be forgiven for thinking that I might have been infected by London 2012 Olympic fever. The thought of me in a set of starting blocks is enough to bring any self-respecting athlete up short (chortling with laughter, no doubt) and it is quite clear that Team GB are doing perfectly well without me (who knew?) No, 3:2:1 are the magic numbers when making shortbread; it is the time-honoured formula for measuring out quantities of the flour, butter and caster sugar. 

If it makes thing easier, work on the formula 9:6:3 and replace two parts of the flour with either ground almonds, ground rice or cornflour. This gives you a lighter, crumblier texture. But remember, even if your shortbread biscuits come out of the oven looking less than perfect, they will always taste fabulous: light, crumbly and buttery.

I suspect that shortbread purists despair of flavoured shortbreads, but while I love a plain shortbread, I do like ones with just a hint of citrus or spice. If you want to play around with the flavour, why not add a teaspoon of caraway seeds (like the shortbread made in the fairytale sounding town of Goosnargh in Lancashire, a biscuit which also includes ground coriander). You could also add a little lemon zest, rosemary or lavender flowers. Ground spices such as ginger or cinnamon also work well as well as a few chopped nuts such as pistachios.

Makes about 16 biscuits
Skill level: Easy

150g plain flour, sifted
75g cornflour, sifted
150g butter (at room temperature)
75g golden caster sugar plus extra for sprinkling
a pinch of salt (only if using unsalted butter)
1 tsp caraway seeds (optional)


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 150C / Gas Mark 2.
  2. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper or baking parchment.
  3. Beat the butter with the sugar until well combined and the mixture is pale and smooth.
  4. Fold in the flour and mix until the dough comes together. If it is still too dry and crumbly then add a little more softened butter.
  5. Lightly flour a large piece of greaseproof paper and place the dough on one half of the paper. Fold over the other half of the paper and start to roll out the dough - I find it is easier to roll out this way. The dough needs to be about 5mm thick and not more than 1cm.
  6. Cut out the dough with your preferred pastry cutters.
  7. Carefully lift off the biscuits with a palette knife and place on the lined baking tray.
  8. You can use the excess dough to roll out more biscuits, but the second rolling means that the biscuits may be slightly tougher.
  9. Chill the biscuits for about one hour before cooking. They will take about 15 to 20 minutes to cook.
  10. Remove from the oven and lightly dredge with a little caster sugar while still warm.
  11. Place on a wire rack to cool.
  12. Serve with ice cream, syllabub, fresh summer fruits or just a nice cuppa tea!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks very much for the recipe and all the info. I used the recipe very slightly modified to make lavender shortbread for a creative challenge I am participating in at the moment. It turned out well!