Shortbread is one of the simplest biscuits to make –requiring just 3 basic ingredients- flour, butter and sugar…perfect for Diwali baking on a budget! Although the dough is basic-with a few additions like spice and fruit you can create several variations to form different flavours- even colour biscuits- to impress family and friends!. Amma was fond of making shortbread with almond essence. She used a cookie cutter or sometimes cut into wedges (pressing the sides like a pie or poli).
This post features a few biscuit ideas-perfect for those of you looking to try a few new biscuits this Diwali. I chose these mainly for their simplicity –and you don’t require a cookie press or any form of biscuit cutters. The main tools needed are a bowl, a fork, teaspoon, tablespoon, your hands and a knife. I made these Shortbread Cookies last Christmas-so unfortunately don’t have all step by step images-hopefully my written explanation will suffice. Apart from being easy to make-shortbread is long lasting-the dough can be stored in the freezer then baked as needed. The Shortbread pictured above – I have had in the freezer since a few months ago-baked yesterday.
Basic Shortbread Biscuit Dough Recipe
The classic short bread recipe has a ratio of 1:2:3 of the three basic ingredients, i.e. one part sugar: 2 parts butter: 3 parts flour. If you want to make larger quantities then always stick to this ratio of ingredients e.g. if you want to make a large quantity with 3 cups flour-then use 2 cups butter and 1 cup sugar.
I have used the following recipe:
- 1½ cups sifted flour
- 1 cup butter (at room temperature)
- ½ cup sugar
*N.B. 1 cup= 125g
1. Cream butter until soft. Add the sugar- mix until combined. Add the flour -a little at a time- just like when making Cookie Press Dough.(except shortbread does not contain any egg). The dough will be very soft-if it feels a bit sticky (this could be due to the type of butter used-then add a little flour until it is manageable-Don’t add too much just a little to make the dough less sticky).
2. Wrap in wax paper or plastic wrap then shape into desired shape e.g. a 2 cm thick rectangle to make Shortbread sticks or if you prefer round biscuits then roll into a log. Refrigerate for an hour or two. For best results leave in the fridge overnight then cut and bake in the morning.This allows the dough enough time to set resulting in perfectly cut biscuits.
3. Preheat oven at 180 degrees celsius. Remove the dough from refrigerator then cut into 3 cm thick slices (if you have a rectangular shape) and 1-1.5 cm for round biscuits. Use a toothpick to puncture holes in the cut biscuits. This will help the dough cook.
Tip: I rolled the dough in sugar then cut—to achieve the sugary crust of the biscuit. (see image below).
4. Cook on 180 degrees celsius for 15-20 minutes. Check to see that the cookies don’t brown too much. They should retain a pale color.
Variations to Classic Shortbread Dough
Lime and Cardamom Shortbread
I love shortbread and I love lime and Cardamom..and many other foodstuffs…but cramming it all into shortbread may not be the best idea! so I combined just three things- Shortbread dough, lime zest and cardamom (elachi) to form ‘Lime and Cardamom Shortbread‘.
1. Add the following to the above Shortbread Dough Recipe:
• 1 teaspoon cardamom powder (elachi)
• Lime zest (fresh grated or candied)
2. Add the cardamom to the butter then cream (as per the recipe above). Add the Lime zest with the flour.
Tip: If you are not a fan of Elachi then you can also experiment with spices and fruits that you do like or just add fruit and no spice or add spice only…the possibilities are endless!
Cranberry Almond Espresso
It sounds like a mouthful…but the taste combinations suite each other quite well. I made a basic shortbread dough then split it into two sections:
Part 1: I added chopped cranberries- you can also use chopped cherries or dried apricots.
Part 2: Added 1 teaspoon espresso powder-this resulted in a rather rough and bitter texture (which I prefer) and it complimented the sweeter cranberry section quite well. If you are not a fan of espresso then use cocao powder.
Making duel coloured biscuits is a fairly simple technique: Simply roll the vanilla section then roll the espresso section then place the two together-pressing lightly. Wrap in wax paper or plastic wrap. Refrigerate for an hour or two-then slice and bake.
Which Fruits and Spices to Use?
You can use any number of spice combinations-but use no more than ½ teaspoon of spice-you want the shortbread to have a hint of flavour not one that is suffocated with spice. Similarly for the fruit and nuts use no more than ¼ cups for every 1½ cups flour used. You can also use essence to flavour Shortbread-use no more than 1 teaspoon.
Suitable Spice: cinnamon, cardamom,nutmeg,ground ginger,paprika,chilli flakes.
Suitable Fruit: Finely chopped: cranberries, cherries, apricots, dates, raisins or coconut, fresh or candied lemon, lime or orange zest , dried apples.
Suitable Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, pecan nuts
Essences: vanilla, almond, rum, orange or coffee
Some of the Combinations I use include:
Festive Shortbread Ideas
A Few Tips to Keep In Mind When Making Shortbread Biscuits:
1. Keep the butter at room temperature-this helps in creating soft biscuit dough. If you have forgotten to take the butter out of the fridge but would like to bake anyway then cut the butter in small cubes this will helps make it easier to mix. Similarly you can also grate the butter to get it more manageable.
2. Margarine can be used to bake biscuits but often the quality is not the same.
Share this Recipe with Family and Friends !