For a recipe with so few ingredients, it is surprising how variable shortbread can be. I am completely loyal to my mother’s shortbread recipe, having never tasted anything to equal it.
Rolled thin, decorated with a single silver ball, and baked until the edges were tinged with gold, mum’s shortbread were always light and crumbly-crisp.
When you bit into one, after a second’s resistance it would dissolve deliciously in your mouth, leaving that little silver ball on your tongue like a seashell stranded by a receding wave for you to dispatch with a single, satisfying crunch.
My sister-in-law swears by her grandmother’s recipe, where the same four ingredients (plus a pinch of salt) result in a much heartier, flakier style of biscuit. The kind of shortbread that stands up to being baked in those plate-sized shortbread molds.
(By the way, the dark biscuits in the photo are not actually shortbread, but the leftover chocolate pastry from the chocolate tart. I’d intended to use them for decorations, but Lyra pronounced them delicious. I wouldn’t go that far, but I do like the contrasting colours.)
(makes 4 dozen)
- 1 lb (454g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup icing (confectioner’s) sugar
- 3 cups plain flour
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- edible silver balls (dragees), to decorate
- In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and icing sugar.
- Add the flour and cornstarch and mix well.
- Form the dough into a flat disk, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for half an hour.
- Preheat oven to 325°F (160°C).
- On a floured surface, roll out the dough until it is about a 1/4 inch (or 1/2 cm) thick.
- Cut into shapes and arrange on an ungreased baking sheet. Decorate with silver balls, if desired.
- Bake until the edges are just starting to colour (about ten minutes).
- Cool on a wire rack.