This recipe is from Nigella’s recipe book ‘Forever Summer‘. When my friend tipped me off about making possets with shortbread, she mentioned that the shortbread was one of Nigella’s. So I took a look and decided to try it out. I had looked for other shortbread recipes, and was I intrigued that Nigella used icing sugar in her recipe, whereas a lot of other cookery writers don’t mention icing sugar at all.
When I made my first batch, they looked undercooked after 25 minutes. So I left them for another 10 minutes, and then another 10 minutes, and then another 5 minutes – until eventually I thought I must take them out of the oven even though they look so pale! I had left them in the oven for a full 25 minutes longer than the recipe recommended! When I tried them I was slightly disappointed as they were quite crunchy – I was after the ‘melt-in-the-mouth’, buttery version. So I made another batch.
The second batch I felt were still undercooked after 25 minutes, so I left them another 10 minutes. Result? Soft and melt-in-the-mouth flavour! I loved them. My husband preferred the crunchy version however, so bear this in mind when cooking these. Think about what you’re after – a softer texture or a bit of a crunch as you bite into them – I know which I prefer!
Nigella doesn’t add salt to her shortbread, but I decided to add half a teaspoon to my second batch. I’d run out of vanilla pods so I used half a teaspoon of vanilla extract. I must admit – I think I will use a vanilla pod next time!
- 100g icing sugar
- 200g plain flour
- 100g cornflour
- 200g unsalted butter (very soft)
- 1 vanilla pod (seeds). Remove seeds by carefully slicing in half and running a sharp pointed blade down the middle of each one to remove the black sticky pods
- Half a teaspoon salt
- 1 sprinkling of caster sugar
- Preheat the oven to 160C/gas mark 3 and set to one side a Swiss rolling tin or brownie tin sized 20cm x 34cm. Don't grease the tin as the butter in the shortbread will do this for you.
- Put all the ingredients into a bowl or a food processor fitted with a double-bladed knife and either mix carefully by hand in the bowl or process in the processor.
- Process until the mixture is soft and begins to form a ball, loosely clumping around the blade. If mixing by hand use the rub in method but then start bringing it together to form a loose ball. You don't have to worry too much about making a firm ball as you can press the mixture into the tin.
- Turn out into a Swiss roll tin or brownie tray and press to form an even (or as even as you can make it) layer, using fingers or the back of a spoon, or both.
- Using the tip of a sharp knife cut the flattened shortbread into fingers. Then use the tines of a fork to make little holes in each marked-out biscuit ie make 3 diagonal rows down each biscuits
- Place in oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes, by which time the shortbread will be pale still, but not doughy. Expect a little goldenness around the edges, but shortbread should be melting and not crisp (see note above).
- Remove the tin from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes or so, before removing, with a palette knife and your fingers, to a wire rack. Sprinkle with sugar and leave them to cool completely before storing in a tin.