Vanilla Shortbread

In Cakes & Bread on by

Vanilla ShortbreadThis 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.

Vanilla ShortbreadThe 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!

Vanilla Shortbread
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 22 pieces
  • 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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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
  6. 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).
  7. 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.

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