Shortbread is one of my most favourite edible treats in the world. I defy anybody to say they don't like it, after all, who can resist that unctuous, buttery, velvety, melt in the mouth pleasure that only homemade shortbread promises and always delivers? Making it is a joy, too. It's one of those occasions when you can get your hands in there, gently kneading the dough until you end up with a soft and squidgy ball. Fabulously tactile! Classic buttery shortbread is fantastic in itself, but if you fancy ringing the changes you can add flavourings such as vanilla, orange, lemon, coffee or even salt and pepper (if you're daring!)
I made this cardamom shortbread with a view to letting the children take it to school in their lunch boxes, but because the recipe always makes plenty (and depending on how big you make your shapes), I knew there would be enough left over to have with coffee for a few days. I always make my shortbread with cornflour as it produces biscuits that literally melt in the mouth. If you prefer you can make it with rice flour, this will give a granulated, crunchy result.
250g butter, softened
100g golden caster sugar, plus more to sprinkle
250g plain flour, plus more to dust
125g cornflour or rice flour
half a tsp of freshly ground cardamom seeds
1. Preheat the oven to 170 degs C/fan 160 degs C/gas mark 3.5.
2. In an electric mixer cream together the butter and sugar, add the ground cardamom seeds, then sift in the flour and cornflour gradually, mixing briefly between addition until it binds together.
3. Flour your hands and gently knead until the dough is just smooth (don't over-work.) To make the dough easier to roll, and if you have time, wrap it in clingfilm and place in the fridge for half an hour.
4. On a floured work surface roll out the dough until about 5mm thick, then cut into your chosen shapes. Place the shortbreads on 2 baking sheets lined with baking parchment and bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden. Sprinkle with sugar as soon as they come out of the oven and then leave to cool for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.
This recipe is taken from Bake and Decorate by Fiona Cairns.