Is it possible to use vanilla bean paste instead of the vanilla pod in the recipe for Vanilla Shortbread? As a disabled person it’s quite hard for me to split the pod open and scrape the seeds out.
Nigella's Vanilla Shortbread (from NIGELLA SUMMER) is flavoured with the seeds from a vanilla pod (bean). Shortbread gets its name from its texture, as "short" was the term given to crumbly pastry and biscuits and is also where the term "shortcrust pastry" comes from. This texture is due to the high proportion of fat and also the lack of liquid in the dough. So Nigella uses vanilla seeds in this particular recipe to prevent the introduction of any extra liquid (such as vanilla extract) into the mixture.
if you need to use an alternative then vanilla bean paste does contain vanilla seeds, though it is a paste and contains some liquid. Ideally if you are using the paste you would mix it with the softened butter and then add this mixture to the food processor, to make sure that the vanilla is distributed evenly. You would need to use the equivalent of one vanilla pod and should consult the packaging for the appropriate amount. However bear in mind that the shortbread may have a slightly firmer texture due to the additional liquid. A good alternative would be to use vanilla sugar instead of caster sugar and if you have some vanilla beans you can split these in half and add them to a jar of caster (superfine) sugar and leave in a cool, dark place for about a week before using. You can top up the jar with extra sugar as you use it and it should last for a good 6 months. In some countries you can buy small sachets of vanilla sugar and you could add one of these to the mixture instead of the vanilla seeds. Vanilla powder is also available in some countries and could be used as an alternative to the seeds.