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More Nigella recipes

Vanilla Shortbread

by . Featured in NIGELLA SUMMER
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Introduction

Even if you have never baked anything in your life, you will be able to make these with untroubled ease. And I hate to say this — as someone with a once-serious Bahlsen habit — but they are so much better than anything out of a packet.

For US cup measures, use the toggle at the top of the ingredients list.

Even if you have never baked anything in your life, you will be able to make these with untroubled ease. And I hate to say this — as someone with a once-serious Bahlsen habit — but they are so much better than anything out of a packet.

For US cup measures, use the toggle at the top of the ingredients list.

Vanilla Shortbread
Photo by Petrina Tinslay

Ingredients

Makes: 33 fingers

Metric Cups
  • 100 grams icing sugar
  • 200 grams plain flour
  • 100 grams cornflour
  • 200 grams very soft unsalted butter
  • seeds from 1 vanilla pod
  • caster sugar
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1⅓ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup cornstarch
  • 14 tablespoons very soft unsalted butter
  • seeds from 1 vanilla bean
  • superfine sugar

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C/140°C Fan/gas mark 3/325ºF.
  2. Put the icing sugar, plain flour and cornflour into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the double-bladed knife and give them a quick blitz (just to save you sieving, which is my most-hated job in the kitchen) before adding the butter along with the vanilla seeds you've scraped out of a vanilla pod. (I find the easiest way to do this is by cutting the vanilla pod in half across, and then splitting each short half lengthwise and prising out the seeds with the point and edge of a sharp knife. Don't even think of throwing the deseeded bits of vanilla pod away: stash them in a jar of caster to use next time a recipe requires vanilla sugar.)
  3. Process again until the soft mixture coheres and begins to form a ball, loosely clumping around the blade. Turn this out on to a Swiss roll tin 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. Be patient: I promise you it will fit smoothly.
  4. Using the tip of a sharp knife cut the pressed-out shortbread into fingers. I make two incisions lengthways — i.e., to form three layers — and then make ten cuts down — so that you end up with eleven fingers per layer. Obviously, the aim should be to cut at regular intervals but don't start getting your ruler out. Just go by eye: uniformity is the province of the conveyer belt not of home cooking. Use the tines of a fork to make little holes in each marked-out biscuit: I press down about three times, diagonally, on each finger.
  5. Now that you've pressed, incised, and punctured, slide the Swiss roll tin into the 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 not crisp but melting. 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.
  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C/140°C Fan/gas mark 3/325ºF.
  2. Put the confectioners' sugar, all-purpose flour and cornstarch into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the double-bladed knife and give them a quick blitz (just to save you sieving, which is my most-hated job in the kitchen) before adding the butter along with the vanilla seeds you've scraped out of a vanilla bean. (I find the easiest way to do this is by cutting the vanilla bean in half across, and then splitting each short half lengthwise and prising out the seeds with the point and edge of a sharp knife. Don't even think of throwing the deseeded bits of vanilla bean away: stash them in a jar of caster to use next time a recipe requires vanilla sugar.)
  3. Process again until the soft mixture coheres and begins to form a ball, loosely clumping around the blade. Turn this out on to a Swiss roll tin 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. Be patient: I promise you it will fit smoothly.
  4. Using the tip of a sharp knife cut the pressed-out shortbread into fingers. I make two incisions lengthways — i.e., to form three layers — and then make ten cuts down — so that you end up with eleven fingers per layer. Obviously, the aim should be to cut at regular intervals but don't start getting your ruler out. Just go by eye: uniformity is the province of the conveyer belt not of home cooking. Use the tines of a fork to make little holes in each marked-out biscuit: I press down about three times, diagonally, on each finger.
  5. Now that you've pressed, incised, and punctured, slide the Swiss roll tin into the 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 not crisp but melting. 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.

Additional Information

MAKE AHEAD / STORE:
Shortbread will keep in an airtight container for up to a week. Can also be frozen for up to 3 months in airtight containers. If stacking the shortbread in containers you can put pieces of baking parchment (parchment paper) between the layers if you want to remove pieces of shortbread individually. Thaw individual pieces on a wire rack at room temperature for about an hour.

MAKE AHEAD / STORE:
Shortbread will keep in an airtight container for up to a week. Can also be frozen for up to 3 months in airtight containers. If stacking the shortbread in containers you can put pieces of baking parchment (parchment paper) between the layers if you want to remove pieces of shortbread individually. Thaw individual pieces on a wire rack at room temperature for about an hour.

Tell us what you think

What 16 Others have said

  • I've made this shortbread biscuits at least four times a week it's the most fantastic buttery shortbread I've ever tasted I'm trying to keep some for Christmas gifts however it's proving to be difficult as I continue to eat them myself! Fantastic dipped in chocolate at both ends adding hazelnuts and Brazil nuts into the chocolate to ring the changes I'm certain that you'll love these as much as I do they're fantastic enjoy! Utterly delicious! many thanks for sharing Nigella another winner, that's for sure xxx

    Posted by Odelle on 5th November 2022
  • I have made so many recipes for shortbread, but this one is the easiest and the best. The vanilla really adds a special and subtle touch. These are a perfect partner for the lemon creams in “How to Eat”.

    Posted by joshv41680 on 21st July 2022
  • Tried these today, as they remind me so much of the shortbread I made when I was a wee girl.... They are delicious. Amazingly, I do not like vanilla in sweets/desserts/puddings, so I didn't put it in... I rolled them out in a log and then sliced them with a sharp knife and baked. They took 20 mins in 180 C oven... This recipe is a keeper!!

    Posted by irishcaz on 2nd January 2021
  • This is the best shortbread recipe. Guaranteed success every time.

    Posted by Jans57 on 13th March 2019
  • I enjoyed making these. Had to add a bit of extra butter since mixture was dry and baked for 15 minutes. Such an easy recipe and shortbread turned out good!

    Posted by Ritav on 10th March 2019
  • Tried this recipe. So nice, we do recommend.

    Posted by Samic on 29th August 2018
  • I made these for the first time last night and LOVED them. They really came out buttery and melt in the mouth. I dipped some in chocolate too just to add a bit of an edge. Brought them into work and everyone loved them, very simple recipe too and she is right it will stretch out to fit a swiss roll tin!

    Posted by LaraCL on 8th February 2018
  • This is a melt in the mouth shortbread, family eating some before being taken out of tin.

    Posted by Kelgore on 22nd December 2014
  • Gorgeous crumbly shortbread. Best recipe for shortbread I've ever made. Have just made a batch for Xmas and drizzled with milk and white chocolate and sprinkled edible snowflakes on and they look so festive.

    Posted by welshgirl100 on 13th December 2014
  • Epic ......

    Posted by willwam2000 on 8th April 2013
  • Oh my word! This recipe is absolutely delightful! Every rich-crumble-loving-yummylicious bite is a mouthful of heaven! Such an easy recipe - I've made it twice in one week. I will never buy shop bought shortbread ever again. Cheers Nigella

    Posted by AnitaGrant on 4th January 2013
  • I tried this today for the first time as I'm hoping to make a homemade christmas hamper of goodies for my nearest and dearest... gorgeous recipe, the shortbreads were light and really did melt in your mouth... thank you! x

    Posted by Seetal on 18th December 2012
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Bara Brith