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Vanilla Shortbread

by . Featured in NIGELLA SUMMER
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Introduction

I know that biscuits sound like the sort of cooking someone else does, but you need never have baked anything ever in your life to 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.

I know that biscuits sound like the sort of cooking someone else does, but you need never have baked anything ever in your life to 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.

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/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 - ie 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/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 - ie 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.

Tell us what you think

What 9 Others have said

  • 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
  • Very yummy, rich and chic-looking shortbread. It doesn't quite feel right eating it, being used to the store-bought packets.

    Posted by manonlescaut on 2nd April 2012
  • Is great gluten free! Replaced plain flour with Doves Farm GF plain mix and a pinch of xanthan gum

    Posted by Gillc1001 on 5th February 2012
  • These were easy to make and came out so good that all were devoured before long.

    Posted by gstier on 30th January 2012
  • Lovely shortbread recipe to try with just one change--gluten free. After rousing success with your Venetian carrot cake I'll be keen for other yummies that are GF or can be made so. Thank you for the impetus! Linda

    Posted by lnearth on 8th November 2011
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