Although extremely simple to prepare, it may take a bit of practice to produce shortbread of just the right texture.
Make sure to use fresh butter of top quality, preferably slightly salted, that hasn't picked up any odours and flavours from other foods in the fridge.
Margarines or the like are of course not fit to be used in order to produce truly flavourful shortbread.
about 75 g fine wheat flour or about 70 g coarse wheat flour
about 55 g fine wheat flour (or about 50 g coarse wheat flour) and 20 g potato flour or cornstarch
25 g sugar
50 g butter
(1 tsp vanilla sugar)
(drop of water or milk)
Besides vanilla, you can use cinnamon, ginger, grated orange or lemon zest, etc, to flavour the shortbread dough.
Cut the butter in small cubes and bring to room temperature.
Pour the flour in a bowl, tip in the soft butter and the sugar. Add the flavouring ingredient, if using any. Using your fingertips, pinch and rub together the ingredients, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
With your palms, start bringing the ingredients together, pressing them into a crumbly ball, see the pictures below. If the mixture feels too dry, add a bit of cold water or milk (or more flour, if it feels sticky).
Do not knead the dough.
When pressed into a ball shape, the dough should just hold its shape without being too doughy and wet. It should be slightly crumbly, but not dry.
Press the dough flat and place it on a sheet of baking parchment. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the dough to prevent it from sticking to the rolling pin (or sprinkle just a tiny amount of flour over it)
and gently and lightly roll it out into about half-centimetre (5 mm) thick sheet.
Using a cookie cutter, cut out biscuits and lift them carefully with a spatula on a baking sheet covered with baking parchment.
Bake the shortbread at 170 °C for about 8 to 12 minutes, or until they are just about to turn golden around the edges. Do not let them brown, however. Let the shortbread cool and serve them with tea or coffee. Store them in an airtight tin.
Makes about 15 - 20 biscuits (Ø 5 cm).
Recipe source: adapted from "Classic Royal Highland Shortbread" by chef John Quigley, www.scotlandontv.tv, accessed 2008.