Biscuit, Sweet

3, 2, 1 – Simple Shortbread Cookies

This recipe has to be one of my go to recipes when I don’t have any eggs or much else in the house to bake with.

It is so simple because it only uses 3 ingredients, which I always have in the house no matter what – plain flour, margarine or butter and sugar.

They combine to make a lovely crisp shortbread which you can add anything else you want to taste or decorate however simply or creatively you are feeling.

It is a brilliant recipe for kids to do because it makes a dough similar feel to play-doh, and if you wanted to be creative (or a bit mad) you can add a little bit of food colouring to make some interesting looking shortbread. I think that any recipe that gets children enjoying baking has got to be a good thing.

The best part is that this recipe is just the base and it really cant go too wrong. The worst thing that can happen is that you overwork the dough (which might happen with children) and it will end up a little chewier, rather than crunchy, which isn’t the end of the world as it will still taste fab.

You can get a million and one different type of cutters as well nowadays so the only limitation is your imagination. I have Christmas cutters, animals, squares, circles, letters numbers, stars… !

Have fun and experiment, I guarantee you will make this loads of times.

3, 2, 1 Shortbread

The reason I have called this recipe 3, 2, 1 is because of the proportions you use.
It goes – 3 oz flour, 2 oz margarine or butter and 1 oz of sugar.

This will make a small batch which will do you a few cookies and to make more just double the recipe as long as you stick to the proportions.

Butter will give you a lovely rich flavour but if you don’t have it then it still works perfectly with margarine – just add a tiny drop of vanilla essence.

6oz plain flour
4oz margarine or butter
2oz sugar
(I also added a handful of chocolate chips to mine and also half a teaspoon of nutmeg and cinnamon)

Pre-heat the oven to gas 4 or 180c

Put the flour in a bowl along with the sugar and with a wooden spoon mix in the butter or margarine. For butter you might need to rub it in a little more with your fingers but with marg you can just stir it in with a wooden spoon.

[If you want to add food colouring or a flavour, add them now – I added the cinnamon and nutmeg]
When it is starting to look mixed together, put your hands into the bowl and press everything till it starts to combine into a dough. This will happen quite quickly.
If you are using a food processor then just put it all in together (I use the K beater on mine) and let the machine combine it to a dough – just be careful not to mix it too long.

When everything just about sticks together wrap the dough in clingfilm and put it in the fridge for about 20 minutes.

Lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin and roll out the dough till it is about the thickness of a £1 coin (or a 1€, or about a centimetre).
The thickness will also depend on what shape you are going to cut out. More intricate ones will need a slightly thicker dough, this isn’t a problem as you will just cook it for longer.

Cut out as many shapes as you can get out of your dough then re-roll and do the same again. Ideally you don’t want to roll it out more than 3 times but if they are for yourself then I always use up all of it – I hate waste!

Line up your cookies onto a baking sheet a couple of inches apart. They will grow a little during baking but not too much.
[If using, now is the time to add any toppings onto the cookies. I pressed chocolate chips into the top of mine]

Bake in the oven for about 15-25 minutes.

When ready they should look a little puffed up and browned lightly all over.
They will firm up a little when cooling but if the underside looks a bit doughy still then put them back in for 3-5 minutes.

When they have cooled decorate them however you like!

Other ideas what to do with this recipe:

Lemon shortbread – add the zest of the lemon and when cooled make a royal icing using some of the lemon juice to drizzle over

Pink or blue shortbread – add a little food colouring to the mix. Try and use a gel colouring as the liquids will make it sticky. They will loose a bit of their colour when cooked but are quite inspiring for children.

Decorated stars – make a plain shortbread mix and when cooled cut out colours of icing using the same shaped cutter and stick to the top with apricot jam

Chocolate Shortbread – remove a tablespoon of the flour and replace with a good tablespoon of cocoa powder.

Christmas spice – add half a teaspoon of nutmeg and half a teaspoon of cinnamon and a few well chopped up pieces of glace cherries.

Quiche/Flan, Savoury

My mom’s shortcrust pastry recipe

My mom is a wonderful cook and probably the best person in the world at making pastry. She always has such a knack at being able to make it crumbly and taste perfect, something which I am still working on at the moment.

My two favourite recipes she cooks use sweet pastry; they are toffee apple pie or egg custard, and they always look like pretty impressive deserts when they come out of the oven.

When I was little, me and my sister used to make jam tarts with the left over pastry. They must have been pretty tough due to the amount we played with it and rolled it out before it went in the oven, but it was a good, fun learning experience – and I still make jam tarts with left over pastry now.

When first decided I wanted to make my own shortcrust pastry I looked in the recipe books but couldn’t choose which recipe was best one to go for, so I cast them aside and decided to ask my mom.

The recipe she gave me for a shortcrust pastry is very simple and easy to do; you just need to follow the proportions – half the amount of flour in fat and the same number of tablespoons of water as the oz of flour. I’m sure there are lots of other recipes out there and someone in your family will have their own… but this is my mom’s.

My mom’s shortcrust pastry recipe

To make a pie with a top on you need:

16oz plain flour
4oz butter
4oz lard
Up to 16 tablespoons of cold water
Pinch of salt

For a flan base use:

12oz plain flour
3oz butter
3oz lard
Up to 12 tablespoons of cold water
Pinch of salt

Put the flour and salt into a bowl and cube the butter and lard into it. Try to have the butter and lard out of the fridge for half an hour before using as it can be a bit too hard.

Using your fingertips rub the butter and lard into the flour until it has been combined and looks like breadcrumbs.

Put most of the cold water into the breadcrumb looking mix and squash gently till just combined. If you need to keep adding the rest of the water till it all sticks together but don’t add too much you want it to just combine and not be sticky, it is better when it is only just holding together.

Wrap the pastry in cling film and put into the fridge for at least half an hour.

It is now ready to roll out and use – or freeze if you need to.