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.
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.