The name comes from the fact that the amount of butter in the dough makes it very crumbly or "short". It is unleavened and is different from shortcake, which includes some raising agent and is a denser texture. Make it shorter by cutting the amount of gluten in the dough, sometimes some of the flour proportion is made up of rice flour (or ground rice) or cornflour. Rice flour gives a more crumbly and even slightly gritty texture, whereas cornflour makes it a little denser.
Usually, shortbread is available in three different shapes: petticoat tails, biscuit rounds and oblongs. It can be rolled very thinly to make an elegant accompaniment to a dessert or rolled thickly to make a thicker biscuit served with coffee or at teatime. The flavours that can be added include citrus zest, ground almonds, chopped nuts, dried fruit, stem ginger, spices such as ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and ground black pepper. It can also be flavoured with orange blossom water, rosewater or lavender. This recipe uses rice flour, which makes the best and shortest shortbread. Salted butter omits the need for any extra salt to be added to the recipe. Once made, the biscuits can be rolled in Demerara sugar or chopped nuts for a twist before baking.
Ingredients (can be scaled up)
Demerara sugar (80g), chopped pistachio nuts or chopped almonds
1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line baking trays with parchment.
2. Put the flour, rice flour and chopped up butter into a mixer. Mix in the butter and add the sugar. Work the dough to bring together to a paste.
3. Divide the dough into four and roll into four sausages approximately 4cm in diameter. Sprinkle the worktop thickly with Demerara sugar or chopped nuts and roll the shortbread sausages in it. Chill in the refrigerator for 10 minutes before cutting into biscuits, approximately 1cm thick.
4. Place on the baking tray and bake for 20 minutes. The biscuits should still be quite pale when they come out of the oven. Leave to cool for 510 minutes before lifting them on to the wire rack to cool completely.