Bake: Shortbread can be used in a vast amount of ways

Shortbread in its simplest form has just three ingredients — butter, sugar, and flour, says Michelle Darmody.

If you substitute the butter for another form of fat, the name of the biscuit changes and it is called shortcake rather than shortbread.

The original shortbread is one part butter, two parts sugar, and three parts flour. Modern recipes tend to be slight variations on the original. 

Here, I have included three varieties; one with a hint of vanilla, another with ginger that is then topped with berries, and the third is a rich, sticky orange caramel slice. 

This orange caramel recipe is quite rich, so smaller-size slices are usually wise.

Bake: Shortbread can be used in a vast amount of ways

Shortbread is not just for strawberries. It can be used in a vast amount of ways. 

The ginger shortbread is lovely dipped into dark chocolate and served as a biscuit. Using cold butter gives a better result, and your shortbread will be crisper. 

It is the same as when you are making scones or pastry, it is best to keep the butter very cold and avoid it turning into oil. You can do this by handling it as little as possible and resting the pastry in the fridge before baking it.

When using vanilla, I try and get the best quality one that I can find. It is an ingredient you use sparingly, so splashing out a little extra will not affect the cost of your baking too much. 

Some of the processed versions you pick up cheaply are synthetic and the flavour is not nice.

Ginger shortbread topped with frozen berries and white chocolate ganache

Bake: Shortbread can be used in a vast amount of ways

Ingredients

  • 125g of cold butter, cubed
  • 50g of golden caster sugar
  • 180g of plain flour, sieved
  • 1/2 tsp of ground ginger
  • 1 tsp of crystallised ginger, finely chopped
  • a handful of frozen mixedberries
  • 120 mls of cream
  • 120g of white chocolate, broken into small chips

Method

Line a baking tray with parchment and pre-heat your oven to 190° C.

Combine the butter and the sugar until smooth.

Add the flour and both gingers and slowly combine.

Lightly flour a work surface and rolling pin and roll the dough to 1cm in thickness. Cut out circles.

Place the cookies on your baking tray and place it into the fridge to chill for a half an hour.

Heat the cream until shivering on top and stir in your white chocolate pieces. You can add some ginger to the ganache if you wish. Set aside until it has set to the consistency of butter.

Remove the cookies from the fridge and bake until golden — about 15 minutes. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Remove the berries from the freezer about 10 minutes before serving. You want them iced through but not completely frozen.

Once the ginger shortbread is cool, spoon a dollop of the ganache onto each cookie and top with the frozen berries.

Vanilla shortbread hearts

Bake: Shortbread can be used in a vast amount of ways

Ingredients

  • 125g of cold butter, cubed
  • 50g of caster sugar
  • 1 drop of vanilla essence
  • 180g of plain flour, sieved

Method

Line a baking tray with parchment and pre-heat your oven to 190° C.

It is easiest to use a mixer for this recipe, but if you do not have one, you can combine the butter and sugar with a wooden spoon and a strong arm. If you are using the mixer combine the butter and the sugar until smooth.

Add the flour and vanilla and slowly combine. Lightly flour a work surface and rolling pin and roll the dough to one centimetre in thickness. Cut out your heart shapes.

You can cut any shape that you wish but I would stick to similar size shapes as you want them to take the same amount of time baking. If you have a small cookie beside a large one the smaller will burn while the larger is still baking.

Place the cookies on your baking tray and place it into the fridge to chill for a half an hour.

Bake until golden, about 15 minutes, then allow to cool on a wire rack.

Orange caramel bars

Bake: Shortbread can be used in a vast amount of ways

Ingredients

For the shortbread:

  • 175g of cold butter
  • 75g of caster sugar
  • 1 drop of vanilla essence
  • 225g of plain flour
  • zest of orange

For the caramel:

  • 200g of butter
  • 1 tin of condensed milk
  • 4 tbs of golden syrup
  • 1 pinch of sea salt
  • For the chocolate top:
  • 280g of chocolate, broken into small pieces
  • juice of 1/4 of an orange
  • zest of 1/2 an orange

Method

Line a 9-inch square cake tin and preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

Combine the butter and the sugar until smooth.

Add the flour and zest and slowly combine.

Press the dough into the base of the tin, pressing well down on all sides. 

Prick all over with a fork and bake for five minutes at 180 degrees, then reduce the oven to 150 degrees and bake for a further 30 minutes, until golden.

In the meantime add all of the caramel ingredients into a saucepan and heat for 10 minutes.

Allow the shortbread to cool for 20 minutes in the tin then pour the caramel on top.

Allow to cool in the fridge until it has begun to harden.

Melt the chocolate with the orange and zest over a saucepan of boiling water. Do not stir while it is melting. 

Pour it over the caramel, chill it in the fridge again and then cut it to whatever size bars you would like.


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