Shortbread

A plate of buttery shortbread

When I was 8 we moved half way round the world from Belgium to Hong Kong. I have memories of that time but they are very much the memories of a child. I remember the colours of the curtains in the plane for example. I remember how cool I thought it was that all the kids in my new, British school got crisps in their lunchbox. And how uncool I thought it was that my mum refused to take on that habit. I have fond memories of a very unorganised stationary shop in Shatin Plaza shopping centre where I would carefully pick out the nicest smelling letter paper (this was the era of smelly letter paper and stickers, even erasers!).

I personally hold British Airways and Cathay Pacific responsible for introducing me to small blocks of orange coloured cheddar cheese and Walker’s shortbread fingers in their distinctive red wrapper. I have loved them ever since that very first flight half way around the globe. Sometimes I prefer the convenient, factory made versions. Other times, I prefer to go to the cheesemongers at our local farmer’s market for a good piece of cheddar. In the same way, I sometimes prefer to make our own shortbread.

Shortbread triangles

Shortbread is quick and easy to make. For the basic version you only need 3 ingredients: sugar, flour and butter. That’s it! And mixing it couldn’t be easier. A bowl and a set of hands will get you the perfect shortbread dough in minutes. No overworking the dough though. It needs to be crumbly. The crumblier the better the finished result will be. It will look gorgeously rustic and smell buttery and sweet. I think that after speculoos, this is my favourite childhood cookie.

What’s your favourite childhood cookie? Can you tell me how to make them?

Shortbread

(recipe from “Jamie’s Great Britain”, Jamie Oliver)

Makes 8 big cookies or 16 smaller cookies

Ingredients:

200g flour

50g sugar

125g butter (unsalted), cubed

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C and line a baking tray with baking paper.

2. In a bowl, mix the flour and sugar. Add the butter cubes.

3. Using your fingers, rub the butter, flour and sugar together. When you start to get crumbs, use your hands to press it all together into a ball and transfer onto the lined baking tray.

4. Using your hands, press the shortbread dough down into a circle, square or rectangle about 1 cm thick. It it rips or crumbles, just press it all together again. The shape doesn’t have to be perfect.

5. Use a knife to score lines where you plan to cut the shortbread after it has been baked. Then sprinkle it with about 1 tablespoon on sugar.

6. Bake for 25-30 minutes until it starts to lose its pale colour.

7. Take the shortbread out of the oven and let it sit to cool for 5 minutes. Then take a sharp knife and cut along the scored lines. Let cool a further 10-15 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

ENJOY!!

buttery and crumbly shortbread

Vegan chocolate shortbread with salted caramel and nuts

 

vegan chocolate shortbread with salted caramel close-up

About 20 years ago my two younger brothers decided to become vegetarians. They were teenagers. And my mother took them seriously. She never said it was a phase, something that would pass, a teenage rebellion thing. No, she attended vegetarian cooking courses so that she could be sure that her boys were getting all the vitamins, minerals etc. they needed to grown strong and healthy. Ready-made veggie burgers rarely entered our house. My mother took it all in her stride and educated herself on what vegetarianism was all about. She also proved that it wasn’t that hard to cook vegetarian meals on a daily basis. The hard thing is to change your mindset. If before, you were a meat-potato-veg person, stepping away from that can sometimes require a bit of creativity and effort.

white fresia on grey background

My brothers made the step to a meat free life in the 90’s and they tell me things have really moved on since then. More and more people are aware and more and more shops and restaurants recognise the growing number of people choosing this way of life. Living in Berlin I have really been exposed to the possibilities of eating vegetarian. More recently, I have found myself curious at the concept of a vegan lifestyle. I don’t plan to become 100% vegetarian or vegan, but I realised that our little family does eat this way more often than not for different reasons.

vegan chocolate shortbread with salted caramel side shot with palm leaf

This shortbread with salted caramel is my first attempt at creating a vegan baking recipe. I had to do quite a bit of research which I really enjoyed. Anything for a challenge! The recipe is by no means perfect but I think it is a good first attempt. Let me know what you think about it.

vegan chocolate shortbread with salted caramel side shot

Vegan chocolate shortbread with salted caramel and nuts

Ingredients for the shortbread:

100g room temperature coconut oil

50g sugar

150g flour

3 tbsp raw cacao

5 tbsp almond milk

Ingredients for the salted caramel with nuts:

220g sugar

60ml water

120ml coconut cream

1/2 tsp fleur de sel

50g unsalted peanuts, chopped

Method:

1. Line a 20×26 tin with baking paper. You could also use a round tin with 21cm diameter.

2. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

3. Using a hand mixer, cream the coconut oil and sugar for a couple of minutes.

4. Add the flour, cacao and almond milk and mix with a wooden spoon. You can also use your hands.

5. Press the dough into the tin and bake for 20 minutes.

6. Allow to cool in the tin.

Make the caramel:

1. In a clean saucepan, add water then sugar. Put the pan on medium heat and leave it. Don’t be temped to stir or swirl the mixture.

2. Let the mixture boil until it goes a dark golden colour. I let my caramel heat up to 195 degrees C on a digital kitchen thermometer. Be careful not to burn the caramel.

CARAMEL GETS EXTREMELY HOT, DONT TOUCH IT!

3. Take the caramel off the heat and carefully add the coconut cream. The mixture will splatter so be careful not to get burned. Mix the coconut cream into the caramel with a wooden spoon.

4. Carefully pour the caramel onto the shortbread.

5. Sprinkle the chopped peanuts and the fleur de sel onto te caramel.

6. Let the caramel cool and set. You can put it in the fridge if you want to speed up the process.

7. Cut into pieces and store in a cool place so the caramel doesn’t melt. I find it keeps well, covered in the fridge.

ENJOY!

vegan shortbread with salted caramel side view

palm leaf