To swiftly make a batch of shortbread biscuits, you will need:
- 250g of cake flour
- 50g of corn flour
- 125g of castor sugar
- 150g unsalted butter, plus a bit extra
- 2,5ml of baking powder
- A generous pinch of salt
- 1 vanilla pod or 5ml of vanilla essence
1. Begin by preheating the oven to 180°C.
2. Weigh the butter and cut into small cubes. This hastens the softening process. When softish, place it in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can use an electric hand-held mixer.
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3. Weigh the flour and the cornflower, taking care to stick to the recommended masses and volumes. Baking is a lot closer to science than to art, and requires some precision.
4. Select a sifter or a standard kitchen sieve and pour in the two types of flour, plus the baking powder and a pinch (¼ teaspoon) of salt. Squeeze the sifter or tap the sieve repeatedly, allowing a shower of the dry ingredients over the butter. This ensures the complete absence of lumps, which are death to perfect baking.
5. Now for the vanilla. If you have a vanilla pod, leave it in a sealed packet of castor sugar for 24 hours. Weigh the vanilla-infused castor sugar and add it to the mixing bowl. Alternatively, drizzle the vanilla essence over the castor sugar. Then run the machine at low revs, keeping a sharp eye on the process until the mixture achieves the texture of breadcrumbs.
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6. Line a rectangular baking tin with baking parchment and pour in the now granulated mixture. Press the dough flat by hand or with a spatula, ensuring an even thickness throughout. Cut shallow grooves to demarcate 16 equal sections. Prick the surface with a fork to lighten the texture.
7. Place the baking tin into the middle of the preheated oven and bake for a good 20 minutes. If it is not yet lightly browned after this, let it bake for a further five minutes,
remove it and allow to cool. You may want to sprinkle a little castor sugar over the surface at this stage.
8. When completely cool, separate along the grooves into single biscuits and serve with tea or coffee.
David Basckin is a freelance journalist and videographer.