Friday, December 11, 2015

11. Day of December - Festive Shortbread (Festliches Shortbread)

Classic shortbread contains just three ingredients, flour, butter and sugar and it all depends on the quality of these three ingredients and careful blending.

Shortbread is a cookie to really sink your teeth into. Crumbly, dense and rich, it's made with a generous amount of butter, which gives it its melt-in-the-mouth texture. Traditionally it is pale golden-brown in color and is baked in a round, flat shape, pricked with a fork and sprinkled with sugar. My Festive Shortbread is gently spiced with Ceylon cinnamon, freshly ground ginger and a bit of ground cloves.

Once baked my version of the classic shortbread will not only smell amazing from all that good butter used but will also have a wonderful warm color from the spices I have added.

Festive Shortbread (Festliches Shortbread)

  • 150 grams unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, softened
  • 75 grams superfine baking sugar (caster sugar)
  • 150 g AP (plain) flour
  • 75 g rice flour* NOTE: most recipes call for a mix of plain wheat flour and rice flour or cornflour, for a very soft texture, but you can also use semolina for a slightly crunchier result. 
  • ¾ tsp Ceylon cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • a pinch of fine sea salt 
  • Demerara sugar, to finish (optional, you can also use superfine sugar here)

  1. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy using a hand-held whisk or wooden spoon.
  2. Sift the flour, rice flour and spices into the bowl, add the salt and mix together until well combined. The mixture will look crumbly at this stage.
  3. Put the mixture out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead to form a soft dough. It might be difficult at first but keep going and it will come together.
  4. Prepare two large pieces of baking parchment. Roll out the dough between the parchment to a thickness of 1cm (½ inch) NOTE: the baking parchment will make it easier to roll. Peel away the top layer of baking parchment and cut the dough into Christmas shapes using cookie cutters. Re-roll any leftover dough to cut out more shapes. NOTE: only do this once to avoid over-working the dough. Alternatively: Line a 22 cm (9 inch) cake or tart pan with baking parchment, and pat, or lightly roll, the dough into a shape slightly smaller than the pan. Prick the surface of the shortbread round with a fork or a wooden skewer. Sprinkle with some Demerara sugar.
  5. When you have used all the dough, put the shortbreads onto prepared baking sheets, prick the surface of the cookies with a fork and sprinkle with some Demerara sugar.
  6. Bake the shortbread in the oven until very lightly colored - about 20 minutes for cookies, 30–35 minutes for a shortbread round.
  7. Leave to cool on the baking sheets or in the baking pan for a few minutes, then lift the shortbreads onto a wire rack.
  8. Leave to cool completely.
  9. Shortbread will keep for up to 4 weeks in an airtight cookie tin.

Remember that shortbread has so few ingredients that you can't get away with cutting corners. First and foremost the success of this recipe relies on really good-quality unsalted butter for its flavor. Good quality sugar is also essental. Rice flour gives it that special sandy texture that sets it apart from the common cookie, and a pinch of salt helps to balance that rich, delicious sweetness. Then add warm spices for a festive touch. And to gild the lily, sprinkle the shortbread with Demerara sugar - that will lend a wonderful sparkle and crunch.

Treat the dough gently, if you have the time and patience chill it (for about 15 minutes), sprinkle liberally with sugar and cook it gently and serve it with a cup of  my Winter Tea (recipe here). And for that delectable, friable texture, it's also important to keep a light hand. Overworking the mixture will develop the gluten in the flour and make the shortbread tough.

For my German readers: you can find a good-quality rice flour from "Müller´s Mühle" (link here) at most high-end supermarkets or go for organic rice flour at your favorite Natural Health Food Store.

If you are like me and really enjoy a good shortbread, you can take a look at my Vanilla Bean Petticoat Tails Shortbread (recipe here) - or my Lemon-Lavender Shortbread (recipe here) - or the Chestnut and Almond Shortbread (post here) that I baked from a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe using chestnut flour, wholemeal buckwheat flour, and almond flour.

Please make sure to drop by again the day after tomorrow when we will open our next special surprise in my Virtual Advent Calendar and pay a visit to the lovely country of Sweden for St. Lucia Day on December 13th!


  1. Your shortbread looks sensational, and I love shortbread with cinnamon, though have never tried ginger,and I would love to give it a try!

    1. Peggy, I am sure you would enjoy my Festive Shortbread - the spices, including the ground ginger, are added quite cautiously, just enough to add a festive touch but not over-powering!

  2. These are so pretty! I like the idea of using rice flour or semolina in the shortbread cookies. You've got such a pretty colour and I can imagine the flavour is wonderful.

    1. Teresa, most traditional Scottish shortbread recipes call for a combination of wheat flour and rice flour and I just picked up on that. Having tried many different varities (with and without rice flour), I now love the way shortbread turns out when you add some rice flour to it.

  3. The holidays must be so magical around your house for your little test tasters, how wonderful!

    1. Cheri, doing by best here but I guess we just have so many traditions around here that are inspiring to me and I would love to pass them on to the kids.

  4. Who doesn't like shortbread - beautiful.

    1. Personally, I do not know is one of life´s great pleasures.

  5. What beautiful shortbread Andrea!! Look stunning!!!

  6. Your spiced shortbread sounds amazing! Always a hit around the holidays :)

  7. Pure
    I so much LOVE how you topped this shortbread w/ sugar and cinnamon. it almost
    looks like brown sugar. xxx

  8. This is definitely one of the most beautiful and (I imagine) tasty shortbreads on earth! Danke zehr! Hoping your Advent season is going well... for me, this is the busiest and most difficult time of the year at work, so I look forward to next week when I can relax and breathe a little. Liebe Grüße to all, David