Friday, January 27, 2017

Grapefruit-Vanilla Shortbread - A Teatime Treat

Just a quick post about one of those perennial favorites, shortbread. Or more specifically, the rather pretty looking disc of Grapefruit-Vanilla Shortbread with a decorated glaze and then cut into elegant triangles. One look at this pretty dessert the other day and I knew that it was calling my name.

Shortbreads are very easy to make. Basically, you just need three ingredients (sugar, butter and flour), then roll out the dough, trim it and shape it, so it is perfect if you want to make a quick dessert or teatime treat. Personally, I like to add a bit of fine sea salt to the dough – that salt adds a little extra something, and takes shortbread from being a bit bland into being rich and buttery. If you have enough time, you should make sure that once you shaped the dough, it should be chilled for about half an hour to an hour, then put into a fairly low oven and left to turn a golden color.

Shortbread should be crumbly, dense and rich. The rather generous amount of butter gives it its melt-in-the-mouth texture. Shortbread relies on really good-quality unsalted butter for its flavor, so don't skimp on this. It's also important to keep a light hand. Overworking the dough will develop the gluten in the flour and make the shortbread tough.

For this recipe, I chose to mix plain wheat flour and rice flour for a very softer texture, but you can use all purpose flour for a slightly crunchier result.

Shortbread can be eaten on its own or crumbled and used as a base for tarts or cheesecakes. You can make strawberry shortcakes by serving a sandwich of shortbread filled with whipped cream and fresh strawberries.

This recipe includes grapefruit zest in the dough. Unlike lemons, the pungent taste of grapefruit often becomes lost when baked. That’s why you need lots of zest. And then the icing is a nice complement to the zingy dough. These cookies pair perfectly with coffee and tea!

Grapefruit-Vanilla Shortbread
(recipe inspired by Anna Posey)

Ingredients for the Dough
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into pieces, plus more for the pan
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated grapefruit zest (organic or untreated if possible)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla sugar (or use 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract)
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cup AP (plain) flour
  • 1/4 cup rice four OR use 1 cup AP (plain) flour in total
  • a pinch of fine sea salt

Ingredients for the Icing and Toppings
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • dried hibiscus flowers, rose petals and cornflowers (optional - please NOTE: use only organic, untreated and edible flowers)

In Addition
  • a 9-inch (23 cm) tart/quiche pan with removable bottom or use a springform pan

  1. Lightly butter your baking pan. Line bottom with a round of baking parchment, then butter again.
  2. Pulse grapefruit zest, vanilla sugar (extract), 1/2 cup butter, and 1/3 cup powdered sugar in a food processor until smooth and homogenous. 
  3. Add flour(s) salt; pulse just to combine. 
  4. Press dough evenly into prepared pan, smoothing top with a flat-bottomed glass or measuring cup. Chill until firm, about 1 hour.
  5. Preheat your oven to 180° C (350°F).
  6. Prick shortbread all over with a fork and bake until edges are golden and center is pale but firm to the touch, 15 to 18 minutes.
  7. Remove band from pan and immediately cut shortbread into 16 wedges. Let cool.
  8. Whisk grapefruit juice and remaining 1 cup powdered sugar in a small bowl until smooth.
  9. Spread a thin layer of icing over shortbread with a small offset spatula, leaving a thin border of crust exposed. 
  10. Top as desired (optional).
  11. Let sit about 15 minutes to allow icing to set. 
  12. Retrace cut marks.
NOTE: Dough can be pressed into pan 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Then bake the following day.

This zesty teatime shortbread has a beautiful crumbly texture, plus zingy grapefruit and warm vanilla flavor. Tart grapefruit gives refreshing flavor to these but if grapefruit is not your thing, you could try using another citrus fruit like blood oranges (the market stalls are brimming with blood oranges around here right now), oranges, lemons or clementines. Very simple, but wonderful and so welcome after a heavy meal!

Shortbread cookies fill the kitchen with a wonderful buttery freshly-baked smell. So simple and easy to flavor with your own choice of vanilla, lemon zest or even lavender. And believe when I tell you, that kids will love making them too.

And last but not least, in this recipe, "a few textured and vibrant toppings gussy up a tender, buttery, and ultrasimple shortbread".


  1. These are so pretty! And who doesn't love shortbread!

  2. This is the most beautiful shortbread I have ever seen - the glaze makes it especially elegant, as you say, and the flowers add such beautiful color. Love it!

    1. Dear David, that is very kind of you - I must admit to taking a real liking to this one as well. It did look quite pretty when served and the graprfuit zest made it nice and light despite being buttery shortbread!
      Liebe Grüße an dich und Mark!
      Andrea & Co.

  3. OOOOOOO, Andrea,
    Those are so lovely, lush, and amazing looking.
    Can I come over for tea?
    Can you help me make those?!
    --Seriously, they are "poetry on a plate!" xx

    1. Dearest Kim, you are such a kind person. It would be my pleasure to assist you making this rather no-fuss recipe. It is easy to put together yet so elegant and delicious when it is done - truly my kind of recipe!
      Thank you for all your kind comments - "see" you soon-ish,

  4. How are you doing Andrea?? many times I dont hear from you!
    Send you hugs and love. Like always these pictures look stunning!! xoxoxo

    1. Dear Gloria, I am happy to report that I am back on track - as I am writing this comment, I am also putting together my post for The Cottage Cooking Club with a few lovely dishes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall´s lovely cookbook called "River Cottage Every Day!" - it took me a long while to get back on track but somtimes it is better to take some time of fro fresh inspirations and to get a new look on things...
      Many hugs and thanks for your friendship,

  5. Your shortbreads look so pretty dressed up with the dried flower blossoms. The area of Florida that I live in is known for their red grapefruit which is being harvested now. This is a perfect way of using one.

    1. Dear Karen, so nice to hear from you - sorry for my lengthy absence. It takes some time to get used to the fact that you are living in Florida now, there must be the most incredible citrus available all around you!
      Thank you for stopping by,