Wednesday, 4 April 2012

River Cottage Shortbread flowers

Inspired by my stay at Rezare Farmhouse last month, I thought it was about time I gave shortbread a go. A tip from Nanette was to include rice flour in the dough to give it a more crisp texture.  Now I did make some for my Mum for Mothers Day, but we ate all those before I got the chance to get the camera out :)

So I make for you some more!  I found a recipe in the River Cottage Cakes Book that sounded just right.  Handily enough its also available online.

Reading up on the do's and don'ts of making shortbread, the main trick appears to be NOT to over-work the dough.  A lightness of touch is required to keep the dough nice and light and 'melt-in the mouth' when baked. 

Over working the dough toughens it up as it works the gluten too much.  The same can be said for pastry in quiches / pies etc.  You want a nice short crumbly pastry, not a tough one.  With shortbread its all done by hand-mixing, with pastry you can cheat (as I do!) and use a food processor.  This avoids over-working, though I find some pastry is lighter than others, even when using the same recipe.  Perhaps its due to the flour / egg size ratio and the need to add extra water to bind it.  That requires longer in the processor to mix together, so perhaps a slightly tougher pastry.  That's what I like about baking - its all practice, practice, practice.  The recipe says to bind the dough together to form a crack free ball.  Well not wishing to overwork it, mine had cracks, but they all come out in the rolling, so who needs worry about a few cracks!

This time around I made a mixture of shapes, including some splats to use up the remaining dough.  My collection of cookie cutters seems to be on the increase, including the  flower set I found in Divertimenti on a trip to London with Mum and the circular set purchased at my local cook shop Classy Cooks.

A slight variation on chocolate shortbread but they taste good!

I think I may have over-baked these ones as they should be just coloured.  Its amazing how quickly they go from totally pale to overdone.  The recipe calls for baking in a 170c static oven for about 20 minutes, which I duly did for 15 minutes.

Mental note: start checking after 10-12 minutes as the cooking time all depends on the thickness of your biscuit....... so to speak!

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