Based on The Very Best Shortbread from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible
One of my favorite baking shows of all time is the Great British Baking Show or as it’s known in Great Britain The Great British Bake-Off. When I first saw the show on PBS, all I could think was would I ever be a good enough baker to get on this show!
I loved the comedic banter of the original hosts, Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins, as well as the expert bakers Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry. When the show was added to Netflix, I immediately watched the episodes I missed, as well as watching the season I had just seen again! I was sad when Mel, Sue and Mary Berry left the show in 2016, and I immediately added Mary’s Baking Bible to my Christmas wish list. It took a while, but I finally got my Christmas wish.
When I was looking for something to bake this weekend, I decided to pull Mary Berry’s book off the shelf and see what I could make. I have always been a sucker for Scottish Shortbread, and I have attempted it previously, but it just didn’t taste the same. When I previously made shortbread, I always just used all purpose flour. Per Mary Berry, using semolina flour in addition to all purpose flour gives the crunch you expect from shortbread; however, she also indicates you can use corn flour or rice flour instead.
The recipe itself is very easy to make. I decided to measure out my ingredients on a scale this time using the metric measurements in the original recipe. You can get a good multi-unit scale at Amazon for a reasonable price. It doesn’t take much more time and from what I have read on other websites, digging into a bag of flour to measure out flour can actually add too much flour to a recipe and create a drier dough. One suggestion I read was to scoop out the flour into a bowl and then remeasure, so the flour isn’t packed into the measuring cups.
This recipe can actually be made in a food processor, simply add all the ingredients and mix until the dough comes together. I chose to use a pastry cutter instead and cut in the butter until the dough started to form. One step I had never seen for shortbread was to knead the dough. Mary Berry indicates that once the dough comes together, it should be kneaded until smooth. This step took me about 10 minutes, although if I had used the food processor, it would probably have taken a shorter amount of time.
The recipe does call for a 30 x 23 cm (12 x 9 inch) baking dish; however, my baking dish is 33 x 23 cm (13 x 9 inches) and that one inch did make a slightly thinner cookie. But don’t feel like you have to use either size dish. If your baking dishes are too small, you can always divide the dough and bake separately, or use two or more dishes. Just remember, this may alter your baking time. I believe I saw one baker using a tart pan for their shortbread. The advantage to this is that you can easily get the cookies out of the dish without breaking them, as they are very fragile.
Since there is so much butter in a shortbread cookie, you want to refrigerate the dough until it firms. I refrigerated it overnight, but an hour will do. Remember to prick the dough with a fork before you refrigerate it, as this will allow steam to escape while baking, and once the dough is firm, it will be very difficult to do this. Mary’s original recipe indicated that the dough should be baked at 160 C/Fan 140 C/Gas. This converts to 320 F/Fan or 284 F/Gas. I do have a gas stove, but 284F seemed a bit low for baking a cookie, so I used 320 F and baked for 35 minutes.
After 35 minutes, I took out the shortbread and let them rest for 10 minutes and then cut 25 squares. If you want smaller cookies, this can yield anywhere from 30 to 50 cookies. I took out a corner cookie and it still seemed very soft. I remember seeing a few shows that indicated shortbread needed to be baked twice to achieve the crunch we all expect from this buttery treat. I checked out a few recipes online and they all indicated that after being cut, the cookies should be removed from the baking dish and placed apart on a baking sheet and baked for an additional 15 minutes. I just ran my knife down my cuts again, making sure that the cookies were cut through, placed the dish back into the oven and baked for an additional 15 minutes. I then cooled them and found that the cookies came out with ease from the baking dish. The longer you let them cool, the crunchier they become.
If you like, you can dust them with a little sugar while still warm, or with a little confectioner’s sugar once cooled.
Orange Shortbread Cookies
Credit: Mary Berry’s Baking Bible
- 225 g (8 oz) all purpose flour
- 100 g (4 oz) semolina flour
- 225 g (8 oz) butter
- 100 g (4 oz) caster sugar
- zest from one orange
- Add all purpose flour, semolina flour and orange zest to bowl.
- Add sugar and softened butter.
- Cut with pastry cutter until dough comes together.
- Knead lightly until dough becomes smooth.
- Spray 30 x 23 cm (12 x 9 inch) dish with cooking spray.
- Press dough into dish until level, using the back of a spatula.
- Prick dough with fork and chill until firm.
- Preheat oven to 320 degrees.
- Bake for 30 – 35 minutes until edges begin to turn golden brown.
- Leave oven on and let cookies cool for about 10 minutes.
- Cut warm cookies into 25 – 30 pieces with a sharp knife, all the way through.
- Put back in the oven and continue baking for 10-15 more minutes.
- Remove from oven and cool.
- Replace orange zest with any other citrus zest.
- Replace the orange zest with miniature chocolate chips.