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Otter-bout Shortbread

There are endless ways to prepare a shortbread, plenty of recipe versions & interpretations. I like my shortbread with just the lightest of snap, not overly crumbly or crisp.


Why are they called Shortbread? It's because of the (shorter) gluten strands inside the pastry. Traditionally the flour is rubbed together with fats (i.e. butter) so that the moisture from the butter, eggs and sugar would prevent too much gluten from forming, hence giving it the signature crumbly and ephemeral snap texture.


They are one of my favourite pastries to make, because it's so simple and versatile; suitable for any occasion, birthday, Christmas. It's a celebration of anyone and for any purpose.


My method is pretty straight forward (you will need a food processor/Thermomix to achieve it quicker, or you can just do it with a pastry cutter)


Classic Shortbread (makes approx. 15-20 servings)


255g plain flour**

105g icing sugar**

3g salt (I use fleur de sel)

35g roasted almond meal*

155g butter (cubed, freezer cold)

50g whole egg (beaten, sieved)

lemon zest/vanilla bean (optional)

*This ingredient is weighed after they have been prepared/processed.

I roasted my almond meal in a frying pan over low heat. This is to rid the almond meal of its moisture & to intensify its flavour as nut oils are being released when it is roasted.


**To make a variety of flavours, for Matcha/Hojicha, I usually substitute 5% of the flour, because I think it's the best balance between a nutty-richness of the classic shortbread & the subtle umami-ness from tea infusions. You can add chopped nuts to the mixture, but I prefer to mix the dough and roll out, before pressing on any additions into the dough (to ensure proper mixing of the shortbread dough). However when adding more tea powder, I usually compensate with extra sugar, about 5g more, for this proportion, to balance out the bittersweetness & moisture of the pastry.


Equipments

Thermomix/Food Processor

or

Pastry Cutter/Fork

Cling wrap

Baking paper (2 sheets)


Direction (Preferred)

Sieve all the dry ingredients together in your food processor.

Cut the cold butter into cubes (I like 1cm cubes), then pulse it together with the sifted ingredients for 5 to 10 seconds. Your mixture will resemble fine sand. If you see small grits of butter, give it a few more pulses just to incorporate it well.


Drizzle the beaten & sieved whole egg into the dry mixture (2-3 additions) while pulsing the mixture in the food processor. It should look a tad damp & lumpy. Do not overwork the dough in the machine in case it turns too soft.


Direction (Alternative, Manual)

If you don't have a food processor, you can achieve it with a pastry cutter/fork.

Sieve all the dry ingredients together in a bowl, toss and cut the cold butter into the flour mixture until it resembles fine bread crumbs.


Drizzle the beaten & sieved whole egg, mix with a spatula until the dough comes together.


Remove the batter (lumpy is fine), onto a sheet of cling wrap. Work around the dough lightly to even out the mixing by manoeuvring the cling wrap, if you are concerned that the warmth of your hands melt the dough. Once it looks like an even coloured dough, with no evident streaks of eggs, your dough is ready to be rested.


Flatten it into a squarish disc & refrigerate for 3 hours before rolling out.


After resting the dough, the gluten would have relaxed. Roll your dough out to 2-3mm thickness between 2 parchment paper. If you have flattened the dough, it's much easier to roll out to that thickness.

When rolling the dough out, it's important to 'Cross-Pin', meaning to rotate your dough by 90 degrees clockwise/anti-clockwise from the direction you are rolling, so that you stretch the dough in an alternative direction.



This is really important so that your shortbread doesn't shrink (especially when you are making special character cut-out cookies), and the texture remains crumbly & not tough.


Refrigerate at least 1 hour before cutting the shortbread for baking.


To Bake

Preheat oven to 140°C (convection oven, fan forced)


Once you have portion out the shortbread, lay them on a baking tray lined with parchment paper, return the tray to the refrigerator (or freezer) while you preheat the oven.


You can shape the shortbread into any form/size with cookie cutters or simple squares/rounds.


Bake the shortbread for approx. 10 minutes, you can rotate the tray halfway between baking. Once the timer has expired, switch off the oven and leave the cookies in the oven for 1.5 minutes (do not open the oven door). This will dry out any excess moisture off the shortbread, while maintaining the beautiful color of the pastry.


Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack. Transfer into an airtight container and enjoy over a cup of Joe or afternoon tea.


If baked properly, they will last up to a month at room temperature in an air-tight container.


Any shortbread discards can be stored in the fridge for up to a week, I usually lump the leftovers together and roll out a maximum of 3 more times before discarding them because of the raw egg in the dough.



 

Shortbreads are really simple to prepare, there are endless possibilities to the flavour combination. My personal favourite is hazelnut & hojicha shortbread with a light sprinkle of granulated sugar & fleur de sel.


The learning curve isn't too steep, but some potential areas which would affect your finished product are: - Temperature of butter (this affects the texture of the shortbread, if it melts, your shortbread becomes tough & greasy when baked)


- Substituting too much flour with ground tea or reducing sugar. Most of the time, when we check out a recipe online, we think we can reduce the sweetness further so it's a healthier snack. I'd recommend you to follow this to the T, and I assure you it's not too sweet. There's a baker's ratio to respect, if you reduce something, you must compensate with something else. Rather than change the recipe drastically, it's better to portion control, than to risk ruining your bakes entirely. Avoid over substitution to increase the intensity or umami-ness in the product. It dries out the shortbread too much if the recipe is imbalanced; ground tea is a lot higher in volume (than in just weight), so if you added too much of it, the shortbread becomes a really dry, tough piece of bad pastry.


And as always, don't skimp on the ingredients! I use Elle et vire & Lescure butter (unsalted), if you are making these for your loved ones, go the extra mile, they are worth it.


I would love to hear from you if you have tried the recipe, tag me on Instagram (@flourcrafts) and show me your creations! Bon appétit!


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