I know it’s January and everyone’s avoiding rich food and dieting and blablabla but I am somehow still in the holiday-season-baking-non-stop-zone. And everyone knows if you make food from scratch then it’s real butter not preservatives and that’s practically healthy right?
This recipe was inspired by some cranberry shortbread biscuits I ate while having a meeting at The Grand Hotel in Brighton not long ago. As a charity worker I don’t often have meetings at fancy hotels but these biscuits made me wish it happened more often…
Luckily, there’s nothing too ‘grand’ about these biscuits. In fact, they’re reason number 527 that baking is not as hard as it looks!
When I first started baking I ruined most things I tried to make. When people compliment my cooking now, I can’t help but remember my many failed attempts at making pumpkin bread. Time after time I’d be dreaming of soft, crumbly bread with lovely autumn spices. But every time it was the same, it just wouldn’t cook through and then it would burn on the outside and eventually collapse into it’s soggy centre.
But then I realised that baking isn’t like cooking. You can’t just throw stuff together and see what happens. Once I got a decent set of scales and started following recipes properly things got better. Funny that. Not longer afterwards and I realise making homemade shortbread is pretty simple actually. Who knew!
I am a geek at heart so I did my research on shortbread recipes. Classic shortbread is made in a simple ratio with only three ingredients: 3 parts flour, 2 parts butter and 1 part sugar. It seems the main difference between recipes is in what you substitute for some of the flour to give a melt-in-the-mouth taste or that more sandy texture of traditional shortbread. Options include cornflour, cornmeal, semolina, rice flour and ground rice! I’ve picked the middle ground in my recipe below and I was very happy with the results – melty, crumbly, buttery good(bad)ness, mmm…
Cranberry shortbread biscuits
Adapted from The Guardian’s ‘perfect shortbread biscuits’
- 170g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 85g caster sugar (golden gives better flavour if you’ve got some)
- 175g flour
- 40g fine cornmeal (‘corn flour’ in the USA)
- 40g cornflour (‘cornstarch’ in the USA – confusing!)
- Pinch of salt
- 1/3 cup finely chopped, dried cranberries
- Caster sugar to sprinkle on top at the end
- Cream the butter and sugar together. (Here’s some more info on creaming properly if you need it)
- Sift together dry ingredients and mix into butter and sugar, then mix in cranberries.
- Form into a dough. This may take a bit of work but it will come together. If the dough gets too warm and the fat is melting, put into the fridge briefly to cool down.
- Roll out the dough to desired thickness on a floured surface. I then chilled my dough in plastic wrap for half-an-hour to make it easier to work with. While the dough’s chilling you can pre-heat the oven to 300F / 150C.
- Take the dough out of fridge and start cutting out the biscuits. I used circular cutters but it would be even easier to make the dough into a rectangle shape and cut out triangles so you don’t have to keep re-forming the dough.
- Place biscuits on a baking sheet and bake for 20-45 minutes, depending on the thickness of the biscuits. Mine took about 45 minutes and were done when just starting to turn a bit golden on the outside.
- Remove from the tray and cool on a rack for a few minutes, then sprinkle with sugar. Make sure to try a biscuit or two while they’re still warm, super melt-y fabulousness!
More healthy recipes that actually use seasonal food are coming soon – the first veg box of the new year has just been delivered…
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