What do you bring to dinner when the hostess says, “Just bring yourselves!”
Of course I’d bring wine…lots, but at this festive time of year it just doesn’t seem enough. A big bunch of flowers can be nice but a pain in the ass if the busy hostess has to stop what she’s doing and find a vase. Then there’s the useless knickknacks that don’t quite match the stylish interior or the high-end body wash that you stole from the overpriced hotel in New York…she knew the brand, she’d stayed there too!
Shortbread is the answer! Tastes good, looks pretty and can be served at the end of the night when the hostess can’t be stuffed trying to find something to serve with coffee!
After trying lots of different recipes over the years this is the one that I prefer. It came originally from ‘The Australian Women’s Weekly’. I worship those gals in that test kitchen… goddesses whose recipes always work!
250 gms (1 lb) butter* (room temperature and soft)
1/3 cup caster sugar
1 tablespoon water
2 cups plain (all-purpose) flour
1/2 cup rice flour
2 tablespoons white sugar (extra)
*if your butter is too hard you can cut it into chunks and give it a few short blasts in the micro wave, being careful NOT to melt it!
Turn oven to 150 c (300 f)
Begin by beating together butter and sugar.
Until it is smooth and creamy.
Add water and continue to beat.
Place both flours into sieve and loosely mix with a spoon.
Beat until all ingredients are combined.
And lightly knead to form a smooth dough. Cut dough in half.
Draw two 2o cm (8 in.) circles onto baking paper. Then cut into 2 circles leaving a 2 cm (1 inch) margin against each template.
Place dough ball on paper circle and flatten dough with your hand, pushing pastry to edge of drawn circle.
Push pastry against inside of hand to form a perfect circle.
You should now have two perfect pastry discs!
To form fluted pattern, pinch two fingers against outer edge of pastry then push pastry down and towards pinched fingers.
Using a metal ruler, press a line across pastry at half way point. This should just be an indentation and not pushed all the way through.
Repeat the process to mark quarters.
Score the impressions with a sharp knife (this will aid cutting the shortbread after it’s cooked) and remember NOT to cut all the way through.
Place both discs onto a baking sheet and prick surface of dough with a fork…not sure why, it’s just part of the tradition!
Sprinkle white sugar evenly over both discs.
Place in oven a bake for at least 40 minutes, then keep checking at ten minute intervals till shortbread develops a pale golden colour. My oven took a total of 60 minutes to achieve this. Each oven is different so keep a close eye on your shortbread’s progress…no brown edges!
To serve cut into wedges and try stopping at one!
What traditional Christmas baking do you do in your house? Love to hear.
Seasons greetings, Anna x
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