Sunday, January 5, 2014

Fruit and Nut Shortbread

Fruit and Nut shortbread? I couldn't believe it.

When I saw pictures of these pretty shortbread cookies on the online food log, Tastespotting last week, I knew I had to rush home and get right down to it. I love shortbread and the thought of yummy, colourful fruit and crunchy, delicious nuts in the melt-in-your-mouth treats just fired my engines right up.

I read through the recipe from Tasty Kitchen and decided to experiment a little with the basic shortbread recipe on the site. I'd read columnist for The Guardian, Felicity Cloake's post about "How To Make Perfect Shortbread" some time back and was inspired to try some of the different techniques she explores in her quest for the best shortbread.

I tried four different mixes:

The first was the straight forward blend of butter, sugar and plain flour along with the fruit and nut, chopped roughly. It was delicious. Nice and short. I could have stopped right there but I was curious. If there was the perfect shortbread, I wanted to know how to make it. 

The second was a blend of plain flour and corn flour, butter, sugar and the fruit and nuts. The corn flour altered the texture of the cookie. It was crunchy still but it also melted in the mouth as I bit into it. I liked that it did and was quite pleased.

But wait. There was another recipe with rice flour.

The third mix combined plain flour with rice flour, salt sugar and the fruit and nuts. This time, the shortbread was a little more crispy and a tad grainy. Nice but I much preferred the corn flour version. However, I did like the generous pinch of salt from this recipe.

So, for the final batch, I incorporated the second and third mix: plain flour +corn flour, salt, sugar, butter and the fruit and nut. Perfect. 

Aside from me being curious and trying four different recipe, shortbread is actually the easiest cookie to make from scratch. Because the dough should not be handled much (to keep the lightness and shortness of it), there is very little time spend handling the dough. In fact, most recipes advise you not to roll the dough but rather pat it into shape or into a sheet before you cut it. 

Or, you could just shape it into a log and cut circles. Really rustic and rather cool.

Fruit and Nut Shortbread
200g plain flour
70g corn flour
1 tsp salt
200g butter
85g sugar
1/4 cup dried cranberries, chopped roughly
1/4 cup candied lemon or orange peel, chopped roughly
1/4 cup  pumpkin seeds, chopped roughly
1/4 cup  walnuts, chopped roughly
1/4 cup  sunflower seeds, chopped roughly

Whisk the flours and salt together. Set aside.
Cream the butter and sugar together till light and fluffy. Gently fold in the flours and the nuts and fruits and bring the dough together with your hands. 
Divide the dough in two and shape into logs. Wrap tightly in cling film and refrigerate overnight or for a couple of hours, at least.
Pre-heat the oven to 150. Cut the logs into 0.5 cm slices and lay them on a lined baking tray. Bake for 15 mins or until the sides just start to brown. Remove and cool. 

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