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Shortbread with a difference

Preparation Time: 20 minutes Baking Time: 45 minutes Yield:Plenty!

The pursuit of physical perfection – well such as it is possible for those over 50 considering the inexorable effect of gravity – requires, other than regular physical exercise, a change in eating habits.

The first requirement is a healthy diet, and the second is a healthy eating plan. Neither comes easy, and personal experience reinforces the maxim that “too much, too soon, too fast” leads inevitably to disastrous backsliding. So, mixed metaphors aside, softly, softly catchy monkey helps to avoid the otherwise inevitable slip betwixt cup and lip.

Cutting out wheat products is one of the surprisingly easy things one can do, starting with bread, and moving on to things like pasta, and even biscuits and shortbread.

Having done two different rye bread recipes – one a soda bread and the other a traditional yeast bread – I was approached by one of the ladies at the gym (West Workout in Fountain Court, Somerset West) to come up with a rye biscuit recipe. My compromise was to craft a shortbread recipe instead, which is the subject of this week’s column.

The original recipe comes from “The Guild Collection”, a compendium of recipes published by the Grahamstown DSG (Diocesan School for Girls) Guild, dear wife Eppie’s alma mater. This was the seventh edition of the cookbook, and it includes recipes from as far back as 1920, the one with which I started having been supplied by Denise Howell (nee Lardner-Burke) in 1934.

Ingredient Selection and Preparation

250g butter: softened enough that you can mix in the dry ingredients. Use the microwave if you need to, but the butter must not be liquid.

250g pure rye flour: sifted.

100g cornflour: sifted.

125g sugar: castor sugar is best, but if you have none, you can easily make your own in a small blender jug. Pulse the sugar until the granules are fine enough.


Pre-heat your oven to 160 deg C.

Cream the butter and sugar, using either your very fancy mixer, or the very simple handheld electric beater that I use. The result is much the same.

You want the sugar granules to be almost completely incorporated into the butter. If you rub a spot between thumb and forefinger, you should feel only the slightest grittiness. It should take about 7 minutes or so of beating.

Add the sifted rye flour and the cornflour, and fold it in using a metal spoon. Work gently and carefully, so that you do not knock out all the air in the flour.

As soon as the dry and wet ingredients are combined (there should be no dry flour left in the bottom of the mixing bowl) stop mixing.

Transfer the mixture into a well buttered shallow baking tin – I used one 300 x 220 mm in size – and press down gently to give you a shortbread about 1cm thick.

The mixture is quite sticky, so you may need to moisten your finger tips with a bit of butter when pressing it into the baking tray.

Work quickly because you must keep the mixture as cool as possible. The less contact with your hands, the better.

Prick the surface of the shortbread gently with a fork to make a pattern, then place it in mid-oven and bake for about 45 minutes, or until golden and done through.

Keep an eye on it, and if it starts to brown too much, remove it from the oven, and poke a thin bladed knife to the bottom of the tray and withdraw it. If there is any trace of stickiness, then turn the oven down ten degrees, and return to the oven for a further five minutes or so.

Remove from the oven when done, and cut into fingers with a very sharp thin bladed knife.

Sprinkle with castor sugar while it is cooling. Enjoy with your favourite tea, coffee or at anytime as a snack.

  1. July 14, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    Great Read. I really appreciate a blog that has some actual substance for once. I will Be back soon.

  1. July 9, 2010 at 11:53 am

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