Just a quick post about one of those perennial favorites, shortbread. Or more specifically, the rather pretty looking disc of Grapefruit-Vanilla Shortbread with a decorated glaze and then cut into elegant triangles. One look at this pretty dessert the other day and I knew that it was calling my name.
Shortbreads are very easy to make. Basically, you just need three ingredients (sugar, butter and flour), then roll out the dough, trim it and shape it, so it is perfect if you want to make a quick dessert or teatime treat. Personally, I like to add a bit of fine sea salt to the dough – that salt adds a little extra something, and takes shortbread from being a bit bland into being rich and buttery. If you have enough time, you should make sure that once you shaped the dough, it should be chilled for about half an hour to an hour, then put into a fairly low oven and left to turn a golden color.
Shortbread should be crumbly, dense and rich. The rather generous amount of butter gives it its melt-in-the-mouth texture. Shortbread relies on really good-quality unsalted butter for its flavor, so don't skimp on this. It's also important to keep a light hand. Overworking the dough will develop the gluten in the flour and make the shortbread tough.
For this recipe, I chose to mix plain wheat flour and rice flour for a very softer texture, but you can use all purpose flour for a slightly crunchier result.
Shortbread can be eaten on its own or crumbled and used as a base for tarts or cheesecakes. You can make strawberry shortcakes by serving a sandwich of shortbread filled with whipped cream and fresh strawberries.
This recipe includes grapefruit zest in the dough. Unlike lemons, the pungent taste of grapefruit often becomes lost when baked. That’s why you need lots of zest. And then the icing is a nice complement to the zingy dough. These cookies pair perfectly with coffee and tea!
(recipe inspired by Anna Posey)
Ingredients for the Dough
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into pieces, plus more for the pan
- 1 tablespoon finely grated grapefruit zest (organic or untreated if possible)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla sugar (or use 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract)
- 1/3 cup powdered sugar
- 3/4 cup AP (plain) flour
- 1/4 cup rice four OR use 1 cup AP (plain) flour in total
- a pinch of fine sea salt
Ingredients for the Icing and Toppings
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- dried hibiscus flowers, rose petals and cornflowers (optional - please NOTE: use only organic, untreated and edible flowers)
- a 9-inch (23 cm) tart/quiche pan with removable bottom or use a springform pan
- Lightly butter your baking pan. Line bottom with a round of baking parchment, then butter again.
- Pulse grapefruit zest, vanilla sugar (extract), 1/2 cup butter, and 1/3 cup powdered sugar in a food processor until smooth and homogenous.
- Add flour(s) salt; pulse just to combine.
- Press dough evenly into prepared pan, smoothing top with a flat-bottomed glass or measuring cup. Chill until firm, about 1 hour.
- Preheat your oven to 180° C (350°F).
- Prick shortbread all over with a fork and bake until edges are golden and center is pale but firm to the touch, 15 to 18 minutes.
- Remove band from pan and immediately cut shortbread into 16 wedges. Let cool.
- Whisk grapefruit juice and remaining 1 cup powdered sugar in a small bowl until smooth.
- Spread a thin layer of icing over shortbread with a small offset spatula, leaving a thin border of crust exposed.
- Top as desired (optional).
- Let sit about 15 minutes to allow icing to set.
- Retrace cut marks.
This zesty teatime shortbread has a beautiful crumbly texture, plus zingy grapefruit and warm vanilla flavor. Tart grapefruit gives refreshing flavor to these but if grapefruit is not your thing, you could try using another citrus fruit like blood oranges (the market stalls are brimming with blood oranges around here right now), oranges, lemons or clementines. Very simple, but wonderful and so welcome after a heavy meal!
Shortbread cookies fill the kitchen with a wonderful buttery freshly-baked smell. So simple and easy to flavor with your own choice of vanilla, lemon zest or even lavender. And believe when I tell you, that kids will love making them too.
And last but not least, in this recipe, "a few textured and vibrant toppings gussy up a tender, buttery, and ultrasimple shortbread".