Shortbread falls into the “moulded biscuit” category and is made using the sanding method.
This is quite unusual when it comes to biscuits, because most use the creaming method and there’s also the odd meringue method (think Parisian macarons).
Sanding (or sablér) method can result in crumbly, sandy or crispy biscuits. In the case of shortbread, the name says it all.
You’re looking for a very short, crumbly biscuit that should come from a few base ingredients – butter, flour and sugar.
The sanding method combines the dry ingredients with butter until you have a sandy texture. You can then add any flavourings you wish.
Rice flour (or sometimes even cornflour) is often used in shortbread recipes to enhance the sandy texture.
Similar to making pastry, make sure your butter is cold and the shortbread is not over-handled.
You’ll notice the absence of eggs in this recipe which is pretty unusual for a biscuit.
I’m using Felicity Cloake’s recipe that’s worked for me time and time again.
115g butter, at room temperature
55g caster sugar
Good pinch of salt
130g plain flour
40g ground rice
Demerara sugar, to finish
Pre-heat the oven to 150C. Put the butter into a large mixing bowl, and beat with a wooden spoon until soft. Beat in the sugar and salt.
Sift over the flour and ground rice and mix to a smooth dough; if it doesn’t come together, add a little more butter.
Line a 15cm cake or tart tin with baking parchment, and pat, or lightly roll, the dough into a shape slightly smaller than the tin. Alternatively pat out to 1cm thickness and cut into biscuits and put on a lined baking tray. Put in the fridge to chill for 15 minutes until firm.
Bake for around an hour (about half that for biscuits) until cooked through, but not browned. Take out of the oven and cut into fingers, slices or squares.
Allow to cool for a couple of minutes, then sprinkle with demerara sugar and transfer to a wire rack.