Saturday, 22 June 2013

RECIPE: Buttery flower shortbread biscuits (with jam and nutella fillings!)

A few days ago, a rather exciting looking parcel came for me in the post. Now I don't know about you, but I never get post - if I do, it's usually from Natwest - so this was very exciting. Thanks to the lovely Lucy at The Ideas Network, I opened the package to find a set of 6 Colourworks Flower Cookie Cutters from Cargo - and aren't they cute?

totes adorbs
My pretty utensils
It'll come as no surprise to hear that I love bright kitchen utensils, so these cookie cutters are right up my street. They also made me realise that I very rarely bake biscuits that require cutters. Cakes, traybakes, cookies... No problem, toutes les semaines. I suppose I make spiced biscuits, gingerbread cookies and Pfefferkuchen at Christmas, but these lovely cutters prompted me to do a spot of summer biscuit baking. And so, flower shortbread biscuits were born.

A generous slather of nutella
Shortbread is such a classic Scottish treat, so I decided to embrace the Scottish blood I've inherited from my dad and whack out a batch of my own. Not content with just doing basic biscuits though, I (naturally) challenged myself a little more by making my own jammy dodgers. Or nutella-y dodgers, as the case may be.

The sandwiching is a lot of fun
Buttery and crumbly, subtly sweet and a little salty, moreish and melt-in-the-mouth, these biscuits are really rather yummy, if I do say so myself. Delicious as they are, but extra special when made into jam/nutella filled sandwiched biscuits. I made an array of both. And seeing as I couldn't choose just one filling, I used strawberry, raspberry and apricot jams and nutella, in separate biscuits, that is. You can use whatever you like though - I think dulce de leche would be scrummy. Using a range of fillings means they look delightfully colourful on a plate too.

It's a little fiddly and time-consuming, but really rather therapeutic. Of course, you could whip up a batch more quickly and easily by doing basic biscuits, but where's the fun in that? Having pretty cutters (just like pretty cupcake cases) really can make all the difference. I love the "home-made" look of baked goods, and I'm no pro when it comes to food presentation, but sometimes when food looks good it then tastes better as a result.

Flower-shaped biscuits are just perfect for summer, and these cutters worked brilliantly. Despite being plastic, they cut through my dough without a problem. Having a range of sizes is really useful, and they're dishwasher-safe too, hoorah!

Shortbread and strawberries is a classic summer treat, maybe with a smidge of cream on the side, or perhaps try sticking a little piece of shortbread into a bowl of Eton Mess. Yum! Even the aforementioned Scottish father enjoys these shortbread, and he doesn't like anything sweet. I kid you not. What a nutter. So yeah, Scottish seal of approval YAY!

What a pudding.

I modified Fiona Cairns' recipe from her lovely Bake & Decorate book. It's hard to say how many biscuits this makes though, as it depends on the size of your cutters and how many you choose to turn into jammy sandwiches. Can you ever have too much shortbread though? (I think not.)

I think they still look good with jam poking out the sides

200g unsalted butter, softened (use my tip to quickly bring your butter to room temperature!)
80g golden caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
200g plain flour, plus plenty more for dusting
100g cornflour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp per biscuit jam, nutella, dulce de leche etc
icing sugar, for dusting

I imagine Paul and Mary would have something to say about this. Not sure what, but hey.


1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla until pale using a handheld electric whisk. Sieve the flour, cornflour and salt into another bowl. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter mix, mixing briefly after each addition until it binds together. Don't be alarmed if it seems relatively wet.

Perfectly soft - my finger tip leaves a mark.
2. Before you get your hands messy, lay out a large piece of clingfilm. Flour your hands and gently knead the dough until just smooth (don't overwork it.) Add more flour if it seems extremely wet. Scoop the dough out of the bowl as best you can and wrap it in the clingfilm. Pop the dough in the fridge for half an hour to make it easier to roll out.

Out of the fridge and ready to roll. (Ha!)

3. On a floured surface and with floured hands, knead the refrigerated dough to check the consistency - add more flour if it needs it. (If you roll it out and then can't lift your cut shapes off the surface as the dough is too sticky, you'll know you need to add more flour and keep working it until it comes together better.) Roll the dough out to about 3-5mm thick with a floured rolling pin. Don't be afraid to keep adding flour as you go. You need a lot of the stuff. Go crazy.

4. Using the cutters of your choice, start cutting your flowers. To make the jammy sandwiches, make sure you cut two flowers of the same size, then use a smaller flower to cut out the middle of one of them. Obviously you still bake the cut-out centre (mum, the sis and I love the bite-size flowers!)

Using a spatula to place the cookies on the baking tray.
5. Lay your flowers on baking sheets lined with baking parchment. I found the best way to do this was to gently use a knife and a spatula to lift them off the surface. Don't worry if they slightly fall apart, you can stick them back together on the baking tray (and who wants perfect biscuits anyway?) Leave a little space in between each, but they don't spread much in the oven.

Warm out of the oven
The chances are you'll need to do them in batches and re-roll the dough at least once to make the most of it. Don't be throwing the cut-out bits away now! If the dough gets too dry, add a smidge of water to your hands and re-knead.

Freshly baked
6. Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes. Leave to cool for a few minutes on the baking trays, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.


Apricot is a winner
7. Once cool, it's assembly time (if you're making sandwiches)! Spread your chosen filling on to the base flowers and sandwich together with the cut-out ones. Don't press down too hard, as they may crack. Dust with icing sugar and you're done! Deeeee-lish.

If ya fancy making your own like mine, buy your own Six Piece Flower Shaped Cookie Cutter Set for a mere £4 here. They also have heart, stars and loads more adorable shapes on offer. Tempting much?

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