A dozen Christmas shortbreads recipe

Take one simple, delicious, buttery shortbread recipe and transform it very easily into a whole array of flavours and shapes. Of course, don’t keep these just for Christmas, everyone loves freshly baked shortbread all through the year. Maybe just put away the Christmas tree cutter, though…

Use your own imagination to create your very own flavours and shapes, the possibilities are endless. Packed into little boxes or bags they make a lovely gift and, in my experience, will always be very gratefully received.

The uncooked shortbread dough freezes brilliantly so you can make and cut them out weeks ahead, lay them between sheets of baking parchment in a freezer container, and freeze; defrost and freshly bake as required. 

Makes about 20 – you’ll need a 4.5cm round fluted cutter.

Ingredients

  Metric  Cups  Imperial 

  • 125 g salted butter, softened, in pieces
  • 50 g golden caster sugar, plus more to sprinkle (do not sprinkle any of the other shortbreads with sugar after baking)
  • 125 g plain flour, plus more to dust
  • 60 g cornflour
  • 4.4 oz salted butter, softened, in pieces
  • 1.8 oz golden caster sugar, plus more to sprinkle (do not sprinkle any of the other shortbreads with sugar after baking)
  • 4.4 oz plain flour, plus more to dust
  • 2.1 oz cornflour
  • 4.4 oz salted butter, softened, in pieces
  • 1.8 oz golden caster sugar, plus more to sprinkle (do not sprinkle any of the other shortbreads with sugar after baking)
  • 4.4 oz plain flour, plus more to dust
  • 2.1 oz cornflour

Details

  • Recipe Type: Dessert
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Preparation Time: 60 mins
  • Cooking Time: 80 mins
  • Serves: 20

Step-by-step

  1. CLASSIC BASIC SHORTBREAD RECIPE: Line a baking tray with baking parchment. Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a food mixer (or use a bowl and a hand-held electric whisk). Cream the butter and sugar, then gradually sift in the flour and cornflour, mixing as you do, just until everything is blended. Do not over-mix. Wrap in cling film and chill for 20–30 minutes, to make it easier to handle. On a lightly floured work top, roll the dough out to about 5mm thick and, using the round fluted cutter, stamp out the shortbreads as closely together as you can. Gather the scraps and re-roll them. (The fewer times you re-roll the dough the better, as it will toughen it.) Lay the shortbreads on the prepared baking tray and chill for 20–30 minutes (so they will hold their shapes better). Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Bake the shortbreads in the preheated oven for 15–20 minutes. Sprinkle with caster sugar and leave to cool on the tray.
  2. VANILLA CHRISTMAS TREES: Add 1 tsp vanilla extract (or the seeds from one-third of a vanilla pod) when creaming the butter and sugar. Cut out 7cm Christmas trees with a cutter and press six or seven multicoloured dragees (for baubles) on to each tree. Chill and bake as before.
  3. CRANBERRY COCONUT SNOWBALLS: Add 1 tsp vanilla extract when creaming the butter and sugar. With the flour, add 30g dried cranberries, roughly chopped. Roll into 20 equal-sized balls. Chill and bake as before. Melt 200g of white chocolate. Hold a ball on a fork and spoon it over, then set the balls on a wire rack with baking parchment underneath. Sprinkle with 60g of desiccated coconut.
  4. VERY LEMONY FINGERS: Add the finely grated zest of 1 large unwaxed lemon when creaming the butter and sugar. Roll out, then cut into 20 shortbread fingers, each 7 x 2cm. Chill and bake as before. When cold, make a lemon icing: mix 50g of icing sugar with the juice of ¼–½ lemon. Dip each finger into the icing. Leave to set on a tray lined with baking parchment.
  5. WALNUT AND CINNAMON SQUARES: Lightly roast 30g of walnuts in the oven for five minutes. Cool, finely chop and add with the flour and 1 tsp ground cinnamon. Cut into 4.5cm squares. Prick each three or four times with a fork. Chill and bake as before.
  6. ALMOND SLICES: Lightly roast 30g of nibbed almonds in the oven for four minutes. Cool and fold in with the flour. Cut the dough into 20 fingers, each 7 x 2cm. Press a whole blanched almond into the top of each. Chill and bake as before.
  7. CARAMEL SANDWICHES: Roll out the shortbread dough to about 3mm thick and, using a 4.5cm round cutter, stamp out about 36 rounds. Cut a 1.5cm star (or round shape) from the centre of half of them. Chill as before. Bake for around 15 minutes and, once cold, sandwich one solid circle and one with a hole cut out together, using ½ tsp of dulce de leche or caramel spread. Repeat to fill all the shortbreads. Once filled, these are best eaten within a day as the caramel will soon turn them soft.
  8. CHERRY SQUARES: Add 80g red glacé cherries (rinsed, dried and roughly chopped) with the flour. Cut into 4.5cm squares. Chill and bake as before.
  9. GLAZED CLEMENTINE AND CARDAMOM ROUNDS: Add ½ tsp freshly ground cardamom (see page 85) with the flour. Using a 4.5cm cutter, stamp out 20 rounds. Chill as before. When the shortbreads are on the tray, top each with a very thin slice of clementine, dried very well with kitchen paper. Bake for 20–22 minutes. Sprinkle over 2–3 tbsp of caster sugar as soon as they come out of the oven and leave to cool. Remove the baking parchment from under the shortbreads. Using a blowtorch, glaze each clementine slice. The star shape of the cut clementine will be highlighted. These are best eaten within two days, as they will soften.
  10. CHOCOLATE PINWHEELS: Make the classic shortbread recipe as usual. Now make a second batch, but using only 100g of flour and adding 25g of cocoa. Roll the chocolate dough into a 3mm-thick rectangle about 26 x 18cm. Repeat with the vanilla dough. Lay one on top of the other and trim the sides neatly. Carefully lift on to a sheet of baking parchment with a long side towards you. Use the paper to help roll the dough into a log. Chill as before, then cut into 40 discs about 5mm thick. Bake for about 20 minutes.
  11. CHOCOLATE CHILLI HEARTS: Reduce the plain flour to 100g and add 25g cocoa and ½–1 finely chopped red chilli (to taste) with the flour. Roll out to 3mm thick. Cut out 40 shortbreads with a 4.5cm heart cutter. Chill and bake as before.
  12. ORANGE-GLAZED GINGER STARS: Add 1 tsp ground ginger and 1 large ball of finely chopped stem ginger with the flour. Cut out with a 4.5cm star cutter. Chill and bake as before. When cold, make an orange glaze by mixing 100g of sifted icing sugar and the juice of ½–1 orange and dip or ice each star. Scatter with sprinkles and leave to set.

By Fiona Cairns

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