Simply Shortbread

Posted on May 22, 2014


things{we}make shortbread

Oh, shortbread! Why are you so tasty?

You are but flour, butter and sugar, yet so much more than the sum of your parts.

shortbread on thingswemake

shortbread on things{we}make

Some recipes are complicated with ingredients and techniques for no good reason. My aim is always to reduce effort without reducing deliciousness. I’m sure there is an equation that shows the tipping point where the amount of faff cancels out the total tastiness quotient.

On your behalf (and, okay, also to increase my shortbread intake) I experimented with different elements to try to reach that perfect balance of simplicity and loveliness, adding vanilla for comfort factor, cornflour for melt in the mouth action and semolina for sandy crunch and non-stickness. I realise I am contradicting myself by adding a little complexity to what can be a 3 ingredient recipe, but I think it’s worth it.

I do still need to re-assess my dividing technique though, because 8 slices into 3 of us just doesn’t go. We fight over the last slices for after-school-snack or post-work-pick-me-up-with-a-cup-of-tea requirements.

But re-testing the recipe is hardly a bind. I can blast up a batch in the food processor while the kettle boils, then as soon as it’s cooled it starts to magically disappear.

shortbread on things{we}make

We always had tartan tins of shortbread around at Christmas when I was a child. I loved it then, either in petticoat tails or stumpy shortbread fingers.

The bonus of making it in a tart tin means you can just squidge it in there with gay abandon and without all the nonsense of rolling or cutting. Simple.

Let me know if you try it.

Things{we}make Simple Shortbread


  • 150g Soft Butter
  • 75g Icing Sugar
  • ½ tsp Vanilla Bean Paste
  • 120g Plain Flour
  • 30g Semolina (see note below)
  • 75g Cornflour
  • A pinch of salt
  • A little caster sugar


  • You can replace the semolina with 30g more flour for a slightly denser but still lovely biscuit.
  •  If you haven’t got a tart tin to fit, just press or roll the dough into a round, about 8″ across on a greased, baking tray. You won’t have such neat edges but who’s looking at your edges when you’ve got a sugary top?


  1. Grease a loose bottomed 20cm/8″ tart tin and dust with a little flour or semolina.
  2. Preheat your oven to 160°c.
  3. In a food processor blitz the butter, vanilla and icing sugar together until light and creamy.
  4. Add the flour, cornflour, semolina and salt and process again until blended, scraping around the bowl at least once to make sure there are no stray buttery bits.
  5. Press the dough into a tin with floury fingers and smooth with the back of a spoon.
  6. Sprinkle with caster sugar.
  7. Press around the edge with a fork or a floured finger.
  8. Divide the dough into 8-10 sections and prong each one with a fork.
  9. Bake for around 25-30 minutes until blonde…not brown. (28 mins in my oven)
  10. You can gently re-cut the dividing lines in the shortbread when it comes out of the oven.
  11. Sprinkle with a little more caster sugar while it’s hot.
  12. Cool for 20 minutes then push it out of the tin and cool on a rack.