- 16 tablespoons (2 sticks/226 grams) unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup (113 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 2/3 cups (226 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (113 grams) semolina
- 2 tablespoons demerara sugar
I can’t say I’ve run into many baking emergencies — that is, having to unexpectedly whip something up at the last minute. Still, it’s great to be prepared, so I typically keep the makings of at least chocolate chip cookies and brownies in my pantry.
Now, I’m adding to a new at-my-fingertips treat to my repertoire: Proper British Shortbread. With only five ingredients and barely 20 minutes of prep time, this is a recipe you can throw together with little planning — or stress. And yes, there’s just one bowl needed.
The term “short” in shortbread refers to the type of dough, which is very tender and relatively high in fat. Here, there is a high proportion of butter, which accounts for a third of the weight of the ingredients. This makes for a particularly crumbly, melt-in-your mouth cookie that is satisfying without being too rich. It’s classy and restrained, just what you’d expect of this favorite British treat from national treasure and former “Great British Baking Show” judge Mary Berry.
Take a bite and you’ll be immediately reminded of the Danish butter cookies you find in those ubiquitous blue tins, and that’s not a bad thing.
Berry mixes the all-purpose flour with semolina, a coarse flour you often find in pizza or pasta, for extra crunch. For an even more melt-away mouthfeel, swap in equal amounts of cornstarch or rice flour for the semolina. Prefer only flour? That’s fine, too. Whatever you use, be sure not to overwork the mixture, as it will create too much gluten and toughen the dough.
I wouldn’t be on my own personal brand, or Berry’s, if I didn’t mention that this shortbread is the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea. Then again, I will sneak in tastes just about any time of day. Good thing this cookie is easy to prepare whenever the craving strikes.
Recipe notes: We liked the flavor and crunchy texture of demerara sugar, a partially refined sugar with larger crystals, on top of the shortbread. You can leave it off, if you prefer.
The shortbread will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
Proper British Shortbread Recipe
Active time: 20 mins | Total time: 50 mins | Servings: 24 (makes one 9-by-13-inch slab)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees with a rack in the middle position. Have ready a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on low speed just until combined. (You’re only looking to incorporate them, not add a lot of air to the mixture.) Alternately, you can use a handheld mixer or even a wooden spoon in a large bowl.
Stir in the flour and semolina on low speed until combined. The dough won’t come together into a cohesive mass, so don’t be surprised if it’s crumbly. Clumps, however, should form when pressed together between your fingers. You can briefly knead the dough by hand, if needed.
Press the mixture into the pan, level and smooth the top using the bottom of a dry measuring cup or the back of a spoon. Sprinkle with the raw, coarse demerara sugar, and bake for about 30 to 35 minutes, until pale golden brown.
Remove from the oven and let the pan cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. With the tip of a sharp knife, score the slab to form 24 triangles (we accomplished this with three rows of four squares that we then cut in half). Let the shortbread cool completely in the pan before lifting out the pieces.
Calories: 140; Total Fat: 8 g; Saturated Fat: 5 g; Cholesterol: 20 mg; Sodium: 0 mg; Carbohydrates: 16 g; Dietary Fiber: 0 g; Sugars: 6 g; Protein: 2 g.
Adapted from “Fast Cakes: Easy Bakes in Minutes,” by Mary Berry (Quercus, 2019).
Tested by Becky Krystal; email questions to email@example.com.
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