Baking: Christmas shortbread biscuits to eat or gift

Simple cutter shapes ensure these tasty cookies hold their shapes

Shortbread is very easy to make, with the added benefit of containing ingredients you probably already have. Photograph: Harry Weir

Shortbread is very easy to make, with the added benefit of containing ingredients you probably already have. Photograph: Harry Weir

 

Fine shortbread biscuits appear in most luxury goods displays at this time of year. Sold in brightly coloured tubes and nestled among the prints, 3D cards, candles, scarves and gloves, they endure as a considered gift for discerning givers. They are also a godsend for last-minute shoppers.

Just-baked, homemade shortbread is beyond compare as it is the tastiest and the best. Delicately crisp, the rich buttery biscuits, covered in a light dusting of caster sugar, remind me of the pleasure of a fall of uncompacted snow.

Shortbread is very easy to make, with the added benefit of containing ingredients you probably have in your fridge or pantry. For some festive baking, this shortbread recipe, made in a food processor, is whipped up like any cookie dough. Extremely quick and effortless, it is perfect for fashioning into Christmas-themed cookies.

I like to roll the dough thickly (so it looks like shortbread) and I stick to simple cookie cutters. Tree and star shapes are always great for Christmas and you can go to town on green, red and white colourings.

For a more understated finish (plus, I am still a sucker for Frozen), I opt for a soft “ice blue” detail lifted with shiny silver baubles.

Choosing simple cutter shapes ensures the biscuits hold their lines and don’t “melt” at the edges. I recommend baking them to the point before they start to colour, swiftly removing them and allowing the residual heat from the tin to finish them off (it’s a good idea to bake a single cookie off first to test the perfect timing for the batch you have made).

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This is a magical cookie to bake on a play date with excited little ones at this time of year. For a personalised gift, skewer a small hole in the top before baking, and later thread with ribbon for a cute decoration. Make these cookies for a family gathering. I cannot think of a better way to add a festive feel to a night in, watching a classic movie.

CHRISTMAS TREE SHORTBREAD

Ingredients
Makes 12
320g plain flour
Sieved pinch salt
60g caster sugar
225g butter, cubed

For the blue icing
125g-175g icing sugar
4-5 tsp lemon juice
Blue food colouring paste
Few drops hot water,
Edible silver baubles, or sprinkles to decorate, if required
​​
Preheat oven to 170C fan. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or dust with flour).

In a food processor, blitz together flour, salt, sugar and the cubed butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

Bring the dough together with your hands, wrap in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for 20 minutes.

After the dough has been chilled in the fridge, roll it out on a well floured surface to 5mm thickness and use cookie cutters to stamp out shapes.

Place on to a baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for approx 12 mins (remove them while still pale in colour without browning, as they will cook on in the hot baking sheet. Leave on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 

For the icing, sift the icing sugar into a mixing bowl and add in a teaspoon at a time of lemon juice, stirring until you achieve a smooth toothpaste consistency. Using the tip of a skewer, add a small amount of food colouring paste into the icing to set the colour to your desired tone (add more colouring if required).   Stir in a few extra drops of lemon juice (or boiling water) to loosen the paste just enough to drizzle from the tip of a teaspoon.

Decorate the cookies with icing and baubles. Set aside for 10 minutes for the icing to harden. Store in an airtight container for 2-3 days.

Variation
For a special touch, you can drizzle with melted white or dark chocolate (in place of icing). Any sprinkles and baubles will stick to the chocolate once it cools and hardens.

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