Shortbread is the stuff of legend in our house. Having a family that is Scottish means they’re well qualified to judge what falls in the parameters of acceptability. A fussy bunch they are and rightly so. Many a commercial highland cookie has fallen for being “too crumbly”, “not buttery enough” or “too damp” to name a few of criticisms. So I set about experimenting to find that correct combination of ingredients that would yield a shortbread that crumbly enough with falling to pieces; buttery enough would feeling too greasy or damp in your mouth and crisp enough to yield enough with a satisfying snap. In the words of everyone’s favourite flaxen haired domestic critic, “Just right”.
The historic recipe for shortbread hails from Scotland and in it’s basic form is one part sugar; two parts butter and 3 parts plain flour. Time and tide has, like many an ancestral recipe, meant that the original recipe has been tweaked and adjusted with many families input and alterations.
My recipe here has been tweaked from an original from my mom. I found the additions of the more unusual dry ingredient of semolina, rice flour and cornstarch increase the more desirable textures of crispness and crumbliness without marring the buttery taste. The inclusion of the ancient grain flour of Red Fife was purely a whimsical addition as I was exploring baking with differing flour types at the time. It adds a subtle nutty flavor to the finished shortbread cookie that works really well with the signature butteriness of the cookie. And the toasted coconut? Well who doesn’t like toasted coconut?
- 1 cup shredded coconut
- 1 cup AP Flour
- 2/3 cup Red Fife flour
- 1/3 Semolina
- 2 Tablespoons Rice Flour
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons Cornstarch
- 1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons fine sugar, divided
- 1/2 Teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 cup/ 2 sticks salted butter, cold and cubed
- Lightly grease and line a 9″ x 12″ traybake tin
- In a pan over a medium heat toast the shredded coconut until fragrant and lightly browned. Remove from heat and set aside until needed
- In a large bowl combine the flour, semolina, rice flour, cornstarch, sugar and salt. Whisk together to further combine
- Add in the cubed butter and rub together with your fingertips until the mixture is just beginning to bind together. Every so often do a quarter turn of the bowl to make sure you’re using all the dry mixture. You’ll want a texture somewhere between breadcrumbs and damp sand before you stop. Be wary of overworking the butter into the mixture – you want to avoid a dough that is feels slimey from the butter melting too much into the dry ingredients
- Tip in the toasted coconut and lightly rub in with your fingers until combined
- Tip the crumb mixture into your prepared tin and press the dough so that it forms a solid layer. Level the surface with the back of a spoon or measuring cup, making sure the mixture is evenly spread and uniform. Prick all over with a fork
- With a knife or pizza cutter score the shortbread into 24 rectangular pieces (2 cuts by 7 cuts) taking care not to actually cut the full way through
- Refrigerate for 30 mins minimum
- Preheat your oven to 325°F
- Remove the shortbread from the fridge and bake for about 35 minutes or until a very pale golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and cut fully through the baked shortbread with a knife or pizza cutter at the score lines you previously made
- Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons of fine sugar and leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes. Carefully lift the fingers out of the tin with a palette knife or the parchment paper overhang and finish cooling on a wire rack
- Store in an airtight tin for up to a week