You know that you’ve been lame on the blogging front when you forget your own Login details. Yup, that was me a this morning- I had to scour emails from my web designer to jolt my memory. Today a mention on the amazing Food 52 website was like a giant kick up the backside to forget everything else (royal nuptuals not included) and sit down and write. You see the thing is my husband and I have been talking babies recently and I may have made some fleeting comment that we ought to try and do lots of traveling and other fun things before I become an incubator and need to act more sensibly. My husband took this quite literally and in a superman-esque way turned in a flash into whom I now refer to as my Social Secretary. He is keen and overly ambitious, which is not a good combination when you already have a busy work schedule. Perhaps I’m a control freak or perhaps it’s the fact that being a freelancer I’m used to controlling my own schedule…. but this all came to a head last week when I demanded that he stop filling up my weekends. Every once in a while I just need a weekend where I can mope around in my pajamas all day, drink way too much tea make bread and enjoy an extensive afternoon nap. That’s all I need to make me happy. Just because the diary says I’m free, doesn’t mean I want to fill the space!
Domestic rant over. Lets talk about shortbread instead. In this run up to the royal wedding I have become even more infuriated with peoples perceptions of British food. Honestly folks, times have changed and British food is now some of the best in the world. Fact. I made Pimm’s for a friends baby shower recently and following its success I was asked to make it at a bridal shower and now a royal wedding party….I make a big point to tell everyone that Pimm’s is in fact British (but only after they have swooned about it). I guarantee the food and drink Will and Cate’s wedding will be fan-bloody-tastic and British all at the same time.
One of Britain’s greatest achievements is Walker’s Shortbread. So good in fact that it is one of the few things that I have in the past chosen to buy rather than attempted to make my own. That was then. This is now. Shortbread is perhaps one of the simplest baking recipes there is. Butter, sugar, flour. That’s all you need. Where I went wrong in trying to get that rich buttery taste that melts on your tongue but still a firm cookie was trying to add extra ingredients- rice flour, confectioners (icing) sugar and semolina…which all make it soft, not crisp like Walker’s. Plain all-purpose flour is all you need. I also used cheap butter- big mistake. You want to use good quality butter with a strong buttery flavour- Lurpack is perfect. I’m not saying these shortbread are identical to Walker’s but they are pretty darn close.
Of course, the lavender is optional- it can be expensive and difficult to find but if you have some lying around I highly recommend this. A little chopped rosemary is nice too. And just in case you need some help in how to best to eat your shortbread, may I recommend biting of a piece and sucking on it so it dissolves on your tongue then washing it back with a slug of tea. Perhaps not etiquette of the royal kind but hey, we’re all commoners around here anyway.
Oh, and if you want to infuse your sugar with lavender as photographed above- just add a tablespoon of dried leaves to a cup of sugar and let sit for a week. It has the same effect of vanilla beans and adds a delicious floral note to baked goods. You can sieve out the buds if you don’t want to include them in the recipe. For those getting up at the crack of dawn tomorrow (I will be one of them, in my Union Jack Pajamas) enjoy the wedding and God Save the Queen!
Lavender Shortbread Cookies
Makes 30 odd
225g/2 sticks/8oz butter, at room temp
100g/4oz natural cane sugar, plus a little extra for sprinkling
325g/12 oz flour
1 Tbsp dried lavender buds
• Heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Beat together the butter and sugar until creamy. Add the flour, salt and lavender and mix until combined.
• Bring together into a ball with your hands and shape into a flat disk. Cover and chill for at least 20 minutes.
• Once chilled roll out the dough so that it’s 3/4cm/1/4 inch thick. Cut out into small rounds (mine are 2 1/2 inches) and place spaced out on baking trays. Sprinkle with a little extra sugar.
• Bake for 10-12 minutes or until they feel sandy on top and have the slightest hint of colour on the edges. Allow to cool on the tray.