Saturday, 27 July 2013

Chocolate Shortbread Fingers

Is there really anything more wonderful than the shortbread biscuit? I'm not sure there is you know. Oh you might have a favourite meal or baked treat that is as far removed from shortbread as can be but then when you return to the classic butteriness of shortbread you are hard pushed to argue against the delightful simplicity. My mum makes the best shortbread ever. Of course, I respect everyone elses attempts and the fact that others may have a loved one who they say makes wonderful shortbread but for me nobody can come close. Mum doesn't do or add anything unusual to her recipe but there is something that for every member of our family, sets it apart from the rest. Maybe it's love. Mum bakes shortbread throughout the year though a massive load is done at Christmas. My grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins look forward to any occasion when it might be deemed necessary  for Mum to take some with her to the gathering and even more popular is her Millionaire's shortbread. God it's good. Along with her chocolate cake Millionaire's shortbread is my favourite sweet thing Mum makes.

It always pains me that there are some things that I can't do as well as my mum. It annoys my dad no end that we are so similar, especially when he wants some back up for something but one difference between us is that I have not yet mastered Millionaire's shortbread. I managed it once, with Mum standing over me teaching me how to do the caramel but then the next time I tried on my own I didn't get it quite right. Mind you, it was very hard to convince people at university that the caramel had gone wrong because as soon as I had handed it round it was gone again! That made me feel better about it and I'm sat typing this now with a little smile on my face. I've got a bit better since I did that batch but I don't want to intrude on Mum's territory while I'm at home so I'll have to wait until I go back to uni to have another go. I'm sure my housemate won't mind, as long as I make the base gluten free!

I might not be able to perfect my mum's specialities but one shortbread success I have had is this chocolate version. I followed  the recipe(Ha! Me? Follow a recipe? As if!) given in The Great British Book of Baking by Linda Collister, the book that accompanies GBBO series one, as my entry for the Random Recipes #30 challenge created by Dominic at Belleau Kitchen. It's a great idea for a baking challenge and I wish I had come up with it myself because I have a growing number of recipe books all of which I am in love with no matter how basic they are. Every single one of them is good research!!

The challnege involves selecting a recipe book at random each month and making whatever it falls open on but because it is the 30th anniversary of the challenge, this month it is the recipe on the 30th page on the 30th book which is to be baked. I had to allow a little poetic licence for my counting because my recipe books were arrnged rather haphazardly at the time with some little ones tucked in amongst their big brothers and sisters where they could be easily missed. In the end though I counted to this book and the picture is on page 30 so it qualifies, right? I hope so because these were really very good. I did wonder if the chocolate flavour would ruin the shortbread taste but it didn't at all. The challenge rules state that the recipe can only be changed for dietary or monetary reasons or seasonal availability. Well, cocoa powder is available all year round so I couldn't use that excuse but I did cut the recipe down in proportion to how much butter I had to save money and I cut the biscuits into fingers instead of big wedges for our health. My taste buds would argue in favour of the wedges but thankfully my brain is a bit more sensible in everyday-eating situations. Oh, and I missed the salt out because I see no point whatsoever in putting salt in unnecessarily. I know it is supposed to be a flavour enhancer but if the rest of the recipe is full of flavour then the salt is a waste of time. And I'll say that to any top chef. I'm allowed my opinion and it's not as if I'm saying we shouldn't use salt at all. It's vital in most breads and for me, on cold chicken. Don't ask me why, I just like it! So here you are, mega easy chocolate shortbread with only minimal tweaks to the recipe. Though I can't say the same for the method. Creaming for shortbread is much easier for me!

200g unsalted butter, softened
100g caster sugar
260g plain flour
40g cocoa powder
Set the oven to 180 C/160 C fan.  Grease your chosen tin if it is a metal one though that isn't necessary if you are using a silicone tray like I did. The size of tin depends on how thick you want your biscuits to be at the end of it. Beat the butter in a large bowl, ideally with an electric mixer until it is very soft and creamy:
 Mix in the sugar until well combined though don't continue creaming like for a cake because you don't wait to trap air in the mixture now. Sift in the cocoa powder and flour and mix again until evenly combined. Gather the dough together into a ball and press it into your prepared tin. Smooth and level with the back of a spoon then mark with a knife into your desired shapes and prick with a fork. No, this doesn't make the shortbread suddenly turn black and white, the lighting was just terrible in this picture!
Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 mins until just firm to the touch, turning round way through the baking time. The exact time may vary quite a lot depending on how thick your shortbread is and how 'done' you want it. Mine looked done but when I turned it out of the tray it was still a bit soft and melty when I tried a piece but that seemed to go really well with the chocolate flavour! Take out of the oven and go over your markings again. Cool in the tin then turn out and devour at will.
Time to put the kettle on!


  1. i don't think there is anything better than shortbread... not as far as these beauties are concerned... they are so yummy and I don't think i've ever baked shortbread with chocolate before, so this is fab... lovely book too... so glad you joined in and hope you enjoyed it!

    1. Thank you =) and I definitely enjoyed it and am looking forward to next month already!

  2. I make a mean shortbread even if I do say myself but I have never put cocoa in them although I have made coffee shortbread. Chocolate ones look special!

    1. I think I might have to try coffee shortbread now, I can imagine that being gorgeous =) And sorry for getting so defensive over my mum's shortbread, I just really, REALLY like it though I'm certain that if you've come up with something as lovely sounding as a coffee version that yours must be amazing too!

    2. Oops, not sure what happened there with that odd looking name and missing picture!

  3. Mmm - these look wonderful - perfect with a cuppa!

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