A collection of antique Scottish hand carved shortbread moulds sitting on our dresser motivated me to experiment with making shortbread for homemade Christmas gifts. I'd given the moulds to my father-in-law Terry for Christmas many years ago, and after his passing they were handed onto me. Shortbread is a favourite of our youngest son and I knew he would enjoy a few pieces of shortbread in his school lunch box. I love that you can Google the name of a chef you trust, in this case Anneka Manning, and the dish you want to make, shortbread, and a recipe appears. For the first batch I made Anneka's recipe and for the second batch I added almond meal, after reading Gerda Foster's recipe in A Year of Slow Food, to see what difference it made (I like the addition of the almond flavour).
The trick was how to press the dough into the timber mould and remove it without it sticking. The advice online was to dust the mould with rice flour, and shake the excess out, before pressing the dough into the mould. You remove the dough by hitting the back of the timber mould. Well, I tried a wooden spoon, and it broke. Then I resorted to my hand and, although slapping a timber mould stings, I persisted and the dough came out with the embossing in place. I was disappointed with the embossing from the first batch. It just disappeared during the cooking process. So for the second batch I let the dough rest in the freezer for 30 minutes before cooking, and the embossing was more visible. I'll keep experimenting. I'd like to try a batch flavoured with dried lavender, and another with lemon zest. Then they might be just right to wrap, tie with cooking twine, and give away.
Ingredients: 250g softened, cubed butter, 110g (1/2 cup) castor sugar, 300g (2 cups) wholemeal plain flour, 55g (1/3 cup) brown rice flour, 100g almond meal, raw sugar for sprinkling. Cornflour may be substituted for rice flour.
Line two baking trays with baking paper. Preheat oven to 160C (140C fan-forced).
Mix the butter and sugar in an electric mixer until pale and creamy, being careful not to overmix. Sift together the wholemeal plain flour, brown rice flour, and almond meal, and add to the butter mixture using a wooden spoon, and then your fingers to form a soft dough.
Divide the dough into two and form into discs. If you are using a timber shortbread mould, dust the mould with rice flour and shake to remove excess. I used a 19cm diameter mould. Adjust dough portions to suit your mould. Gently press dough portion into mould, using a rolling pin and a sheet of baking paper. Remove excess dough from edges of mould. Turn mould over and slap the back to remove embossed dough.
If you are not using a shortbread mould, use a fluted tart tin, or shape the dough into a 20cm diameter circle tracing the outline of a side plate or cake tin on baking paper as a size guide and making a fluted edge with your fingers and thumb.
Mark each round into 8 wedges using a sharp knife, and prick each wedge three times with a fork. I didn't mark or prick my second batch to preserve the embossing. Sprinkle with raw sugar. Repeat with remaining dough portion. Place in your freezer for 30 minutes.
Bake in a preheated oven for 40-45 minutes, swapping the trays around half way through baking, or until golden. Cool on the trays, before wrapping as gifts, or cut into wedges to serve.