I began this week badly, with a roaring hangover, a hangover-induced shame spiral, and eight days until my exams start. Gently rocking on the sofa, trying to remember the proportions needed for a soufflé chaud and not remember my less than decorous behaviour the night before was a tall order.
Why do we do it to ourselves? Or maybe you don’t. Maybe it’s just me who has their finger hovering over the self-destruct button at inopportune moments, ready to derail their best laid plans. But on the off chance it’s not, here’s some restorative shortbread for times when you need the comfort of homebaked goods, but proper drawn out baking is enough to make you reach for a two litre bottle of diet coke and an extra duvet.
This is not the first time I’ve written about shortbread (you can find my earl grey shortbread here and my honey and sea salt shortbread here.). I have a deep abiding fondness for the biscuit, and I think it tends to gets a tough time to be honest. Faced with the prospect of shortbread, we think of those fat, supermarket fingers, hard and flavourless (and always, strangely, cold) and plump for pretty much anything else on offer. I like my shortbread thinner than that, in broad triangles, the sweet, tender crumbs held together only by hope and butter until it reaches your mouth. Proper shortbread done right should make other biscuits quake.
But more importantly in situations such as these, it is incredibly easy. The ingredients are rubbed together or blitzed in a food processor, the work of moments, then pushed into a dish, which in turn is pushed into the oven. It’s literally that simple.
This, as with many of my most comforting dishes utilises burnt butter, and it works really well here, bringing out the best of the ground hazelnuts. But truly, if you are hungover or sad or tired, you can forgo the burning of the butter, and make the biscuit with normal butter. You have my hungover permission.
It goes like this:
Makes: 8 triangles of petticoat shortbread
Takes: 10 minutes, plus chilling
Bakes: 25 minutes
70g caster sugar, plus an extra tablespoon for sprinkling
150g salted butter
90g plain flour
50g rice flour
1. First, burn your butter. Place the butter in a medium-sized saucepan, and place over a medium heat. The butter will melt, then foam up, and as the foam subsides, the leftover liquid will be nut brown. Pour into a heat-proof container and chill until cold and firm.
2. Pulse the hazelnuts in a food processor: be careful while doing this, too much chopping or for too long and the hazelnuts will turn into an oily sludge.
3. Whizz the butter, flours, sugar and ground hazelnuts together briefly until the mix looks like breadcrumbs.
4. Pour the crumbs into your tin or mould, and press until compacted. I like to use a tart plate, like the sort I’d make quiche in, because it gives lovely fluted edges. If it doesn’t have a removable base, pop a round of baking paper on the bottom with edges to help you lift it out. Chill for fifteen minutes.
5. Preheat the oven to 150°C. Sprinkle the shortbread with caster sugar, and bake for 25 minutes. When the shortbread comes out of the oven, immediately, but carefully, slice into eight wedges using a sharp knife. Allow to cool completely.
6. Ta dah!
Icing on the Cake
I ate this, triangle by triangle, feeling sorry for myself and, slowly, began to feel a little better.