- 250g (8oz) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
- 125g (4oz) caster sugar
- 240g (7½oz) plain flour
- Heat the oven to 150°C (gas mark 2).
- Line 2 oven trays with baking paper. Beat the butter in a bowl with a wooden spoon until soft and smooth.
- Add the sugar and plain flour, and work the mixture with the spoon until blended. Knead the dough lightly on a floured surface to form a firm dough. Chill for 20 minutes.
- Divide the dough into two portions and roll our each between 2 sheets of baking paper to a thickness of 5-7mm (¼in).
- Cut the dough into desired shapes. Place onto the oven trays and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until pale and dry. Makes 20-25 biscuits. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
- BROWN SUGAR AND SPICE: Replace the caster sugar with unprocessed soft brown sugar and add 1tsp ground sugar and ground cinnamon and the grated rind of half an orange. Drizzle finished biscuits with a little simple icing (see below). SIMPLE ICING: Sift 150g (5oz) icing sugar into a mixing bowl, add 2tbsp warm water (and any colouring required) and beat with a wooden spoon until combined. Add extra water if needed to make the icing spreadable.
- LEMON AND ALMOND CREAMS: Add the grated rind of 1 lemon and 50g (1¾oz) slivered almonds to the basic mixture. Sandwich the biscuits together with the simple icing, adding 1tbsp soft butter and replacing the water with lemon juice.
- CHRISTMAS TREE BISCUITS: Cut the biscuit into tree shapes using a large cutter and place on a lined baking sheet. Make a couple of small circles in the biscuits and remove the dough. Fill the holes with crushed red or green boiled sweets. Bake as above, allowing the biscuits to cool on the baking sheet before removing.
- COFFEE HAZELNUT BISCUIT: Reduce the amount of flour to 200g (6½oz) and add 50g (1¾oz) ground hazelnuts and 2tbsp instant coffee powder. Bake as above, allowing the biscuit to cool on the baking sheet before removing. When cool, melt 100g (3½oz) dark chocolate and drizzle over the biscuits.
Here is a simple shortbread recipe that does the job of many. With this effortless biscuit dough you can make a whole variety of different flavours and shapes with a few simple additions. One buttery dough can quickly take on another personality - tempting drizzles of chocolate, crunchy bits of almond and aromatic spices are all good flavours to transform these biscuits. Once made, you can also roll the dough into a log 5cm in diameter, wrap it in plastic and chill until required. Then just slice off thin rounds and bake them. Keep an eye out at good kitchenware shops for festive-shape biscuit cutters.