One of things I've been appreciating since Little B started school is the opportunity to bake. And by that I mean the whole idea of baking On My Own. In the pre-school days we used to regularly bake together in the afternoons, in that shortish gap between lunch and the school run. I loved and treasured those times and have some very, very happy Mum-n-Little-B baking memories, but at the same time I do love the sort of baking that I get to do now. I love the gentleness of it, the radio playing, the warmth of the oven, just me and my thoughts and something sweet about to happen. Minimal mess. Creativity.
During the past few weeks I've pretty much worked my way through my familiar baking repertoire : iced buns, oaty cookies, lemon drizzle cake, banana bread, fruity flapjacks. All things that are loved by the whole family and make super-duper after school treats, puddings and weekend snacks.
And then one damp, grey day last week I had a mad craving for shortbread, the sort of craving that sent me scurrying to the kitchen in double quick time to check the Plain Flour situation. Shortbread is so very simple to make, using just three ingredients, but in order to bake on a whim the three ingredients have to always be present in the house. Thankfully there was just enough flour, and so shortbread biscuit making commenced.
I use a very simple formula for shortbread biscuits, and the thing to remember is 1:2:3.
That's 1 part sugar, 2 parts butter and 3 parts plain flour.
So for example, if you want to make up a big batch of biscuits, you would use 60g sugar, 120g butter and 180g plain flour.
And if you wish to make a small plate of dinky little Shortbread People, you would only need half the quantity, so 30g caster sugar, 60g butter, 90g plain flour will do nicely.
The method is a breeze. Put all ingredients into a bowl and rub together with your fingertips until the whole lot comes together into a soft dough. By the way, the butter needs to be soft for this to work, so either use spreadable butter from a tub (my preference), or a lump of butter at room temperature.
Roll the dough out to 0.5cm thick. Or alternatively, work in small batches and simply use the palms of your hands to flatten out the dough (this is my preference as for some reason I really don't like using a rolling pin).
Now you will need a cookie cutter of your choice - hearts, stars or fluted circles work well, but occasionally it's rather nice to have a bit of fun with the shapes. I have the cutest little gingerbread boy cutter in my drawer, he measures just 6cm tall. I cut out the shapes and arranged them on a non stick baking sheet, then did a weeny bit of decorating before they hit the oven. Two holes for eyes (I used a small skewer for this), then some sugar sprinkles pressed gently into the tummy. I have coloured dots and red hearts in my drawer for just such an occasion.
Bake at 150 C for 20mins, they should come out crisp and very lightly golden. Sprinkle them with sugar whilst still hot then leave to cool on a wire rack.
These really hit the spot with an afternoon cuppa, although they were only a scant mouthful which kind of made me wish for a Mummy sized shortbread biscuit. But the Little People absolutely loved the Shortbread Little People when they came home from school, they really couldn't believe I'd made them all by myself. I felt a weeny bit proud of my biscuity achievments!
We had them for pudding for a few days too, eaten with a dollop of really yummy white chocolate and raspberry ice cream. The merciless decapitating and chomping of biscuity body parts caused much sniggering amongst my Little People, which was to be fully expected.
ps ooooooooooooo look, I've just found biscuit cutters to recreate a whole family, who knew?!!
pps oh my goodness, I've just had a real laugh to myself, remembering Little Man's boy biscuits from four years ago!!!!!!!!!! Snigger!!!!!!!!!!