I like to have snacks in a variety of textures. Squidgy snacks like glutinous rice balls and soft ones like cakes and muffins are nice, but sometimes I just want something more solid to sink my teeth into, so I thought it was time to do another batch of biscuits.
I chose the Citrus Shortbread recipe from Baking at Home with The Culinary Institute of America because of the simple list of ingredients and relatively straightforward instructions.
As usual, I tweaked the recipe:
1) Replaced 1 cup of plain flour with wholemeal flour. Today I opened a packet of Origins Health organic wholemeal flour and realised that it is much more finely-ground than the Waitrose flour which I have been using (and is also much cheaper). Some years back I decided that Waitrose was better because it kept very well whereas Origins Health wholemeal flour went stale even before the use-by date (that was before I learnt that wholemeal flours should be kept in the fridge because they can easily go rancid). However, now that I am baking so often, I should be able to use up a packet of flour fairly quickly and I now keep my wholemeal flours in the fridge.
2) Reduced the amount of sugar from 1 1/4 cups to 3/4 cup.
3) Cut down the salt from 1 teaspoon to 3/4 teaspoon (still too much, I think).
4) Replaced the grated orange zest and lemon zest with 3/4 teaspoon of citric acid (definitely too much, lemony taste very strong and left aftertaste of citric ‘bite’). For those who need to avoid salicylates, citric acid is suggested as a good Failsafe alternative to lemon juice, vinegar etc.
Here are the quantities of ingredients I used:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cornstarch
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
3/4 tsp citric acid
Start by sifting the flours and salt together.
Cream the butter ‘until light in texture and smooth’, then add the confectioner’s sugar and citric acid and continue creaming ‘until light and smooth’. And this is the step where things started to go wrong for me. I made exactly the same mistake as I did with these Double Wheat Cookies by creaming to the same consistency as for cakes – which gives a wonderfully light texture for cakes, but is not what cookies need. They do better with a shorter creaming time. Read my earlier notes on creaming here.
I continued with the next step of blending in the sifted dry ingredients with the hand mixer on low speed.
The final dough didn’t look anything close to the correct consistency of something you can roll out and cut cookie shapes from! It wasn’t solid enough at all. So I rummaged around in the kitchen cabinets for an old biscuit press (which has hardly ever been used) and pressed out some heart shapes onto the baking trays.
By this stage, I knew exactly what would happen: they would spread too much and completely lose their shape, just like the Double Wheat Cookies though the redeeming factor would be a wonderfully light and crumbly texture — which indeed how they turned out. Certainly very edible, and certainly very not shortbread!
Before baking, I also missed out the step of putting the cutout shapes into the fridge (covered) for 30 minutes. By this time I gave up following the recipe anyway :P …. besides, my large baking tray is too big to fit into the fridge.
The recipe states to bake at 175°C. bake for 20 mins. Halfway through, I rotated the baking trays around and from top to bottom shelf. However, at this point the biscuits on my black baking tray were already done, i.e. ‘bake until the edges of the shortbread are a very light gold’. And when I retrieved the other two baking trays at exactly 20 minutes, quite a few of the cookies were burnt. I should have realised that my biscuit press shapes were much smaller than the 1/4-inch high cutout shapes that the original recipe had intended! (Recipes for for biscuit press cookies say bake for 6-8 mins!)
*Sigh*, I’ll just have to continue working on my biscuit-making technique. Perhaps I need to have a close look at this page of tips for making cookies.