Citrus shortbread

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.

Citrus shortbread

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.


7 Responses

  1. hi,
    have been going thru ur blog for sometime.i find ur recipes are healthy and palatable.Great going.
    One q:) can i use wheat flour for this recipe (we indians use wheat flour for rotis or chapatis…hope u have heard ).how different it is from wholemeal flour.please clarify..dear

  2. Hi Rashmi,

    Thanks for your kind comments!

    The wholemeal flour I use is made from wheat, and is the wholegrain version of the all-purpose wheat flour typically used in baking.

    Atta flour for chapatis is also wholegrain wheat flour. However, I’m not sure to what extent atta flour differs from the kind of all-purpose wholemeal wheat flour I’m using here.

    Flours from wheat, whether white or wholemeal, can differ in the amount of gluten (bread requires high percentage of gluten and cakes need a low percentage), as well as how the flour is milled (some are more fine and some are more coarse). You’ve probably already read my other postings discussing flour:

    BTW, would you be able to share some chapati-making tips with me? A couple of years ago, I tried out some recipes on the internet but my chapatis came out rather hard. Thanks very much!

  3. thanks for ur prompt reply and clearing my doubt .i am newbie baker and moreover i wanna try more veganized baking – no eggs no milk so lots of q:)
    do visit – for lots of tips of making very good chapatis.Good luck…
    One more thing i loveeee ur blog – so very informative

  4. Thanks for the tip about — what a great website! I love Indian food but have had to avoid it in the last several months because spices are high in salicylates and may trigger a reaction in me :(.

    I’m really glad you find my postings informative. I’m also just learning how to do things and gathering information on topics I want to know more about, so these are notes from the learning process rather than expert knowledge.

    Good luck with your vegan baking! Maybe you start your own blog to share your learning experiences too :).

  5. […] [Update 18/12/07: I’ve now decided to use Origins Healthcare organic wholemeal flour as it seems to be more finely-ground than Waitrose wholemeal flour, and is also cheaper. It’s easily available at NTUC supermarkets as well. See my other comments on flour here.] […]

  6. oh wow!!

    thanks niceties! because of you i’ve found a great site for indian food! i’m also a big fan of indian food, especially chapatis and naans and puri!!

    are chapatis the same as tortilla?? i made some spelt tortillas and my hubby said they were chapatis!!?

  7. Hi CP,

    I don’t know if technically tortillas are exactly the same as chapatis but yes! one time I made chapatis was to go with my homemade version of refried beans after watching my American friends eating tortillas (from out of a supermarket packet) and refried beans (out of a tin) :).

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