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Shortbread - texture and taste

Dawid's picture

Shortbread - texture and taste


On the beggining i apologise for a language, actually english isn't my native language.

Shortbread fingers was one of them, which turned out my favourite cookies i have ever eaten.

The best one was from Walkers, but also equally good was those from Hatterwood company. 

Another was unfortunatelly awful. Availability in shops in Poland is poor too.

Thats why i decided to bake them myself.

I tested a few combinations: plain flour, plain flour+corn flour (2:1), plain flour+ rice flour (2:1), butter, clarified butter, regular granulated sugar, caster sugar, powdered sugar, xylitol.

I have never changed propotions of sugar:butter:flour (1:2:3) yet.

After form a dough i paste them on the bottom of the squared form, cut into fingers and make dots by a a fork.

Then i bake it at 160 celsius degrees on 40 minutes, cool it down and cut precut before pieces.

In every combinations cookies weren't as crunchy as those bought from mentioned companies. 

1. On xylitol they had good buttery taste but texture was just like sand cake.

2. On powdered sugar and plain flour they were totally raw, underbaked despite of 40 minutes of baking.

3. On regular granulated sugar plain flour +corn flour they had crunchy surface but interior was totally soft and pwdery, additionally they had strange taste...

4. On powdered sugar, plain flour+rice flour they were more crunchy than on the case 2, but still sand cake texture.

5. Finally on caster sugar, plain flour+rice flour they were almost ok. The taste is acceptable texture more crunchy than at other cases but still it is not the same as bought one.

I also made a test: fingers from the case 4. i put on the plate and put them on 160 degrees with air circulation on 7 minutes. Then texture was exacly the same as in bought cakes. But it made something wrong with a taste. Although cakace were still pale (so no overbaked), the buttery smell has gone and taste wasnt as good as before with sligh metallic aftertaste.  

I have another claim, with such propotions cakes seems a bit too sweet, maybe should I use more salt ?

What is you experience with that cakes ? Maybe those from Walkers have nothing in common with oryginal shortbreads and they should like those which i obtained ?

therearenotenoughnoodlesintheworld's picture

Hi Dawid,

My shortbread is very close to Walkers in style and crispness (although I prefer the flavour or mine as the butter sits on the pallet in a very pleasing manner in addition to being as addictive AF).

Butter - I use Kerry Gold (salted version) as I find it has just the right amount of 'buttery' flavour.

Plain Flour - I find a low protein plain flour is essential for that crispness you are after.  I use one that is about 9% protein but has a lovely creamy flavour to it. (If you find your low protein flour creates too dry a shortbread then add a small quantity of normal 12% protein flour to the mix). 

Rice flour - commercial or grind your own, they both work.  I have ground several different rice styles and they all seem to work just as well as the commercial rice flour.

Sugar - I just use regular caster sugar (cane sugar).

Baking - I use a rofco so can't talk about more common ovens.  21min @ 150 C for shortbread rolled to 6mm think, and when I make it 10mm thick, I find it usually bakes for just under 30min. But you are right, bake it too long and both the 'Shortbread' flavour and the butteriness disappears.

Ratios.  As all flours and butters are different, I moved very quickly from 1:2:3 and ended up at 1:2.17:3.47.  It is just trial and error and the results from each bake will tell you what to adjust.

Which mixer I use actually does make a small difference to the outcome.


Dawid's picture

Thank you for the reference. There is slight different recipe in particular parameters of baking.

But i am not sure of some steps

Gently roll out to about 1/2 inch thickness, if using a cutter, cut into your designs and lay onto a greaseproof baking tray. If creating petticoats, press into a round baking tin, or fingers, press into a rectangle baking tin. Now refrigerate for about 20 minutes, this helps the biscuits to stop spreading when being baked.

 I don't understand, shoud I cut off every finger and put them separately on baking tin or only to make cutlines on dough formed in rectangle and cut it off after baking ? On youtube i saw those two methods of preparing.

Prick the shortbread with a fork and bake for about 20-25 minutes until golden brown

Wouldn't golden-brown color be a sign of overbaking ?

therearenotenoughnoodlesintheworld's picture

Hi Dawid

That is only a reference I originally started from... so not my wording.

They obviously make fancy shaped shortbread. I just make it in big slabs - bake that and divide it up into fingers. However, that does leave the shortbread fingers with cut edges, if you want clean baked edges to your shortbread then yes you would need to cut and layout individually to bake them.  Individual fingers would quadruple (at a minimum) my baking time to get through it all with no payoff in improved taste or outcome.

My process is

  • Roll to the desired thickness between sheets of baking paper
  • Lift top baking paper sheet and:
    • Prick the surface - I use an imprinting roller to dimple the surface
    • Lightly score the main long cutlines 
  • Put top baking sheet back on to cover
  • Place into the fridge for 30min or longer (covered by the sheets of baking paper)
  • Remove from fridge, place on baking tray and remove top baking paper and bake (so they are sitting on the bottom sheet of baking paper)
  • Remove from oven and while hot and still on baking paper cut the slab into fingers following the long score lines and then cut into lengths 
  • Place on cooling rack 

Yes baking to what I would normally call 'golden brown' is too long. However, if you look at their image in the blog post the main top surface is not golden brown (really only the edges are). I suspect many may undercook so it never gets that snap that is so important for the shortbread you are after.  In fact, I came across several references where people were saying they prefer to undercook it so it is soft. (personally I find ones on the softer side get gummy when you eat them and tend to stick to the throat when swallowed.)  I wouldn't be surprised if the author was cognisant that many may be coming from a world of cakes or American style softer cookies so their wording was trying to head off that issue.

Dawid's picture

Thank you for sharing your recipe.

I have never tried to fridge it before baking. No i'm gonna try in this way.

At which temperature are you baking them ? 150 ? And with fan or without ?

therearenotenoughnoodlesintheworld's picture

Baking - I use a rofco oven so can't talk about more common ovens (there is no fan in a rofco as it is a stone oven).  21min @ 150 C for shortbread rolled to 6mm think, and when I make it 10mm thick, I find it usually bakes for just under 30min. 

Dawid's picture

Maybe this also makes a difference.

Acutally the last batch i obtained has the best taste. If I achieve better texture it will be ideal.

Now im gonna form a dough, fridge it and then bake at 150 fan. I'll back here and share my results.

therearenotenoughnoodlesintheworld's picture

I suspect it does.  People talk about Rofco ovens in relation to bread baking, but its big win for home bakers is cakes and biscuits. 

Dawid's picture

I made shortbreads fallowing linked recipe. Unfortunatelly they turned out totally raw even i prolonged period of baking. 

150 degrees and 30 minutes is definitely to short period of time at least with my oven.  

But after that i divided them into fingers when they were cooled and rebaked for 15 minutes. The sign they were done was dried surface. Those one turned out brilliant - crunchy and no overbaked. 

I have two conclusions

1. It is impossible to bake it well at ordinary oven without dividing. 

2. Refrigering doesnt help, it doent prevent from melting during baking and, what even worse, it slowing baking process.

therearenotenoughnoodlesintheworld's picture

OK, your oven information is a huge surprise.  Given those times I would suspect the oven must leak like a sieve, have very weird thermostat cycling, or be wildly inaccurate.

It is what it is, so unless you are planning to get a new oven, just work with what you have. A few test bakes will give you times and temperatures.  It will just be testing which works better

  1. a higher temp to get closer to the 20min time,
  2. a longer time to keep to the 150C temp, or
  3. some where in between (slightly higher temp for a slightly longer time) 

P.S. one of the big advantage of the rofco style ovens is their large thermal mass already at consistent temp.  This means the small tray of shortbread barely affects the temp....and the oven is an even temp through out its entire volume.