01 May 2007

Hazelnut Shortbread

Everytime I endeavour cookies, I tend to pick those whose dough keeps well in the chiller or freezer, so that I can retrieve them for any emergencies. By keep well, I mean that they can be pre-shaped but would not require too much space in the refrigerator. Friends who have taken a peek into my refrigerator sometimes get a little (perhaps slightly understated) taken aback by how packed it is. It is probable, however, that with just some proper organisation (something I swear to get down to in my lifetime), my refrigerator can be trimmer.

Digression aside, all that means that shortbread cookies that are shaped into logs, refrigerated and sliced only before baking have a permanent place in my repertoire of recipes. Flipping through Gordon Ramsey's Just Desserts on one of those rare slow nights, I spotted a simple enough recipe for Hazelnut Shortbread. Coincidentally, I had all the necessary ingredients at the moment and started working on the dough immediately.

I shaped it into 4 logs, that I have since used up on different occasions. As after dinner souvenirs for girlfriends, as a post-lunch accompaniment to Gryphon's vanilla sencha tea, as a way to show my appreciation or care, or simply to let my mum know that I love her (Mothers' Day is coming up, and one can never start giving too early).

Buttery, crumbly, delicately thin and rich, with the amazing aroma of hazelnuts, they disappear almost as quickly as they are baked. I had already tripled the quantities, but still wish I had made a few more logs to leave behind for my family as I'll be overseas for the next week or two.

I have had friends comment that my family must feel so fortunate to have an almost loony daughter who would bake way past midnight just to destress, as they get to enjoy the foods of my labour. But I realise that I usually share these with my friends more than I do with my family, and they sometimes get a wee bit neglected.

I guess it is never too late to repent.

Hazelnut Shortbread
From Gordon Ramsey's Just Desserts
Makes about 20

200g plain flour
1/4 tsp sea salt
125g unsalted butter, softened
90g caster sugar
1 large free-range egg, beaten
50g finely ground roasted hazelnuts

Sift flour with salt.
Cream the butter and sugar together using an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.
Gradually work in the egg.
With the mixer on its slowest setting, add the flour a spoonful at a time, then the nuts.
Stop mixing as soon as the dough comes together.
Lift the dough on to a sheet of cling film.
Shape into a roll, about 4cm in diameter and wrap well.
Chill for at least 2 hours until firm.

To bake, preheat the oven to 160 degrees celcius.
Slice off rounds of dough, 5mm thick.
Place on a non-stick baking sheet and prick lightly with a fork.
Bake for about 20 minutes until very pale golden.
Leave on the baking sheet for a minute, then lift on to a wire rack.
For a classic appearance, sprinkle with sugar as they cool.

Dough keeps for up to a week in the refrigerator, or for yonks in the freezer - just let it defrost in the chiller section overnight or at least a few hours. If dough is too hard to slice cleanly, dip knife into a cup of hot water and wipe dry with the kitchen towel before slicing.

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