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Wednesday 28 November 2012

Baking for Beginners: Winter Spice & Whisky Brittle Shortbread

It's St. Andrew's Day on Friday! My tartan heart will be bursting with love for my home country, and my tartan tummy will be filled with this winter-spiced shortbread. I do enjoy a St. Andy's celebration - it's close enough to Christmas that we can make things a bit really festive (plus all the whisky is on special offer in the supermarket), but it's far enough away from C-Day to be a welcome excuse to punctuate our shopping/planning/wondering where to source an ethical no-drop, Scandinavian-grown, perfectly symmetrical tree madness.

Shortbread is, obviously, the food of the gods. I will hear nothing to the contrary. Usually, I'm a traditionalist - one part sugar, two parts butter, three parts flour, a pinch of salt at a push. And while that does always give me an easy, delicious biscuit, I wanted to create something a bit more special this time around. So not only did I add a hefty sprinkling of warming spices to the mix, but I experimented with a whisky-tinged brittle topping. Just call me Heston.

Winter Spice & Whisky Brittle Shortbread (makes 8 petticoat tails)

You'll need:

For the shortbread
  • 130g room temperature unsalted butter
  • 130g plain flour
  • 40g semolina 
  • 55g golden caster sugar (normal caster sugar is fine; I ain't the sugar police)
  • A pinch of salt
  • 2 tsp ground mixed spice
  • ½ tsp ground ginger (optional, because it's already in the mixed spice - I just love ginger)
For the brittle topping
  • 100g granulated sugar
  • 85ml whisky (nothing fancy)
Make it!
  1. Preheat the oven to 150°/300°F/Gas Mark 2.
  2. Beat the butter until soft. Add the caster sugar and salt and beat again.
  3. Chuck in the flour, semolina, and spices, and mix until you have a smooth dough. You can pop in an extra knob of butter if it's looking bitty. 
  4. With floured hands (preferably your own), roll the dough into a ball. If you're using a proper stoneware shortbread mould, dust it with flour and press your ball of dough evenly into it from centre to edges. If you're baking individual biscuits, pat the mixture to about 1cm thick, then cut out your shortbread shapes. Transfer them to a parchment-lined baking tray.
  5. Put your prepared dough into the fridge for 15-30 minutes. 
  6. Bake in the centre of the oven for 1 hour. The shortbread should still be pale in colour after this time. It will feel squidgy on top - don't worry, it firms up as it cools (and do let it cool for a goodly long while before turning out/handling the biscuits, please).
  7. Once the shortbread has cooled, remove it from the mould if you're using one, and start preparing the brittle. Heat the sugar and whisky in a saucepan until it's amber-coloured and at the hard-crack stage. This should take about ten minutes at a boil - drop a little in cold water and it will form hard, brittle threads (if you have a sugar thermometer, it should read 150°C/300°F when it's reached the right stage). You don't need me to tell you not to arse about with boiling syrup, but my poor, blistered finger wishes I'd given myself a strict talking-to before sticking it straight into the pan. My tongue wishes the same. NO I DIDN'T STICK MY TONGUE STRAIGHT INTO THE PAN. Jeezo. I'm not an animal. I was doing a taste-test. Prematurely, I quickly discovered. 
  8. Immediately pour the sugar syrup over the shortbread to form a glossy layer. To get my two-tone effect, I simply pooled some syrup towards the centre of my large, octagonal piece of shortbread, let it cool a little, and then poured another layer across the top. TA-DA - an ombré biscuit! If you're slicing a large biscuit, you should do this soon after you've poured your syrup to avoid cracking the brittle once it's cooled.
  9. Leave the brittle to harden atop the shortbread, overnight if you have a lot of self-control, and decorate if you so desire. Just brush the top of the shortbread with a pastry brush dipped in whisky to revive the stickiness of the brittle. I went for some festive sparkle on mine - thank your lucky stars I didn't attempt to fulfil my first whim, which was to make a tartan-effect brittle. That would have been a bloody mess (Possibly real blood. Mine).
  10. Enjoy with a wee dram or two, and toast Scotland's brilliant biscuits. 


  1. Whisky? Brittle? Shortbread? YES! Gorgeous picture too, yummy.

  2. Laura, shortbread travels absolutely fine in the post. Come on now.

  3. Hello DS, I have only recently found this blog and I shall be attempting these beasties tonight! Thank you!


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