When I was growing up, papa would make these so often. As a kid, I loved them, but as I approached teenage years, I didn’t, simply because I was trying to watch my weight.
My dad was a pastry chef, and he was taught baking by the British when Singapore was a British colony. He baked wonderful stuff, and this was what he used to make the most often. He influenced my baking the most. I would sit in front of the TV with his Kenwood bowl, a butter knife, some flour and some butter, rubbing in away. And then, I sat in front of the gas oven and waited anxiously for my bakes to finish. I started baking since 10 because of my father.
The best memories was competing against him making these short breads. We had run out of butter and I was crying because the shops were already closed. He told me I could make short breads with cooking oil, and challenged me to it. He wanted me to think out of the box.
He baked a batch, and so did I. Mine failed, his tasted like real shortbread.
My dad was a culinary genius. I still have not figured what he did, but nowhere else on earth have I heard of people making short breads that taste like short bread with Chinese cooking oil.
He passed on 20 years ago. I have never stopped missing him.
Yesterday, I saw a photo of shortbread and there were discussions. After which, I remember how my dad used to make these and thought I’d make a tray like he would.
To make make good short breads, the butter must be aromatic. To get to that, of course there must be sufficient good quality butter. The more fragrant the butter, the less you will need.
How much butter? There are many theories to this, the most common ratio being Sugar : Butter : Flour = 1 : 2 : 3. However, during my teenage years, I experimented and managed to do 1: 2 : 1.5. Very ambitious and it was successful.
The recipe I share will be 1 : 2 :2, with a split of flour into plain and corn or rice. If you like that ‘grainy’ taste of typical short bread, then use the rice flour. If you like ‘smooth smooth’ stuff, then use corn flour. Generally, people who grow up knowing and eating short breads like the rice flour better, while people who are used to Asian bakes like the corn flour better.
140g Butter (the best you can get, room temperature)
70g Caster Sugar
100g Plain Flour
60g Rice Flour or Corn Starch
1/2 tsp Lemon Peel
- Preheat oven to 150C.
- Cream butter and sugar until it looks like sand, don't overdo it.
- Place the flours and lemon peel and stir until mixed, don't overstir.
- Spread the dough into a square pan measuring 12 cm by 12 cm.
- Poke holes to allow steam to release.
- Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes before baking at a mid to high rack in the oven.
- Bake for 20 minutes. If you notice the cookies have no 'color' with 5 minutes left to baking, increase the temperature to 160C.
- The cookies are aromatic if they are baked enough, you know this if you see the bottom of the cookies caught on some 'color' and not just look the same colour as before it is baked.
- Cool for 5 minutes before cutting into 1.5cm by 3cm, or whatever size you like!