The internet is a wonderful thing, it enables people half way across the world to get in contact at the touch of a button. I’ve already talked about how thankful I am for my little corner of the internet, but today I’m here to tell a whole different story. A message arrived a few days ago from a mother-daughter duo, Patience Brewster, who make unique gifts, inspiring me to share a recipe that says ‘mothers day’ in my mind and if possible to discuss my mother (and grandmother) and daughter cooking story, in honour of mother’s day in the USA.
When it comes to be being surrounded by good cooks, I was blessed. My mother always kept me in awe in the kitchen with her sugarwork fruit baskets and elaborate birthday cakes that she made me each year. My grandma on my mum’s side was no cook unfortunately, but she left an even greater gift, her recipe for Christmas cake, it was the only thing she was good at making and it just happened to be the best in the world; I’ve shared that story already. Whilst I sadly never met my paternal grandparents, I was truly blessed with hands down the most amazing surrogate (long story) grandparents; the richness they bought to my childhood is immeasurable (along with the number of photos they have of me, along with stories), one (of the many) thing they bought me was a basket full of kitchen tools and cookery equipment, in honour of me starting cookery club. That was 17 years ago, when I was 7 years old and I still use most of those tools today. The first recipe I ever learnt by heart was shortbread. I’ve talked about my shortbread story before but it really is where my cookery journey started; inspired by one incredibly talented and fearless cook, my mother.
I wanted to revamp that recipe by making a variety of flavours, with a second motive of making child friendly (plain and chocolate hazelnut) versions and more grown up versions (lemon and poppy seed or orange and cranberry). It is a recipe that is simple enough to make that the kids can get messy making the dough and cutting out the shapes, the best way to nurture a love of cooking is getting kids involved young. I made one big batch of dough which I then divided into 4 separate bowls to add in the other flavours. If you’ve got many pairs of sticky fingered hands available to help, the shortbread dough mixture can be made in 4 separate bowls to prevent any arguments! You’ll need a lot of daughters,mothers and grandmothers on hand to devour this lot, along with the help of any sons, fathers and grandfathers.
Here is my cookery club cook book, from when I was aged 7, I still use it today for this very recipe.
You can tell a well loved recipe by the number of grease stains on a page, rest assured these pages have been very well loved! And finally, my recipe for a variety of shortbread; plain, chocolate & hazelnut, lemon & poppy seed and cranberry & orange:
Ingredients: (Makes ~64-68 two inch round biscuits)
- 540 g of plain flour
- 360 g of unsalted butter (the butter is the key ingredient here so it is definitely worth getting good quality butter)
- 180 g of caster sugar (I prefer golden caster sugar but either is fine)
- 50 g of hazelnuts
- 1 tbsp of good quality cocoa powder
- The zest of one orange
- 50 g of dried cranberries, chopped if particularly large
- The zest of one lemon
- 1 tbsp of poppy seeds
- Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F). Line 4 large baking trays ( I only have 2 so I cooked in batches) with grease proof or baking paper.
- Place the hazelnuts onto a baking tray, in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Remove them from the oven and place them in the centre of a clean tea towel. Pick up the edges of the tea towel and scoop up the hazelnuts so that you have them in a tight ball in the centre of the tea towel. Using your free hand, rub them around against each other to remove as many of the skins a possible. Place the hazelnuts (minus skins) into a blender or food processor and blitz until well chopped. Set them aside.
- In a large mixing bowl and using your fingers, rub the butter into the flour until you have a crumb like consistency.
- Rub the sugar into the mixture.
- Divide the mixture between 4 mixing bowls (or other large bowls that you may have), you should have approximately 270 g in each bowl.
- Start with the plain bowl, squeeze the crumbs together to form a ball of dough.
- In a different bowl, add the hazelnuts and tbsp of cocoa powder, rub together with your fingers until evenly distributed and then squeeze together to form a ball of dough.
- In the next bowl, add the orange zest and dried cranberries, once again rub together until well mixed and then squeeze into a ball of dough.
- Finally, in the last bowl, rub the lemon zest and poppy seeds into the mixture and then form a ball of dough.
- Now you should have 4 balls of differently flavoured shortbread dough. Start with the plain dough, as this will be the easiest to handle, roll out the dough until 6-7 mm thick and then cut into shapes using cookie cutters. The shape is up to you but. I would advise keeping the shape quite simple though, short dough is, unsurprisingly, short and prone to crumbling if handled roughly. In the end though, you want it to melt in the mouth when you bite into it and that’s exactly what the shortness does. Place your cookies onto your first baking tray.
- Repeat this for the rest of the doughs and then bake. I cooked mine two flavours at a time, they take 25-30 minutes to cook, depending on how crisp you like your shortbread to be.
- Once cooked (they should still look quite pale), remove them from the oven and let them cool slightly on the tray for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Share and enjoy with mums, grandmas, all family and friends.
Remember to pop over to the Patience Brewster page if you’re stuck for mother’s day gift ideas!