Sunday, 4 March 2012

gluten free lemon shortbread

Every Summer in Bristol there is an organic food festival at the Harbourside. I had always wanted to go this festival, but often missed it during my student days, because it was during the Summer vacation. When I eventually managed to go in 2008, I had a big old cold, so couldn't taste a thing, meaning all of the hundreds of free food samples were wasted on me. 

The following year, I attended the food festival again, this time with John in tow. We watched a cookery demonstration by Bordeaux Quay, and I got the idea that it might be fun to attend their dinner date demonstration workshop. So, I bought it as a present for John that Christmas. We had a lot of fun on that 'date', along with 14 other couples, and went home with a few new recipes in our pockets. I felt like I was stealing valuable foodie information by taking their recipes - I didn't think restaurants tended to be that free & easy about sharing their culinary secrets. 

Ever since that date, the Bordeaux Quay recipe secrets have been tucked away in my recipe file, waiting patiently to be remembered. After seeing a bag of lemons for some brilliantly cheap price that would have been rude to refuse, I knew it was time to make the Bordeaux Quay shortbread.

The coupling of lemon and vanilla pod in this recipe is a brilliant one. Baking with real vanilla pods feels oh so extravagant but completely brilliant. They tend to cost a fortune, but John found a good deal online and popped a packet in my Christmas stocking last year. The pods have also waited patiently for me to be bold enough to bake something that is worthy of their speckly beauty and pure flavour, and the Spring-time sunshine this weekend heralded just such a worthy occasion.

Lemon Shortbread (yields approx. 10 rounds)

115g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
55g caster sugar
20g cornflour 
90g rice flour
zest of 1 lemon
1 vanilla pod / 1 tsp vanilla extract

1) Beat together the butter and sugar with your weapon of choice - if you want to build some muscle, use a wooden spoon; if you like to do other jobs while baking (like taking photos of vanilla pods), use a freestanding mixer.
2) Stir in the flour(s), zest and vanilla pod or extract until you have a smooth paste.

3) Lightly flour your working surface then turn the shortbread paste out onto your surface and roll to 1cm thick. (Requires minimal rolling - in spite of being gentle, I ended up re-rolling 3 times as I kept making it too thin.)

4) Cut into your shape of choice - rounds, fingers, hearts, happy faces, whatever you fancy.

5) Place your shortbread shapes onto a greased baking sheet and chill for 20 minutes. 
6) Preheat your oven to 170C / Gas mark 4 / 340F when you put the dough in the fridge.

Then make yourself a cup of coffee / do the washing up / have a shower if it is embarrassingly late on a Saturday morning and you are still in your pyjamas / go for a 20 minute run while your shortbread hangs out in the fridge.

7) Bake for 15 - 20 minutes, or until pale golden brown. Leave to cool on a wire rack then enjoy the lemony buttery goodness that you have just created.

Baking Notes:
The original recipe wasn't gluten free, so if you wanted to put regular flour in them, just use 110g plain flour. 
If you don't have vanilla pods, vanilla extract will do just fine too (1 tsp).
The shortbread spread out a little more than I was expecting while baking - this could be due to using gluten free flour, or not chilling the dough long enough...I'm not sure, but it didn't matter. 
Their texture is wonderfully light with just the right amount of crumble.

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