Chocolate Shortbread

This modern recipe follows the ‘1, 2, 3’ rule of shortbread, that is, one part sugar to two parts butter (unsalted works best) and three parts flour, with the flour a mixture of fine plain flour and either rice flour (for texture) or cornflour (for lightness). Here cocoa powder is added to make up the flour.
As the mixture is rich in cocoa, watch it carefully as it bakes so that it doesn’t scorch. However, undercooked shortbread doesn’t taste good either, so reduce the oven temperature if it begins to turn too brown before it is fully cooked.

You will need
260g plain flour 
100g caster sugar 
40g cocoa powder 
a pinch of sea salt 
200g unsalted butter, chilled and diced 
extra sugar, for sprinkling 
a 20.5cm loose-based sandwich or round cake tin, well greased with butter

Makes about 12 pieces
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4.
To make the shortbread in a food processor, put the flour, sugar, cocoa and salt into the bowl and pulse for a few seconds, just to combine the ingredients. Add the butter and run the machine for about 30 seconds – the mixture will look like fine sand. Turn off the machine, remove the blade and tip the dough into the prepared tin.
To make the shortbread by hand, put the flour, sugar, cocoa and salt into a mixing bowl and stir well to thoroughly combine. Add the butter and rub into the dry ingredients, using the tips of your fingers. When the mixture looks like fine sandy crumbs, tip it into the prepared tin. Press the mixture into an even layer, using the back of a spoon. Prick the dough well and lightly score into 12 sections with a round-bladed knife.
Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes, until just firm.
Remove from the oven, sprinkle with sugar, and cut into sections along the marked lines with a very sharp knife. Leave to cool before removing from the tin.
Store in an airtight container.

Follow the recipe above, replacing the cocoa powder with 40g of rice flour or cornflour and adding the finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon.

Cornish Fairings

These traditional West Country biscuits were sold at country fairs (where workers were hired and livestock bought and sold) as edible souvenirs. They are flavoured with chopped candied lemon and orange peel as well as spice. The golden syrup gives them a lovely, slightly chewy texture, but measure it carefully and don’t put too much in if you want a nice cracked surface. 

You will need
100g plain flour 
1 teaspoon baking powder 
1⁄2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda 
1⁄2 teaspoon ground mixed spice 
40g caster sugar
50g unsalted butter, chilled and diced 
1 tablespoon mixed peel, finely chopped 
3 tablespoons golden syrup (flat, not rounded), gently warmed 
3 baking trays, well greased with butter

Makes about 18
Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas 5.
Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, mixed spice and sugar into a mixing bowl. Add the butter and rub into the flour mixture, using the tips of your fingers, until it looks like fine crumbs. Mix in the peel, followed by the syrup, to make a stiff dough.
Using your hands, roll the mixture into 18 marble-sized balls. Set them on the prepared baking trays, spacing them well apart to allow for spreading. Bake in the preheated oven for 7 to 8 minutes, until a rich golden brown – it’s a good idea to turn the trays round in the oven halfway through baking so the biscuits cook evenly.
Leave to cool on the trays for a minute until firm, then lift on to a wire rack and leave to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

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