In the past, I have always steered clear of very buttery biscuits. I didn’t like the taste and the crumb you get when you first take a bite: too much butter, not enough chocolate. Even now, I have breakfast the exact same way I used to when home in Italy, with milk and (chocolate) biscuits. However, little by little, I have come to appreciate a good buttery shortbread, as long as I can find someone willing to eat them all if I ever make some! These are delicious, crumbly and, to be technical, very ‘short’. The recipe uses the same amount of flour and butter and makes up the difference with icing sugar and cornflour. They also have a very strong vanilla scent, which I found perfectly marries the filling.
On that note, this recipe comes from the first GBBO book and was made on the show in 2011 by Mary-Anne Boermans. She called the unusual filling a ‘Depression Era buttercream’, thus referring to the fact it is mostly made of milk and flour cooked on a stove and a little bit of butter and sugar added retrospectively. The recipe comes from a time when butter was in shortage and you really needed to make the little you had go further. You can read further insights directly on Mary-Anne’s blog. Mary’s decorative idea, that is painting the inside of the piping bag with gel food colouring, is a very creative one. I have seen it done to meringues and this way the piping provides some lightly coloured shells which are more original and enticing.
Ingredients (for the biscuits)
- 250g unsalted butter, softened
- 60g icing sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 250g plain flour
- 60g cornflour
- gel food colouring
Ingredients (for the buttercream)
- 125ml full-fat milk
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- 125g caster sugar
- 125g unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp redcurrant jelly (the original recipe stated raspberry jam)
- In the bowl of a freestanding mixer, combine the butter and the icing sugar, then beat until pale and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract, then beat for a few seconds. In a bowl, combine the flour and the cornflour, then sieve the mixture into the bowl and mix until smooth.
- Using gel food colouring, paint a straight line on the inside of your piping bag, then insert a star shaped nozzle at the end. Spoon the biscuit mixture inside the bag.
- Pipe the mixture into approximately 32 swirls on baking trays lined with parchment, then chill in the fridge or the freezer for at least 30 minutes.
- In the meantime, prepare the filling. Heat the milk and flour in a pan, whisking constantly to avoid lumps, until the mixture boils and thickens. In my experience, this happens quite suddenly, so make sure you are whisking the mixture. Transfer to a shallow plate, cover tightly with clingfilm and leave to cool completely.
- Beat the butter and the sugar together in a freestanding mixer until pale and fluffy, then add the vanilla extract and the flour and milk mixture and beat on high speed for a good 5 minutes, until light, creamy and almost white. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a star-shaped nozzle.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
- Bake the biscuits for 12 minutes, until they are slightly golden on the top, then set aside to cool completely.
- Once cold, pipe a circle of buttercream on half of them, then fill the circle with the jam and sandwich with another biscuit to seal the filling inside.
- If you want to, you can serve them lightly dusted in icing sugar.