Traditional shortbread should be light, crumbly and melt in the mouth and the only real way to achieve this is to use butter. Shortbread is not light on calories, but then it is not intended to be eaten in great quantities and is lovely as a special treat. Obviously this is not possible if you are dairy intollerant where an alternative fat can be used.
The following is a shortbread baked in a Scottish Thistle mould (available from www.lakeland.co.uk) which looks lovely on a buffet table. If you do not have a mold then a greased 8″ square shallow cake tin can be used, or alternatively the dough can be rolled out and cutters used to make individual biscuits.
You will need:
150g (5oz) butter (at room temperature)
100g (4oz) caster sugar
275g (10oz) plain flour (sifted)
Half teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
Caster sugar for sprinkling
Set oven to 180 deg C, 350 deg F or gas mark 4
Cream the butter and sugar together until very soft and creamy. Add the vanilla extract (if using). Stir the flour into the creamed mixture until it is a firm dough.
If using the mould, using a pastry brush, gently brush the inside of the mould with flour. Press the dough into the mould or cake tin and smooth the surface with a flat bladed knife. If using a cake tin, mark the shortbread into slices or squares before cooking.
Bake in the centre of the oven for 35 to 40 minutes. The shortbread should be golden in colour, not brown.
When cooked, take out of the oven and sprinkle with the caster sugar and leave to cool completely before turning out of the moud. Cut the shortbread in the cake tin while still warm, but leave in tin until cold.