I don’t mean to blow my own trumpet (okay, maybe I do), but aren’t these just the prettiest little biscuits? Lemon almond shortbread, cut into stars and decorated like snowflakes! I’m not allowed to put the Christmas tree up for another week or two yet, so you better believe I’m sneaking some Christmas spirit in wherever I can… don’t be expecting anything else for the next month.
I’ll be totally honest though:
Firstly, this isn’t actually my own recipe. If you’ve been reading this blog for more than twenty minutes, you might have noticed that I’m not much of a baker. I can throw things in a pot and make dinner any day of the week without too many failures, but when I try to bake, it’s much better for everyone if I just give in and follow a recipe. So, this recipe is actually by John Torode. If you don’t know who John Torode is, he’s an Australian chef who’s also the presenter of MasterChef here in the UK. Luckily he’s also a much better baker than me, and his recipe turned out delicious!
John serves his shortbread alongside affogatto (basically espresso with ice cream in it), but instead I decided to go a bit more festive by decorating them like snowflakes!
They’re so pretty! I can’t get over the prettiness!
My second admission: I definitely didn’t decorate the whole batch of biscuits – what you see here is probably about a third of the full batch, and the rest remained entirely undecorated. Piping snowflakes onto shortbread takes a long time! After decorating about ten biscuits and getting cramp in my hand about ten times, I decided to call it a day – so if you’re planning on icing the whole batch, make sure you leave plenty of time to do it! It’s worth the effort if you’re serving these little shortbread snowflakes at a Christmas party or something – but next time I make these just for us, I probably won’t bother decorating them.
Since it’s probably not the best idea for me and my husband to get in the habit of eating entire batches of biscuits between the two of us (you know they would have been gone within a day), I thought it was a good excuse to have my parents and my parents-in-law round for dinner. Between the six of us we managed to get through about two thirds of them, leaving a few each for me and my husband for the next day. Definitely more acceptable than eating the whole lot ourselves!
I like having little dinner parties (it’s still a novelty hosting people in our new-ish house!) so I made sure I decorated the place nicely with candles, put on some ambient background music, and put out a few bowls of nuts… it’s ridiculously fun being the hostess for the night. We finished the evening with fresh coffee made in our new Tassimo machine. Tassimo are currently running a campaign called Perfect Host, and are aiming to teach the nation how to be perfect hosts this Christmas – so a dinner party was the perfect time to try it out! Do you have any hosting tips for me?
My husband (the big coffee drinker in our house) is obsessed with this coffee machine! You put in a capsule of coffee, turn it on, and your cup of steaming hot coffee pours itself. It’s as easy as instant coffee, but much better quality, and perfect for dipping a shortbread snowflake into!
- 200g plain flour (plus more for dusting)
- 90g caster sugar
- 60g ground almonds
- 200g butter, diced
- 1 vanilla pod
- 1 egg
- ½ lemon (zest only)
- White icing pen for decorating
- Mix the plain flour, caster sugar and ground almonds in a large bowl. Add the butter, and rub it in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
- Halve the vanilla pod lengthwise, and use the tip of a sharp knife to scrape the seeds out of one half. Add the seeds to the flour mixture, along with the egg and lemon zest. Mix well, and form the dough into a rough ball. Wrap the ball in cling film, and chill in the fridge for a couple of hours.
- When the dough has chilled, heat the oven to 190°C (Gas Mark 5 / 375°F).
- On a thoroughly floured surface, roll the dough out to about ½ cm thick, and cut into star shapes. Place the stars on a lined baking sheet. The biscuits shouldn't expand too much when cooking, so you don't need to leave much space in between them.
- Bake the biscuits for around 15 minutes, or until the points of the stars are just beginning to turn golden brown (keep an eye on them because they'll cook quite quickly).
- When the shortbread has cooled, use an icing pen to carefully pipe on the snowflake decoration.