When the term ‘vanilla version’ is used in general, it means the simplest, least complicated version of what we are talking about. Thus, vanilla ice cream is considered to be the simplest flavour of all.
However, when it comes to shortbread, the ‘vanilla version’ has no actual vanilla in it. Thus, the key ingredients for the typical shortbread made in Australia for Christmas will be just butter, plain flour and caster sugar, and sometimes rice flour.
This recipe, using vanilla bean sugar, is an adaptation of a Donna Hay recipe for simple shortbread using a food processor.
Her recipe uses normal caster sugar, however, here I have replaced it with vanilla bean sugar made from leftover whole vanilla beans (see method below). Her recipe uses a cup of corn flour, however, I have replaced that with ½ cup each of corn flour and rice flour. The end result is a shortbread with a light, ‘fluffy’ texture rather than a chewy biscuity one. The vanilla bean sugar, if you use it, provides a little bit of extra texture. (The first photo below is the cooked version, still in the tin, while the second one is the uncooked mixture, scored and ready for baking.)
- 1 ½ cups plain flour
- ½ cup corn flour
- ½ cup rice flour
- ¾ cup vanilla bean caster sugar
- 180g butter, chopped into cubes
- 1 egg
Line a 30 cm by 20 cm biscuit tin with baking paper. When ready to cook, have the oven heated to 150oC.
Add the flours to the food processor and pulse a few times to aerate them. Add the sugar and pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and process until crumb like. Add the whole egg and process until it is just massing and forming into a ball.
Press the dough into the lined tin. Score the top as required. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until very lightly browned. Cool in the tin. Break into biscuits and store in an airtight container.
Degree of difficulty: 2/5 (Not difficult)
Vanilla bean sugar
You might have come across recipes that use the seeds from a vanilla pod, but leave you with the remains of the bean shell. For example, the bean is sliced open and the seeds scraped into a dessert. Sometimes the vanilla bean shell is added to milk or cream to infuse, and then taken out. Don’t discard the bean shells. Any that have been used for infusing, wash and pat dry, drying further in the open air. Store left over bean shells for a few weeks in the fridge in cling wrap, or freeze them. You can reuse the bean shells in various ways, for example, in a soup, in risotto or to make a custard. One use is to make vanilla sugar. An old fashioned method is to bury one or more shells in a jar of caster sugar to infuse and then removing them after a few weeks. Another is to chop one or more beans then add to a caster sugar, then blend or blitz until the bean is finely chopped. (Trim off the tough pointy ends. Use a stick blender, food processor or a normal blender. The sugar should have fine pieces of vanilla bean shell through it.) Allow one or two shells per cup of sugar; you can use whole beans with the seeds still inside. Whichever method you use, store in an airtight jar until required.