Sweet Caraway Shortbread Cookies

May 15, 2015

When my little brother was a baby, my mum used to use caraway gripe water to settle him when he was collicky. She may well have used it when i was tiny as well but I can't remember that far back!

It wasn't until Charlie and I moved in together and he cooked me one of his mum-taught recipes (she prepped him well with a solid repertoire of classic recipes!), steaming carrots with butter and caraway seeds, that the smell of them hit me and I was instantly two years old again.

Memories of sitting in our kitchen in Oxford, me with my toes no where near touching the floor, and my little bro grizzling and crawling about on the tiled floor, suddenly came flooding in, so vivid and yet clearly having not been up at the from of my mind for nearly twenty years. It's amazing how evocative fragrances can be!

 Shortbread is one of the simplest cookie (or biscuit as we Brits say) recipes. Its a failsafe ratio of white sugar, butter and flour: 1 part sugar: 2 parts butter: 3 parts flour.

They need to be cooked on a low heat, slowly so that they don't colour too deeply and keep their light, buttery, sweet flavour.

I always use salted butter when I bake. This will make patisserie chefs and bakers gasp in horror that I don't do my own seasoning to unsalted butter. We all know that salt exaggerates the tastes with a dish, even more so with sweet dishes, taking them to a more complex and sophisticated level.

I find that the amount of salt in ready salted butter is always better than my attempts at seasoning my own. For the untrained baker and home cook, salted butter is a simple way to add that extra level of flavour to sweet dishes.

These cookies have cracked caraway seeds in the dough, and are topped with a ground caraway sugar to give them a fragrant, botanical taste that's distinctive and unique.

Ingredients: Makes 12 2 3/4 inch/7cm round cookies

1/2 cup white granulated sugar plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling on top
1 cup salted butter
1 1/2 all purpose or plain flour
3 tablespoons of caraway seeds (2 for the dough, 1 for the sugar topping)


Place 2 tablespoons of caraway seeds into a grinder, pestle and mortar or fine bladed food processor, and whizz them until they've all been cracked. Unless you have something super dooper like a Vitamix you'll probably still have a lot of seeds still near their full size. As long as they've all had a good blitz and you have some chopped, cracked and powdered caraway you'll be fab.

Use very cold butter to make the dough. if you can try and cool down your hands as well by rinsing them in cold water (make sure to dry them well!) it will help to retain a lovely crumbly texture of the finished shortbread.

Add the flour, sugar and caraway in to a large bowl. Chop the butter in to the dry ingredients, or to make things super quick, you can grate very cold butter into the bowl. Rub the butter into the sugary flour until you have a wet sand consistency.

"When adding butter to dry ingredients, make things super quick by grating very cold butter"

To bring everything together into a dough, sprinkle in a little cold water. You'll only need a very small amount, use a teaspoon at a time so you don't end up with a sticky mess.

Dump the dough out onto a floured surface and roll out to about 1/4 inch/1cm thick. Be sure to use enough flour so the dough doesn't stick, and don't overwork the dough other wise you'll end up with a chewy, tough biscuit instead of a light crumbly one.

Cut out your biscuits, I used a 2 3/4 inch/7cm round cutter but you can use any size or shape you want, or just cut them freehand. Place on a baking sheet covered with parchment.

Bake for 30-35 minutes at 350f/175c, you don't want them to colour too deeply as it will make them a bit too bitter and have more of a snap than a crumble to their texture.

Whilst the biscuits are baking, blitz two tablespoons of sugar with one tablespoon of caraway seeds to make the sugar to sprinkle on top of the cooked biscuits.

When the biscuits are beginning to turn golden on the edges, remove them from the oven. They will still be a little soft but will firm up as they cool. When they are hard enough, remove from the tray and pop onto a wire rack, then sprinkle with the sugar whilst they are still warm. 

Allow to cool completely before enjoying their crumbly, butter sweetness!

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