Post updated Feb 13th 2020 (new photos)
Rich, buttery biscuits topped with a very firm royal icing are always a joy to eat. While I have made these heart-shaped with simple heart icing embellishments, these are great made into any shape for eating at any time of the year: with or without the icing!
The shortbread is very buttery and crisp with a hint of lemon zest; the royal icing sets very firm and is packed with lemon sharpness with a touch of honey coming through. For these I made an instant royal icing, using the royal icing powder for speed: ideal for these!
Semolina and cornflour?
I often add a little of both semolina and cornflour to shortbreads: the slight crunch the semolina adds is quite wonderful and the cornflour gives an even shorter, melt-in-the-mouth texture. You can, however, omit these completely and use just 140g plain flour.
Ratios of ingredients for perfect shortbread
While the proportion of each ingredient varies from recipe to recipe, I go for the following:
- 4 parts flour (including any cornflour and/or semolina used)
- 3 parts butter
- 2 parts sugar
You can make up the dough by creaming the butter and sugar together first, before adding the flour and other ingredients, but I go for the rubbing in method which always works very well.
Flavours in the icing
I use raspberry purée to colour and flavour the icing for the icing hearts but you can instead use red food colouring. However, I like the very subtle raspberry tang you get.
You can, of course, just pipe or drop dots on top without making them heart-shaped. Or even have the biscuits just with the white lemon and honey royal icing.
Lemon & honey Valentine shortbreads: makes about 20
- 90g plain flour
- 20g fine semolina
- 30g cornflour
- 70g caster sugar
- 105g unsalted butter, softened
- finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- 150g royal icing sugar
- 1 teaspoon runny honey
- lemon juice to mix
- raspberry purée
(1) Mix the flour, cornflour, semolina, salt, sugar and lemon zest together. Rub in the butter until well incorporated and bring together to give a soft and smooth dough: don’t over-work or the dough will become oily and the biscuits will be tough. You can chill the dough at this stage for about 30 minutes if it feels too soft.
(2) Roll out the dough to about 5mm thickness: this is easiest rolling it out between 2 sheets of greaseproof paper. Cut out circles or heart shapes and place on a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper. Gently re-roll the trimmings to get more biscuits.
(3) Prick all over with a fork and chill for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 150C (fan). Bake for about 15 minutes: you don’t want to over-cook them and they should only have taken on a little bit of colour.
(4) Cool on the baking trays for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack until completely cool. They will crisp up as they cool.
(5) For the icing, mix the honey and about two thirds of the icing sugar together. Add enough lemon juice to give a fairly thick icing: it should drop slowly but surely off a spoon rather than pour.
(6) Take the rest of the icing sugar and add raspberry purée to it to give an icing that is the same consistency as the lemon and honey icing.
(7) Spoon a little of the lemon and honey icing on the top of the biscuits and spread out almost to the edge: if you go right to the edge it will drip over. You can run a clean finger along the edge of the biscuits to neaten up any drips. NB: you can instead pipe a thin border around the edge of the biscuits and leave the border to set before spooning in the rest of the icing – that way, the icing will not be able to drip down the sides.
(8) Doing one biscuit at a time, pipe or drop a few small dots of the raspberry icing over the lemon and honey icing. Starting a little above each dot, run a cocktail stick down through the centre and a little through the bottom of each dot to form a heart shape. NB: it might be worth practising on the work surface with a little of the icing first.
(9) Leave the set fully (at least overnight ideally). Store in an airtight container.