Portion/Yield:Makes 22–24 biscuits
This recipe is dedicated to my friends, Simon and Libby, who own a wonderful B & B called Swan Hill House in Devon.
This shortbread recipe is slightly different to traditional recipes. I love it as it’s short in texture, but the polenta gives it a bite and the orange and sumac provide the zing against the butteriness. It’s absolutely delicious! I make these biscuits to serve with desserts or simply with a cup of tea.
I made this recipe regularly at the British Larder pub, and sometimes I substituted the orange for lemon or lime, depending on what I wanted to achieve. The dough also freezes well, so I tend to make large batches of the dough, then shape it into sausages or logs and freeze them uncooked, then defrost, cut and bake the biscuits as needed.
What is sumac, you might ask? Sumac bushes grow in parts of the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Edible wild sumac produces small, deep red-purple berries that have a sharp, lemony flavour. The dried berries can be used whole, cracked or ground, and sumac is commonly used as a spice flavouring (or rub) in Middle Eastern cuisine, to add a lemony tang to food such as salads, dressings, marinades and meat dishes. In Arabic cuisine, sumac is often used to sprinkle over mezze such as hummus. In Iranian, Kurdish and Persian cuisines, sumac is commonly added to rice dishes and kebabs. Sumac is perhaps best known for its use as one of the main ingredients in za’atar spice mix.
Ingredients & Method
- 125g unsalted butter, softened
- 55g caster sugar, plus extra for rolling and sprinkling
- finely grated zest of 2 oranges
- 50g polenta (or fine/medium cornmeal)
- 100g plain flour
- 30g cornflour
- wild sumac, for sprinkling
Cream the butter, sugar and orange zest together in a bowl until pale and fluffy. Add the polenta and mix for a further 1 minute, then fold in the flour and cornflour until combined. Transfer the dough to a piece of cling film, then shape into a sausage or log, about 3cm in diameter, wrapping it in the cling film as you shape it. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
Unwrap the dough sausage or log, gently roll it in caster sugar to coat all over, keeping its original shape and thickness, then re-wrap in cling film. Refrigerate until hard, about 2 hours (see Cook’s Note).
Preheat the oven to 160°C/Gas Mark 3 and line 2 large baking sheets with non-stick baking paper. Cut the shortbread roll into 5mm-thick slices (either removing the cling film pre or post slicing). Place on the prepared baking sheets, sprinkle the top of each slice with a little more sugar, then sprinkle with sumac.
Bake in the oven for 12–15 minutes or until pale golden. Remove from the oven, leave to cool slightly on the baking sheets, then carefully transfer the shortbread rounds to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
Keep the biscuits in an airtight container in a cool, dry cupboard for up to 5 days. Serve the shortbread rounds with desserts such as crème brûlée, orange panna cotta or Mango and Orange Blossom Pudding.
The wrapped unbaked shortbread dough will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days. It can also be frozen for up to 3 months. If frozen, when required, simply defrost the dough in the fridge overnight, then slice and bake as directed above.