Deliciously melting shortbread biscuits with a satisfying crunch, decorated with funny faces. A fantastic fun and simple recipe to make with children, and a great way to make some money for Comic Relief!
Hands up who’s been watching The Great Comic Relief Bake Off? I’ve been loving the Bake Off being back on our screens, giggling my way through the baking disasters and the hilarious celebrity bakers. This is the first time i’ve actually been in the country for any Bake Off series and I’m really enjoying actually watching it with the rest of the country, following the twitter chat that goes along with it.
I loved the first week, with Joanna Lumley’s eternally smooth, soothing voice, and Dame Edna showing us how we really shouldn’t prepare our cake tins! Week two inspired with marble cakes and cupcakes, and some serious competitive spirit from Gok Wan. Last week’s contestants battled with shortbread, with some rather mixed results. Michael’s shortbread dragons proved to us baking isn’t always about perfect looks as long as the taste is there. I’m really looking forward to the next episode on Wednesday night.
Now Comic Relief is a notion that might be a little lost on you if you’re reading this from outside the UK, but its an institution here in England. Every two years Red Nose Day, raises money for Comic Relief, a charity that supports good causes across the UK, Africa and the wider world, helping those who lead difficult lives. The day itself is a day to do silly, funny things for money. Think running long distances in daft costumes, and having baths in cold baked beans.
I remember Red Nose Days over the years growing up. Usually they’d involve a mufti day. Bring in a pound to school and wear your own clothes all day. Bonus points for wearing something red. Days of indecision would go into the outfit choice, the one chance that year to show off your very best clothes, to throw off the burgundy cardigans and grey skirts and show off your favourite (and probably highly questionable) take on style. Plastic noses were bought and worn. Earlier noses were hard moulded plastic that pinched and left marks on your nose, elastic had to be tied to the side to keep them on. Later noses changed every time, a special nose for each year. Who remembers the fluffy nose, the year of the tomato, or the nose that blew raspberries with its tongue when you squeezed it?
This year Comic Relief is asking us to make our faces funny for money. These funny face shortbread biscuits are really simple to make, and so much fun to decorate. If you’re hosting a bake sale to raise money they’d be a great recipe to bake and will have the pennies and pounds rolling in. They’re a perfect recipe for baking with children too. A chance to explore their creativity and get messy in the kitchen.
The recipe is a Paul Hollywood shortbread recipe. Its very easy to make, and only needs four ingredients. If you want to make the biscuits chocolate, add a few teaspoons of cocoa powder with the flour. The recipes needs you to get your hands in to bring it together, squishing the dough with your fingers. Children will enjoy pushing the cookie cutter into the rolled out dough, it doesn’t matter at all if they don’t turn out quite round, or quite an even thickness.
Now the real fun starts. Time to decorate the biscuits however you like. I’ve used a simple glacé icing, made with water, left white or coloured with pink gel colouring. If you’d rather you could melt a little bit of chocolate and spoon that on instead. You can use anything you like to make the faces; sprinkles, sweeties, dolly mixtures, gummy sweets, chocolate beans, chocolate chips, almonds, raisins, malteasers. Older children can experiment with piping bags or, even easier, writing icing pens. For younger children spread a thin layer of icing over the biscuits and let them go wild with the decorations. Just don’t forget that all important glacé cherry red nose!
Will you be having a bake sale for Comic Relief this year?
Who has been your favourite contestant so far on the Comic Relief Bake Off?
– the key element in this recipe is not to overwork the dough. Stop handling the dough as soon as it comes together in a ball. When rolling the dough out, don’t re-roll the dough too many times. I try not to do it more than twice. Of course if you’re baking the biscuits with children it really doesn’t matter too much though!
– the semolina gives a lovely crunch to the shortbread. If you don’t have it to hand, or would prefer a smoother biscuit, substitute it for cornflour.
– if you’re worried about decorating with too much sugar, you could use healthier alternatives such as nuts, raisins, dried strawberries, dried cherries and lots of other dried fruit.
- 225g unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 100g caster sugar
- 225g plain flour
- 100g fine semolina
- icing sugar
- sweet, nuts, sprinkles etc for decorating
- In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until soft and pale.
- Add in the flour and semolina and stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture begins to clump together. Once it does, get your hands into the mixture and squash it together until it forms one lump.
- Wrap and cling film and pop into the fridge for half an hour to chill.
- While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 170C. Line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper.
- Roll out the chilled dough to a couple of millimetres thick. Cut with a round cutter and place on the prepared baking sheets. Squash the off cuts back together and re-roll as needed, but only do this a couple of times or the biscuits will become overworked, tough and dry.
- Bake the biscuits for about 15 minutes, or until the biscuits are just turning golden around the edges. Cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes to firm up, then remove onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- Make icing by mixing icing sugar with a few drops of water, adding the water slowly until the icing is a thick but spoonable constancy.