I spent some time this weekend helping my parents to sort out a couple of store rooms that they rent.
We moved from a large Victorian family home to a trendy flat in the middle of London. We had less storage and less wall space. The oversized armchairs and mahogany sideboards didn’t really fit with our new modern vibe. While a lot of the bigger pieces stayed in situ, bought by the new owners of the house, a fair amount of our accumulated junk ended up in storage and there it’s stayed, pretty much untouched.
There are boxes of old school reports and photographs. All of my university text books and essays. More coffee tables than any house would ever need. We went through boxes of pictures, trying to remember where each one had been and why we thought we might ever want to keep it. There were framed posters of theatre productions and art exhibitions that have long been forgotten.
All of those things which, seven or eight years ago, seemed far too important to throw away but which we we have no need for now (and which, to be honest, we probably never had a need for).
We spent more time talking than anything really, trying to recall the details of our old house. My boyfriend was there so we had to tell the story behind each and every item that we pulled out – shortbread seemed an appropriately nostalgic treat to fuel our reminiscing.
Whole vanilla bean shortbread
Yield: Makes about 20 depending on size
I first saw the idea of incorporating a whole vanilla bean (pod and all) in a recipe on 101 Cookbooks and have had the thought in mind ever since. I knew from reading Emma’s post about these biscuits that I didn’t want to use the original recipe. Instead I took the idea of grinding up the whole vanilla bean and added it to my usual shortbread recipe, replacing the sugar with maple syrup for a slightly different flavour and texture. I like my shortbread very short; it is very very delicate but it does really melt in your mouth especially when using the rice flour and corn flour. If you want, you can really up the vanilla with some extract or vanilla bean paste.
- 1 fresh vanilla bean
- 40ml (2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) maple syrup
- A pinch of salt
- 115g (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 120g (1 cup) rice flour
- 50g (1/2 cup) corn starch/corn flour
Whiz together the vanilla bean, maple syrup and salt in a food processor until you have little flecks of vanilla.
Transfer the mixture to a bowl and beat together with the butter until smooth (you can do this by hand or in a stand mixer)
Add the rice flour and corn flour and beat until just combined. Bring together the dough with your hands and gather into a ball.
Roll out on a lightly floured surface, cut into shapes and place on a baking tray lined with a silicone mat/non stick paper. Chill for half an hour.
Preheat the oven to 150C/300F (fan)
Bake for 12 – 15 minutes or so until the edges are just brown. Leave to cool on the tray for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.