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Lemon cornmeal shortbreads, pale golden and delicately sugared, are the best thing to dunk in your tea or coffee. These are gluten free to boot, not that you’d tell.
To dunk or not to dunk? I am personally of the non-dunking orientation, at least since I lost a few biscuits to my coffee rendering both uningestible. What’s more, I don’t drink tea and the true, original and orthodox dunkers only ever accept tea: milk, no sugar.
Which may well suggest dunking is an intrinsically English pastime but it isn’t so by any means. The French dunk like crazy: croissants in their coffee, brioche in hot chocolate and even buttered baguette in café au lait. The Italians dip bread in red wine, a clear proof you can never take the Church out of the Italian, and cake in white dessert wine. They dunk across the water: Oreos in milk (US) and chips in gravy (Canada).
There are obviously clashing opinions on what is and isn’t suitable for dunking but I should agree with the purists: the best dunking material will not leave residue in the beverage. Thus I wouldn’t dip my sandwich in my coffee, leaking butter and almost making it bulletproof coffee – not. It’s tricky with Italian biscotti or cantuccini because, hard as they are, their dissolving point comes on suddenly and brutally, presenting you with frothy soup. Apart from sponge fingers that I rate as mighty good dunkers (well they would be, wouldn’t they?), shortbread is definitely the best.
It doesn’t usually have any annoying currants or, worse, chocolate chips. It’s plain and firm but doesn’t explode into nothing like biscotti. It takes up the liquid gradually, making it easy for lovers of varied stages of soakedness to decide when to stop the waterboarding and eat the victim.
And this is gluten free on top; not the gluten free that makes you decide you’d rather not have any biscuits at all than the ersatz stuff, but the type that you want to make again and again even though gluten’s your good mate. Cornmeal makes for this wonderful texture in the cookies: gritty but in a nice way, very short but tender too and it seems to impart the lemon flavour like an angel. Now all you need to do is put the kettle on!
cornmeal shortbreadServings: makes 15-20 biscuitsTime: 30 minutes plus chilling pastry
- 100g (scant cup) fine cornmeal (polenta) plus more for dusting
- 100g (2/3 cup) brown rice flour
- 70g (½ cup) icing sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- zest grated from 1 lemon
- 100g (7 tbsp.) cold unsalted butter, diced
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- caster sugar, to sprinkle
1. Stir the cornmeal with rice flour, sugar, salt and zest together in a bowl. Rub the diced butter in (or use a mixer) so the mix resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the egg and stir with a spatula till it comes together in a pastry ball. Wrap with cling film and chill for at least an hour, or overnight.
2. Dust the work surface with cornmeal. Roll the pastry out into a disc, dusting with more cornmeal, about 1cm thick. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Transfer the sheet into the fridge for 15 minutes, while the oven heats up to 180C/350F/gas 4.
3. Bake the shortbreads for 15 minutes until very faintly brown around the edges. Remove from the oven and sift caster sugar over the biscuits generously. Leave to cool.
4. Store in a jar for a week; they will soften as they sit in the jar or tin.