Disclosure: I binge watched a few episodes of the Great British Baking Show and when they got to the biscuit challenge, I suddenly realized, “holy fuck, shortbread is like my favorite thing in the world, right up there next to ice cream, and I’ve never made it!” So I immediately set about correcting that fact.
A classic Scottish shortbread recipe consists of only three ingredients: butter, sugar, and flour. I used this as my starting point and, as per the challenge, incorporated elements of the place I am from. Being from Jerusalem (Yerushalayim or Al-Quds), I chose to incorporate flavors I immediately associate with this beautiful city: cardamom and rose. I chose to also use ground walnuts in the recipe to add some flavor and substance without sacrificing the quintessential shortbread texture.
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (and then some for the last step)
1 cup ground walnuts
1 lb. unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar in the raw
1 tsp. ground cardamom
1 tsp. rose extract
1/2 tsp. salt (I used fleur de sel)
I used my salvaged, refurbished KitchenAid for this but you can certainly do it by hand with a bowl and a wooden spoon. Leave the butter out to soften, then cut into 1-inch cubes and place in a mixing bowl. Add the sugar and flour and mix crudely with a wooden spoon before you turn on the mixer (to avoid getting flour all over the place). Use the flat beater attachment and gently mix the first three ingredients, then add the ground walnuts, cardamom, rose extract, and salt. Do not overmix. Use a rubber spatula to scrap the sides of the bowl and make a uniform dough.
Set the oven to 325ºF.
The dough will be very delicate. You can chill it for 15 minutes to make it firmer and easier to work with (I used it right away without chilling). Roll out on a floured surface to about 1/2-inch thickness, and then cut into desired shapes. Score each biscuit with a fork. Bake at 325ºF for 40-50 minutes. If you are using a convection oven, bake for 30-35 minutes and test for doneness. Biscuits should be a light golden brown. Cool for 15 minutes before digging in. These keep very well; store in an airtight container.