Mary Berry's Unexpected Secret Ingredient For The Best Shortbread

Scottish Shortbread Fingers arranged on an English napkin.
Scottish Shortbread Fingers arranged on an English napkin.

Scottish Shortbread Fingers arranged on an English napkin.

Marry Berry, unsurprisingly, has a lot of culinary tricks up her sleeve ― she adds muscovado sugar to her cottage pie, uses an extra yolk in her pancake, and even coats her roast spuds in semolina.

And now, it seems the Cordon Bleu-trained chef has a secret for shortbread, too.

In her recipe for the simple Scottish delicacy, Mary Berry goes beyond the typical sugar-flour-butter recipe we’d expect.

Instead, she adds another ingredient for extra crunch ― semolina (yup, like for her roast spuds).

Why semolina? 

Semolina is a hard flour, the less finely-milled version of durum flour (which is used for pasta).

It has more gluten and protein than all-purpose wheat flour, as well as more flavour. And because it’s coarser, it doesn’t become soft and fluffy as easily as all-purpose flour ― meaning it’ll help to provide a structure and bite to your baked goods.

“I like to use semolina as well as flour to give the shortbread crunch, but you can use cornflour or ground rice instead,” Mary Berry says.

What’s Mary Berry’s shortbread recipe?

First, you should preheat your oven to 160°C/Fan 140°C/gas 3, and grease  a 30cm x 23cm roasting or traybake tin.

You’ll need 225g (8oz) of plain flour, 100g (4oz) of semolina, 225g (8oz) of butter, 100g (4oz) of caster sugar, 50g (2oz) of flaked almonds (there aren’t mandatory), and 25g (1oz) of demerara sugar for dusting.

Combine the flour and semolina in a bowl or food processor. Incorporate the butter and sugar, then use your fingertips to rub them together until the mixture starts to come together. Gently knead the mixture until it forms a smooth dough.

Spread the dough into a baking tray and then press its top until even with a knife or spatula. Then, prick its surface with a fork, add your flaked almonds if you like, and store it in the fridge to chill until it’s firm.

After it’s chilled, bake it for 35 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Sprinkle it with demerara sugar after it leaves the oven. Then, after a few minutes, cut it into 30 fingers in the tin and leave those to cool further on a cooling rack.

Enjoy ― store any leftovers on a cooling rack (though I’d be amazed if you had any.)