Walnut shortbread

There’s no way I can eat a whole cake or batch of biscuits all by myself on a regular basis, so I take most of what I bake into the lab.  Not only are my labmates very enthusiastic taste-testers, but baked goods have the added advantage of being a great way of integrating into the lab.  However, one of the technicians doesn’t eat eggs.  Now something like nuts aren’t usually too difficult to omit from a recipe, but eggs?  Eggs are tough.  (Side note: I find the concept of fake egg rather freaky so I refuse to use egg substitutes).

Thankfully, she doesn’t mind when somebody brings in baked goods with egg in them and she can’t eat any, which is lucky because I regularly bake with eggs since the vast majority of my recipes call for them.  I have to admit that even if she doesn’t mind, I still feel a little guilty, so I’ve been on the lookout for egg-free recipes – I don’t intend to bake egg-free all the time, but at least from time to time so that everybody is included.  I’m well aware that there are plenty of vegan recipes out there, but my initial foray into vegan baking came out rather dry and not particularly presentable, so I’ve yet to be convinced (although I’m open to recipe recommendations).  Plus I’d rather not deprive myself of dairy products without reason.  So anyway, I discovered over the weekend that shortbread is egg-free.  Oooooo…

Now, I’ve never tried making shortbread before, and I’d always been under the impression that it was difficult and technical to make.  Rather than start with basic shortbread, it was thus clearly totally logical to complicate things a little by adding toasted walnuts.  I’m not sure why I thought shortbread was such a challenge, and I’m also not sure why one of the recipes I looked at said that shortbread was “a test of cook’s skill” – it really didn’t seem that difficult to me.  If anybody could enlighten me, that would be lovely.  Of course I’d love to think that I’m clearly just a brilliantly accomplished baker, but that’s really not the case.  Perhaps it’s my Scottish side shining through.  Or beginner’s luck.

Adding walnuts turned out to be a rather fabulous idea – toasted walnut and nutmeg are such wonderfully wintery flavours, and the shortbread itself was the perfect amount of buttery and utterly scrumptious.  They were super popular in the lab, and everybody was able to enjoy them whilst we watched the gymnastics highlights from the Olympics over our coffee break.  Whilst watching those girls do flips and (mostly) managing to land on the balancing beam and bounding and somersaulting across the carpet, we concluded that those gymnasts probably don’t eat much deliciously buttery shortbread.  We also concluded that it was their loss.

Walnut shortbread

Makes about 20 biscuits
Adapted from The Great British Bake Off: How to Bake

Toasting the walnuts really elevates their flavour, so try not to skip that step, even if a little pushed for time – I promise it’s worth it!  If you want to make shortbread shapes I’d try rolling the shortbread dough out to a thickness of 1cm (before the refrigeration step) and using cookie cutters in the shape(s) that you want, then refrigerating the individual biscuits on their trays.  I haven’t tried that method however, so I’m not sure how well it would work.  These will keep for up to a week in an airtight container (though I highly doubt they’d last that long).


50g walnut pieces or halves
260g all-purpose flour
40g cornflour
¾ tsp ground nutmeg
Good pinch of salt
200g unsalted butter, softened
100g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling


1.  Toast the walnuts in a small frying pan over a low heat until fragrant and lightly toasted.  Remove from the heat, roughly chop if necessary and set aside to cool.

2.  Sift the flour, cornflour, ground nutmeg and salt into a medium-sized bowl and stir together.

3.  In a large bowl, cream the butter with an electric whisk or wooden spoon.  Slowly add the sugar and cream together until light and fluffy.

4.  Add the flour mixture and the walnuts to the butter and sugar and mix together using your hands until well combined (this may take a little while, but it will come together although it will still be a bit of a crumbly dough).  Shape the dough into a log of about 20cm in length and even thickness and wrap in cling film (since dough will still be crumbly, you may need to gently push it together to compact it enough to make a log).  Refrigerate for 20-30 mins until firm.

5.  Butter two baking trays.  Pre-heat the oven to 170°C/fan 150°C.

6.  Remove the cling film from the dough log and slice into about 20 rounds of 1cm thickness.  Place on the baking trays, with about 1.5cm space between each biscuit.  Bake for about 20 minutes, or until firm but still pale.  Sprinkle the biscuits with caster sugar and allow to sit on the baking trays for 2-3 mins before transferring to a wire rack to cool fully before serving.




Filed under Recipes, Student Life, Sweet Foods

15 responses to “Walnut shortbread

  1. These look rather delicious!

  2. Looks lovely! One of my friend’s children had anaphylaxis after eating eggs a couple of years ago, and I always felt sorry for her not being allowed cakes after that. So I always make that other Scottish classic when she comes over – scones! Easy peasy and egg free!

    • Mel

      Oh gosh, that’s terrible! I always feel so awful for people with allergies, particularly potentially fatal ones. Scones are also a good option, although a bit of a faff to take jam and cream into the lab. And I’m also still working on mastering them completely – I think I tend to overwork the dough.

  3. strongassoup

    Baking without eggs is a tough one but these do look really good. I’ve never used walnuts in shortbread – it’s a nice idea.

  4. Hey! love this post, it’s great to see people getting creative with British Baking classics! And the pics are fab! We are an English tea shop in NYC and love every thing to do with the UK, especially afternoon tea and of course CAKE! If your as big a fan as us, you might like our blog http://teaandsympathynewyork.wordpress.com/
    we post recipes for British themed food all the time. 🙂

    • Mel

      Thank you! I’m also a big fan of afternoon tea, and shortbread would definitely make an excellent addition to any British- or UK-themed afternoon tea. Thanks for the link to your site, too.

  5. Och Mel, you’re turning the clock back to your Scottish flirtation! I have to make ‘shortie’ quite a lot (base for our millionaire shortbread) but I did make a lemon and pistachio version some weeks ago and it was rather good, if I do say so myself…Glad to see you toasted those walnuts, girl. Another winner from Madam Sharky!!

    • Mel

      Thanks Colin! I’ve never tried making millionaire’s shortbread, but now that I appear to have mastered shortbread, I think I might try it out since it’s so yummy (and I think it’s also egg-free). Oooo lemon and pistachio shortbread sounds interesting. I’m not a huge fan of pistachios, but I bet they added lovely colour. I was organised enough to plan for toasting the walnuts for once – definitely worth it!!

      • Millionaire is a big seller in our wee place, Mel. Just make sure your base is nice and crisp, then cool, before adding your caramel layer. Good milk chocolate on the top and it’s girly heaven!
        Lemon rind through your toasted walnut shortie, might add a nice little zing. It’s brilliant with the pistachio and you’re right, it does add great colour.

      • Mel

        I’m not surprised – good millionaire shortbread is delicious! Thanks for the tip about the base, I’ll have to give it a go soon. Adding lemon to the walnuts would be a good idea – yummy!

  6. These shortbread cookies look so good. They remind me of some walnut cookies from a bakery I like. They are just the best.

  7. Pingback: An (utterly delicious) egg-free birthday cake! | Sharky Oven Gloves

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