I have to say, that when it comes to shortbread, my mum's recipe takes the blue ribbon prize every day of the week and twice on Sundays. I have been happily scoffing these delicious little morsels of Heaven every Christmas since I can remember. It is one of my "I will endure a wheat-induced stomach-ache" treats that has me coat-checking my colon, paying homage to the toilet bowl, and still returning for more. Suffice to say, it is absolutely scrumptious; and no "Fisher Family Christmas Extravaganza" would be complete without a quadruple batch on offer.
Actually, all of my aunties bring their shortbread blends in tupperware containers for the main event, and they are all pretty spectacular. But, let's be honest, (and not to take anything away from my mum and my aunties), it is pretty hard to mess up shortbread. It is one of those quick and easy gifts that uses just a few ingredients and takes you to Nirvana without too much effort. The magic ingredient - the butter. I must admit, that whilst I don't cook with butter very often; when it comes to shortbread, I am with Julia Child - "You can never have too much butter".
So, when I set about creating allergy free recipes and a gluten free shortbread recipe that my niece could indulge in this Christmas, it was quite a frustrating endeavour. If you are just making gluten free shortbreads it is just a matter of substituting the flours, and you can create a gorgeous flavour sensation by using almond or hazelnut meal. It is even easy if you are just look for gluten and dairy free recipes and making vegan shortbread. But if you are making allergy free recipes and trying to make the shortbread gluten free, nut free, egg free and dairy free, it is a lot more challenging.
Thankfully, there are some wonderful vegan spreads on the market that work very well. My favourites are the Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks and Nuttelex spread. Both work well in this recipe. But if you are not refraining from dairy or need to make these soy free, feel free to use conventional butter, which will make these vegan shortbread cookies taste even better. I have deliberately chosen to use coconut sugar in this recipe, as it adds a gorgeous caramel-like quality that comes the closest to replicating the richness of butter. But if you want to make these more forgiving on the purse strings, feel free to use conventional cane sugar. The secret ingredient in this blend is the vanilla extract and lemon zest. I have always been a sucker for gluten free lemon shortbread, and if you want these really lemony, feel free to add more zest, but two teaspoons was juuuuust right for me.
Now, I am not bold enough to claim that this allergy free vegan shortbread is the best on offer, compared to those recipes containing nut meals and butter. But, if you're living with multiple food allergies, they will hit the spot this Christmas!