I never really appreciated custard powder until I moved to Switzerland. If you are, like me, over a certain age, you’ll all remember that tin of Bird’s custard powder from your childhood. It was usually right at the back of the cupboard, next to the tin of black treacle and those packets of Rowntree jelly. Every once in a while you’d think ‘ooh, jelly and custard’. Out comes Bird’s, it’s practically solid now after years of neglect and you spend the next ten minutes stabbing at it with a knife, trying to chisel off a few chunks to bung in some hot milk. More often than not, the tin of custard would just go back into the cupboard, still undefeated.
It raised a smile and stirred up a bit of nostalgia when I saw the tins of Bird’s custard powder in the ‘English Food’ section of the supermarket. I bought it on a whim, but since then it’s status in my mind has risen to that of ‘powdered gold’. Yes, I use it for making custard, in trifles and the like. But my favourite way to use it is in cookies and shortbread.
Try the recipe below and see if it resurrects your love for custard powder too!
RECIPE: Custard Shortbread
SOURCE: a Spoonful of Sugar
FLAVOUR PROFILE: Sweet, crumbly and buttery with a hint of custard and vanilla
GOES GREAT WITH: Have one or two (or three or four) with a nice cup of tea. I’d opt for something mildly floral, like Earl or Lady Grey.
NOTES: After 12 minutes in the oven, they may feel a little soft to touch, but don’t worry, they’ll firm up as they cool. Don’t be tempted to leave them in the oven for longer.
- 125g (4.4oz) BUTTER, softened
- 40g (1.4oz) POWDERED SUGAR, sifted
- ½ VANILLA BEAN, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped out with the back of a knife and husk discarded
- 50g (1.8oz) CUSTARD POWDER
- 90g (3.2oz) PLAIN FLOUR
- Preheat the oven to 180c. In a mixing bowl, cream the BUTTER, SUGAR and VANILLA SEEDS with an electric whisk until pale and fluffy.
- Add the CUSTARD POWDER and FLOUR, mixing until just combined. Now, use your hands to press the mixture together into a dough.
- Pinch off roughly a spoonful of mixture at a time, and roll into balls. Place the balls onto a lined baking sheet, pressing each one down lightly with a fork to flatten slightly. Allow a few inches gap between them to allow for spreading.
- Bake in the oven for 12 minutes. They’ll be slightly golden around the edges when they’re ready, then remove to a wire rack to cool.
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Use packets of blancmange powder instead of custard powder for delicately flavoured shortbread (omit the vanilla)