Shortbread, and baking without eggs

I’ve recently decided eggs are off my agenda. Why? Because I can no longer deny the fact that the way in which they’re produced is cruel. That caged hens live a terrible existence is a fact that nobody can deny – but cruelty is inherent even in the production of free-range and organic eggs: as they’ve no functional use, almost all male chicks are killed immediately.

I hope I don’t come across as sanctimonious, in any way: I don’t judge anyone for eating eggs. It’s just that on a personal level, I feel uncomfortable morally with supporting such a violent way of producing food. If I could see first-hand how the hen was raised, and how her and her offspring are treated, then perhaps I’d buy eggs.

To be honest, I’ve never much enjoyed eating them, anyway – just as with meat, I only felt I should cook them for their nutritional benefits. (I have finally committed to going veggie – I’ll discuss that in another post.) But at uni, the eggs I bought generally ended up as someone else’s breakfast, almost at their use-by date; and although a tomato omelette tastes good, it’s something I can happily live without.

The hardest part of avoiding eggs, however, is baking: the world and literature of cakes revolve around that essential binding egg. As far as I’m aware, there’s only so far you can go with chemical replacements, bananas, or coconut oil, but I’d like nothing better than to be proven wrong. I love cake, and it’s proving hard to resist when it’s offered to me by relatives. Being placed in a moral dilemma by my grandad’s cake will continue to be difficult, but I hope that it will get easier.

Hallelujah, though, for shortbread: a biscuit which doesn’t call for a beaten egg. To start off my exploration of an egg-free-baked-good life, I turned to Paul Hollywood’s buttery shortbread recipe, with promising results. These biscuits have a lovely texture, far better than the average supermarket shortbread finger; the cornflour, although making the dough quite crumbly to handle, adds a new dimension of texture and thickness. I chopped some extra dark chocolate and threw it in for good measure.

 

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To make around sixteen circular biscuits, you’ll need:

  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 225g plain flour
  • 110g cornflour
  • pinch of salt

Start by lining two baking trays with paper. Put the butter and sugar into a large bowl and cream until light and fluffy, using an electric whisk.

Sift in the flour and cornflour with the salt, and mix together. If you fancy some chocolate, raisins, vanilla, or Paul Hollywood’s suggestion of lavender, now’s the time to add it. Lightly flour your kitchen surface, and knead the dough. Then, cut two pieces of baking paper, place the dough in between, and roll out to a thickness of 1cm.

Cut the biscuits into whatever shapes you want: triangles, circles, squares, bunnies, bananas… Place the shapes onto a flat surface in the fridge, and chill for at least half an hour. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius.

Bake the biscuits for around twenty minutes, or until golden. Dust with sugar, and make sure you leave them plenty of time to cool before eating with a cup of tea.

 

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