my new favorite shortbread, two ways

It’s no secret that I love shortbread. I LOVE SHORTBREAD ! Which is funny, because as a wee kidlet, shortbread was my worst cookie enemy. How the times have changed, and all for the better, say I.

This recipe comes from Julia Tuomainen’s Mélanger baking blog, where I excitedly read about it in November. I feel a bit like a not-so-secret admirer – this is twice in a row that I’ve discussed her amazing recipes (pannukakku and absinthe, anyone?).

The interesting ingredient here, at least for this unaware American, is custard powder. I had never heard of custard powder before this recipe, because I am not of British descent. When I hear Bird’s, I think of Larry Bird in possession of a basketball, or perhaps of an apostrophe that is in the wrong place. But from now on, I will know that Bird’s is simply a cornflour-based mix used to make egg-less custard.


It was a wild goose chase trying to track down Bird’s Custard at the store, for sure. Being an overly self-sufficient individual who loathes asking for directions or assistance from anyone, ever, I combed the aisles, aimlessly calling out bird and custard while affecting a soft, sad voice. With a little subsequent help from Julia, I thankfully steered myself toward the ‘foreign’ foods aisle. And sure enough, in the miniature British sector, there was Bird’s Custard. Next to the Spotted Dick Sponge Pudding, of course. Blergh.

Since catching my wild goose of custard powder, I have made this Custard Sea Salt Shortbread twice. The first time (not pictured here), I misconverted the amount of flour in the recipe, using half of what was recommended. The result was incredibly buttery, and it wowed me with its amazing flavor and pretty custard color. It reminded me of my previous favorite shortbread, purchased from Scratch Bakery in South Portland. The only addition I could consider to my custardy version was a healthy dose of sea salt.

The second time around, I realized my flour error. Still, 3 cups of flour seemed a bit excessive for what I was seeing in my bowl (since I used two tablespoons less butter than the original recipe), so I cut it down to 2 1/2 cups. This created a more typical shortbread: thick buttery cookie fingers, nicely seasoned with salt. Or as one taster nicely put it, “A little dry – – – – – but good.” Shortbread is definitely drier than most other cookies, yes. But I think this recipe really comes into its own the day after you make it, when the flavors have a chance to intensify, and the cookie becomes a bit less dry.

I do prefer the overindulgent presence of butter in the less-floured cookie. Either way you make it, however, this recipe is a winner.

Custard Sea Salt Shortbread {recipe adapted from Mélanger}


16 tbsp (225 g) unsalted butter
1/3 c. (40 g) custard powder
Heaping 1/4 c. (35 g) confectioner’s sugar
Heaping 1/4 c. (55 g) sugar
For a less-dry, more buttery cookie, 1 1/2 c. (180 g) flour
For a more traditional shortbread, 2 1/2 c. (300 g) flour
Sea salt


Melt and cool butter. Sift custard powder and powdered sugar into a medium bowl. Add the sugar, butter, and a few pinches of sea salt and beat mixture until thick and creamy.

Sift flour into mixture in two batches, mixing well. [Note: If using 1 1/2 c. flour, the mixture will stay very buttery, and may appear separated, but it will bake just fine.]

Press into a tin – I used an 8×8 inch (20×20 cm) cake pan. Score the cookies with a knife, however you wish them to be shaped; I cut 21 rectangles into my pan. Prick all over with a fork, and sprinkle with sea salt.

Bake at 350 F / 180 C for around 25 minutes, until the cookies are light golden and have a hint of light brown around the edges. Cool in tin. Re-cut the cookies while still warm. Enjoy.


23 thoughts on “my new favorite shortbread, two ways

  1. Looks fantastic! Wish I could sample the buttery goodness. Spotted Dick Sponge Pudding! I let my lips curl up and had a Scandanavian, Lutheran internal chuckle when reading that title. You would have thought they would have reconsidered naming their pudding.

    1. Martha, haha, I can picture your Scandinavian Lutheran chuckle. The Spotted Dick was made by Heinz, of all companies. I think they should stick to ketchup.

      I just can’t stop with the butter. But as I pack on a few buttery pounds, you’re melting down! I hope the challenge is going well for you:)

  2. I love shortbread! But I’ve never thought about making my own. Although I don’t think I’m lucky in finding that custard powder. But you’ll never know.
    (And thank you for giving the ingredients in grams as well… I never feel comfortable if I have to bake in cups!)

    1. Silvia, you should give shortbread a try, it’s really very simple. And easy to get a delicious product, as long as it isn’t over baked. If you can’t find the custard powder, that’s okay – hearing of it in shortbread was a novel idea to me!

      I’m going to try to post in metric as well as English from now on:) Let’s see if I stick with it !

  3. Ooooooh! I’ve never been into shortbread but I love, love, love my family recipe for custard which uses custard powder*, so I know I’d like this. Particularly if turned into peanut butter shortbread sandwiches…

    * I know, I know, Some people are wall waaaah waaaah not real custard if you use custard powder, but our uses extra egg yolks so that the custard is so thick that you have to scoop it out, and you fold the eggwhite through with nutmeg on top, and it’s dairy free and gluten free…. I hold for NO OTHER CUSTARD AMEN.

    P.S. Hope the packing is going well! xo

    1. Hannah, in that case, you would like the version with less flour. It is more custardy and less typical shortbread.

      Your family recipe sounds wonderful! Custard powder is a strange concept to me, but I would never wah wah it – it does its job, and with a nice pretty color to boot!

      Ah, the packing. Alas, there is still so so much, but all I want to do is eat shortbread !

      1. I think you should just get your woodland creatures to do the packing for you while you simply sing and eat shortbread.

        1. Cute! I would be like the Cinderella of the forest!

          Too bad I live in town, and any woodland creatures loose nearby are probably infested with rabies.

            1. I’m sure many heavy metal lyrics would agree with your sentiment. I can only think of one song at the moment, but I’m sure there are more out there…

              They’re probably not talking about rabies though:)

  4. Oh boy. These sound perfect. We used to eat Bird’s custard when we were kids, and 2.0’s father used to make it on the stove and then insist on eating straight out of the pot – he felt it was the only way! I’m thinking the 1st, buttery version, might need to get in my belly. (Followed, of course, by version 2 – for science.)

    1. movita, I like your memories! The only thing that would make it more perfect would be if the rats cooked the custard for you:)

      The first, buttery version is delicious delicious delicious. The second version is science science science (and still good).

  5. I have never been a fan of shortbread cookies. While I’m not sure I’ve ever actually *had* them before, they’ve never looked particularly appetizing…it probably has something to do with their distinct lack of chocolate. But as usual you’ve captured my attention. Maybe I’ll put these on my list!

    1. Mary, but they are le good! I guess they do convey an image of dryness. Hmm. Next time I post a shortbread recipe I will try to make it full of flavor, maybe with dried fruit or something. Just for you:) And so you know, I probably won’t include chocolate, as dry chocolate would be bad.

      Nonetheless, glad to have captured your attention !

  6. Bahaha, the spotted dick pudding always makes me giggle like the mature person that I am. The custard powder though has always been intriguing…I think that it’s used in Nanaimo bars (eh?) if you’re looking for another way to use it up. My Scottish friend brought shortbread with her on our trip to FL last year and I ate about half of it. This looks nomalicious!

    1. Jessica, hah, me too. What a name !

      You Daring Bakers folk did Nanaimo bars, right? I remember wondering about custard powder then – now that I am victorious in the Bird’s arena, I look forward to conquering every recipe I could possibly make with this stuff. It’s so good !

      I’ve eaten over half of both of these batches, so I understand. Somehow, it just happens;)

    1. leaf, ooh, yeah, it is great! And no, when it comes to making shortbread, I don’t believe there is a thing as overindulgence.

      Dignity was already discarded with the introduction of 225 g of butter:P

  7. Emma, Okay I’ve never heard of custard powder and am fascinated by this idea. Second, I love the image of you calling out to your food while searching in the store ( my 8 year old does this around the house and she looks for something.) And third, those shortbread look soooo good.
    By the way I got my EBay Poloroid and am experimenting with the Impossible Project films. Woo Hoo!

    1. Erin, I was going to ask you about your Polaroid the next time I left you a comment, but you’ve beat me to it! I hope the film is turning out well. I’m very much looking forward to trying it out as soon as possible.

      Reading your latest post I see that this shortbread may have been difficult to look at, your having given up refined sugar and all. Oh, how I love refined sugar;)

      I think your 8 year old and I would get along swimmingly:P

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