Parmesan shortbreads

With Christmas just around the corner, here are some festive treats for gifts and entertaining.

A must for pre-dinner nibbles, make these moreish biscuits in advance for ease.

This is an Italian-inspired recipe that comes to me from Australia via Brazil. To explain: a Brazilian friend, and the best cook I know, Helio Fenerich, made it for me, and I had to keep (rudely) asking him to carry on making it for me. Eventually, I begged him for the recipe, which he told me he’d found in Australia. The journey was certainly worthwhile: it is a complete winner; I go into auto-parmesan-shortbread mode whenever I have friends coming for supper, as not only is it perfect with drinks, but it can be made in advance.

Indeed, you can make the dough, wrap it and then leave in the fridge for up to 3 days before slicing and baking it as instructed below, although you will need to let these cheese-scented cylinders sit out on a kitchen surface just long enough to get the fridge-chill off them before slicing.

Makes 35-40 shortbreads

150g plain flour

75g grated parmesan

100g soft unsalted butter

1 large egg yolk

Mix all the ingredients together — using bowl and spoon, electric mixer or food processor as wished — until a golden dough begins to form a clump.

Turn it out on to a surface and knead for about 30 seconds until smooth, then divide into 2.

Take the first half and, using your hands, roll it into a cylinder, as uniform as possible without stressing over it, about 3cm in diameter. Make sure the ends are flat, too, so that the cylinder resembles a roll of coins. Now roll this up in a piece of clingfilm, twisting the clingfilm at the ends, like a Christmas cracker, and put the roll in the fridge, then proceed in the same way with the remaining half of the dough.

Preheat the oven to 160degC fan while the wrapped cylinders of dough rest in the fridge for about 45 minutes, by which time you should be able to cut them into thick slices easily: aim for about 1cm thick.

Arrange on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment, and put in the oven for 15-20 minutes, when they should be just beginning to turn a pale gold at the edges.

Remove the shortbreads from the oven, then leave to cool (if you can) before eating. — The Observer

By Nigella Lawson