Monday 16 December 2013

A Musical Twist on a Seasonal Classic ♫

Only 9 days until Christmas!!!!
Who else is counting down the days?  Not only the days to go until Christmas, but also until everything gets finished up, all of the preparations and the planning, work ending for the year and all the busy times, and craziness to be over so that we can really enjoy Christmas!?
I have had a really wonderful semester at work with my piano students, and to celebrate the festive season, as well as bake them a little treat to say well done this year I went with a traditional shortbread recipe with a twist.
May I introduce my Traditional Shortbread recipe, modified and decorated to be truly musical - attaching a note to say Happy Holidays and great work this year, but don't forget to keep playing your real pianos over the break! ♫
Some of my students have received their treats already last week, but most of my students are finishing up their final lessons this week so I'll be handing them out right until my last lesson on Friday!  (Hope none of them are reading this!)... As much as I've had a great semester, the last little while has been CRAZY busy with a bunch of different things going on (usually all at the same time), so I'm really looking forward to the time off over Christmas.
I had this idea for musical shortbread a while back.  I have just wrapped up 4 and a bit years at one of my musical jobs, and I wanted to leave the families I have worked with a little treat.  So my first idea was little bite-sized shortbread squares they could take on their way out of class and enjoy.  So I went with this idea and made it musical (of course!) with a little ♫ piped in chocolate on each one.  Just a little musical touch.
Then, in thinking about what treats my students would get at the end of the year I thought I could do a similar idea, but bigger, or better...  And so the piano shortbread idea was born.  At first I thought I would just do it a few keys wide, 3 white keys (C-D-E) and 2 black keys piped on top, but then the idea progressed and I got a little crazier in what I was trying out and decided I wanted a full octave cookie!
So over the last couple of weeks I have made 155 musical shortbread bite-sized squares for my group music classes, and 27 larger piano shortbreads for my students (and a few leftover for gifts)...  That is a grand total of 9 batches of shortbread been made in our not-huge condo kitchen!  Paula Deen would be proud of how much butter has been used that's for sure!
I've been seeing so many amazing cookie recipes recently so I know you've all been busy with holiday baking of all kinds, so who has time for an extra 9 batches of shortbread this late on in the season?!  So don't worry, I'll just put the recipe up for 1 batch so you don't all think I'm too crazy!  This should make 49 1-inch squares if baked in the same sized pan as I did in my first batch.  Much more reasonable right?!
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 1/4 cups plain flour (all-purpose)
1/4 cup white rice flour
1/4 tsp salt
1.  Grease and line a 8 x 8 inch square pan with parchment paper.  Grease the paper once it is laid out as well.  Pre-heat oven to 375°F/ 190°C.
2.  Beat the butter well until soft and fluffy.  The more whipped the better!

3.  Add the icing sugar and sugar and cream together with the butter until light and fluffy.  At least another two minutes in the mixer.
4.  Add the vanilla essence.
5.   Sift both kinds of flour, and salt into the bowl and mix well until blended together.  At this point don't be put off by the fact it is all crumbs!  I was nervous too that it wasn't coming together, however it is a very dry mixture (have you noticed there are no eggs?!) and it will all be okay in the next step!

6.  Pour the dough mixture into the prepared pan (oops this photo is from a different batch, sorry about the different pan!)


7.  Press firmly down on the dough, pressing the crumbs all together - trying to get an even spread across the pan.  Use something flat to press it all down.

8.  Prick holes in the shortbread with a fork at 1 inch intervals.  I was okay with this amount of holes for the bitesized pieces, but when I baked the pianos I actually planned the holes to be in line with where I would be cutting out the pianos or where the black keys would be piped for aesthetic effect!

9.  Place shortbread into the pre-heated oven and bake for 25 minutes, or until the edges have turned a golden brown.

10.  Leave to cool in the pan, cut into squares. 

11.  Leave to cool completely before piping decoration on top.  I used Baker's chocolate melted, and piped with my smallest circle piping tip.

And 155 musical squares later the first project was finished!

Here's a little look at how the piano process went too... Same recipe, just 6 batches more baked in a tray bake pan to make 9 pianos in each.  You can see here how I pricked the holes for the air to escape through in a sneaky way so that it wouldn't be visible when they were baked and decorated!


The day after baking these I piped the black keys onto them using the same baking chocolate.  I scored the lines with a sharp knife to etch out the white key edges and then piped the black keys on top.  I had made a template for these but for the most part I just went with it and kept piping!  

Everything dry and before I packaged them up with the notecard attached it was photo time...


Here's the Sneak Peek I shared with my Facebook and Instagram followers earlier this week... A little preview at what was going to be next on the blog!  Are you following me yet?  I love having new followers and new 'Likes' so please, come on over and see me!!

A few more close ups to take a look at the shortbread itself!  Decoration aside, the shortbread taste is for sure the best bit!

Do you bake shortbread over the festive season?  I've had a great time baking these batches upon batches of it, and my number one taste-tester husband has REALLY enjoyed it too :-D
Looking for more student treat ideas, check out my Hand Five cookies I baked in the Summer at the end of the school year!


  1. Lucky students! I can vouch for the yummy deliciousness of this shortbread!

  2. What a unique idea! So cute and delicious. Your students must be thrilled. Sharing this on my Facebook page, Tweeting and Pinning. :)

  3. The keyboards are cute but I have to say that I LOVE the cute little notes :) Play on darlin'! Play on :)


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