This recipe is a basis for many combinations. Experiment with ingredients – flavourings, dried fruits, nuts, spices and even herbs such as lavender – to find your favourite. Makes about 35 cookies.
Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F), Gas Mark 3.
Cream the butter in a large bowl or in a food mixer until soft.
Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.
Sift in the flour and spices or grated zest (if using) and bring the mixture together to form a dough.
Using your hands, roll the dough into walnut-sized balls and place them slightly apart on a baking tray (no need to grease or line). Flatten them slightly with the back of a damp fork and bake in the oven for 13–15 minutes or until they are light golden brown and slightly firm on top.
Carefully transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool.
Poppy seed: Add 2 tablespoons of poppy seeds to the flour.
Lemon: Add the finely grated zest of 1 lemon to the flour.
Orange: Add the finely grated zest of 1 orange to the flour.
White chocolate and orange: Dip the tops of the orange cookies in 50g (2oz) melted white chocolate, then allow to set on greaseproof paper.
Spices (cinnamon, mixed spice, ginger): Add 1 teaspoon of a ground spice to the flour.
Crystallised ginger and dark chocolate: Add 25g (1oz) finely chopped crystallised ginger to the flour. When the cookies are baked and cooled, dip the tops in 50g (2oz) melted dark chocolate, then allow to set on greaseproof paper.
Double chocolate chip: Use 250g (9oz) plain flour and add 50g (2oz) sifted cocoa powder to the flour. Bring the dough together and mix in 125g (41/2oz) dark or white chocolate chips.
White chocolate and dried cranberry: Add 50g (2oz) chopped dried cranberries to the flour. When the cookies are baked and cooled, dip the tops in 50g (2oz) melted white chocolate and allow to set on greaseproof paper.
RACHEL’S BAKING TIPS -
Roll leftover dough into a log shape, 2–3cm (3/4–11/4in) in diameter, then leave in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, or freeze for up to a couple of months. To bake, cut off slices, about 1cm (1/2in) thick, and cook on a baking tray in a preheated oven. Always remove cookies from their baking trays while still warm otherwise they will stick.