- for the shortbread:
- 150 g butter (diced, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing)
- 75 g icing sugar (plus extra to decorate)
- 150 g plain flour (plus extra for dusting)
- 75 g cornflour
- pinch of salt
- for the pastry cream:
- 150 ml milk
- seeds scraped from ½ vanilla pod
- 2 egg yolks
- 25 g caster sugar
- 1 tblsp plain flour
- for the balsamic syrup:
- 50 g caster sugar
- 1 tblsp balsamic vinegar
- seeds scraped from ½ vanilla pod
- to assemble:
- 275 g raspberries
- mint sprigs, to decorate
- vanilla ice cream, to serve
- To make the shortbread, place the butter and icing sugar in a bowl and then sift the flour, cornflour and salt on top. Using a hand-held beater, beat until you have achieved a smooth dough, adding a tablespoon of cold water to help bring the mixture together if necessary. Cover with cling film. Place in the fridge to rest for at least 1 hour and preferably overnight.
- Line two baking sheets with non-stick baking paper. Roll out the shortbread on a lightly floured work surface to a thickness of 3mm (1/8 in). Cut out 18 discs using a 7.5cm (3in) fluted cutter and place them on the lined baking sheets. Allow to rest again in the fridge for 20 minutes, this will help prevent them shrinking during cooking.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4). Bake the shortbread rounds for 8–10 minutes or until they are lightly golden. Using a fish slice, transfer them to a wire rack to cool.
- To make the pastry cream, place the milk in a small saucepan with the vanilla seeds. Bring to the boil and remove from the heat.
- Using a hand-held beater, beat the egg yolks in a bowl with the sugar and flour, until pale and thick enough that when you swirl the beaters in a figure-of-eight pattern, they leave a trail. Remove the vanilla pod from the milk and carefully pour the heated milk on to the egg yolk mixture, stirring to combine. Transfer the mixture to a clean saucepan and cook over a very low heat for 2–3 minutes, stirring continuously, until very thick. Do not allow the mixture to boil or it will curdle.
- Pour into a clean bowl and place a piece of cling film on the surface to prevent a skin forming. Allow to cool completely, then chill until needed.
- To make the balsamic syrup, place the sugar in a heavy-based saucepan with 2 tablespoons of water and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10–15 minutes until you have achieved a rich, golden caramel colour. Quickly and carefully stir in the balsamic vinegar (stand back as it will splutter) and add another 100ml (3fl oz) of cold water, along with the vanilla seeds. The sugar will seize up and harden but simply increase the heat and stir to dissolve. Simmer for 2–3 minutes until you have a slightly thickened syrup. Set aside to cool completely and thicken further.
- Now assemble the shortcakes. Set aside some of the raspberries to use later for decoration. Place one of the shortbread discs on a baking sheet lined with non-stick baking paper, spoon a tablespoon of pastry cream into the centre and arrange some raspberries around the edge. Top with another shortbread disc and repeat the cream and raspberry layer. Finish with a third shortbread disc and dust liberally with icing sugar. Repeat with the remaining ingredients to make six shortcake stacks in total. Place in the oven for 3–4 minutes at 180°C (350°F/Gas 4) to just warm through.
- Arrange the warm raspberry shortcake stacks on plates and decorate the tops with the mint sprigs and the reserved raspberries. Drizzle the Balsamic Syrup around the edge, stirring in a few drops of boiling water to loosen if necessary, and add a scoop of ice cream to each plate to serve.
Neven's note: This recipe was given to me by my good friend Neil McFadden. The shortbread discs can be made up to 24 hours in advance, then stored in an airtight container until ready to use. The pastry cream will also keep in the fridge for a week or you can freeze it, making this a great dessert to prepare well in advance.