Rachel Allen was brought up in Dublin and left home at eighteen to study at the world-famous Ballymaloe Cookery School. Rachel is now a busy ...
225 g (8oz) butter, softened
125 g (41/2oz) icing sugar
275 g (10oz) plain flour, sifted, plus extra for dusting
1 egg, beaten
2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp finely grated orange zest
pinch of salt
200 g (7oz) sugar nibs (also known as sugar crystals, available in different colours from speciality baking shops)
Place the butter in a bowl and beat until soft. Add half the icing sugar and continue to beat, then add the other half and keep beating until the sugar is fully incorporated. Next add the flour, egg, cardamom, orange zest and salt, and continue to beat until well combined. Alternatively, place all the ingredients in a food processor and whiz briefly to combine.
On a worktop lightly dusted in flour, roll the dough into a log shape approximately 4cm (11/2in) in diameter and 35cm (14in) long. Sprinkle the chopped pecans or sugar crystals (if using) onto a large piece of baking parchment or cling film, then roll the dough log in the sugar nibs to coat before rolling up the dough in the paper/cling film. If not adding the nuts/sugar, then simply roll up the dough log in the paper/cling film.
Place the wrapped dough in the fridge to chill for a few hours or overnight.
When you are ready to cook the cookies, preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F), Gas mark 4, and line two baking sheets with baking parchment.
Remove the dough from the fridge and cut into slices 5–7mm (1/4–3/8in) thick. Transfer the slices to the prepared baking sheets and bake in the oven for 15–20 minutes (the time varying according to the thickness of the cookies) or until light golden. (Unless you have a fan oven, you will need to bake the cookies in two batches.) Using a palette knife or metal fish slice, carefully lift onto a wire rack to cool.