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by Mary Gwynn from The WI Cookbook

Crumbly, sweet and melts in the mouth, this shortbread recipe has stood the test of time, being first published in the WI publication Home and Country in December 1923. It's the perfect biscuit to accompany a cup of tea.

From the book


1923 found the WI getting into its stride as a movement with nearly a decade under its belt. In January of that year there were 2,932 WIs, up from 140 in 1917, and membership stood at 174,929. In the December issue, Home & Country was full of news of Christmas pageants, plus correspondence that sheds light on the ongoing debate about an ‘institute song’.A significant letter penned by WI member Grace E Hadow, reports attending ‘Exhibitions or Council meetings at which the whole assembly has joined in singing Blake’s Jerusalem’. The writer urges other WIs to write in to headquarters to ask that this practice to be approved nationally. Jerusalem was sung at the AGMfor the first time the following year.

This shortbread recipe appeared in the December issue, and many versions turn up throughout WI publications and in households across the UK – with every cook declaring that their own is the very best. The updated recipe is a typical example of one of the countless variations.

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200g plain flour
100g butter, cubed
50g caster sugar


Sift the flour into a bowl. Stir in the sugar and rub the butter in until the whole mixture comes together. Press the mixture into a 17–18cm square tin.

Preheat the oven to 160°C/ fan oven 140°C/ gas mark 6. Bake the shortbread for 12–15 minutes or until pale golden. Cut into fingers.


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From the book: The WI Cookbook

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