Fanny Cradock just loves tiddling things up. She can't leave anything alone. Nothing is safe from her nimble fingers, cunning plans and decorating box of tricks. Plain old things bore her to tears. The nasty neighbours would talk about you over the fence if you served them something basic, or even if they spied it on your plate... Why on earth would you have something 'ordinary' when you could transform it into 'extraordinary' in a flash? 'Stripped down' and 'modest' were not in Fanny's vocabulary.
Even the simplest of biscuits could be tiddled up from basic to fancy. Shortbread is often thought of as a simple biscuit, but in Fanny's world this needn't be the case. Fanny is not suggesting that we all spend hours and hours in the kitchen creating ridiculous showstoppers (ahem, biscuit Chandelier anyone?), however with a little bit of imagination and some store cupboard essentials, the nasty neighbours may just be, reluctantly, voting you as Star Baker when the pop round for afternoon tea.
Fanny's shortbread is made from a mix of ordinary flour and Rice flour (for a crunch), butter and caster sugar. The butter is beaten with the sugar, and then the mix of flours gently added in to combine. The mixture resembles breadcrumbs really, but should clump together between your hands if you give it a good squeeze. Think of this nasty neighbours and cackle loudly as you do it.
Fanny then rolls out the crumbly mix and begins the transformation from unvarnished to embellished. A third of the dough is cut cleverly into leaf shapes. Fanny does this freehand, so do I. I don't have any leaf cutter, but you may do. A third are cut into simple rounds with a very ordinary cutter. The final third are also cut into rounds, with the centre of half of those cut with a piping nozzle to make rings. All from the same austere mixture. The simple rounds are to be glazed with egg white and scattered with almond flakes. Leave the rest bare and bake for around eight or nine minutes. Just time to lean over the fence and gloat to those neighbours.
Let the tiddling begin! The almond rounds are already tiddled, so set them on a rack to cook. Carefully, they will be soft until they do. The rounds with holes become like Jammie Dodgers, filled with jam. I have used Rhubarb and Gin jam for mine. Gin helps everything. This is not enough tiddling for Fanny however. Slice a coloured glacé cherry in half, plonk it in the centre and add a sprig of cut Angelica. There is no explanation of why, but tiddle away and ask no questions. The leaves are tiddled with melted chocolate chips, covering only half the leaf. Tiddling done, the nasty neighbours will think you've been at it for hours...