I just love making homemade gifts at Christmas. And I love receiving homemade gifts, too. There is nothing nicer than knowing someone took the time to bake or make something with all the care they could muster just because they were thinking of you.

I love something else, too. Irish butter! We are so lucky to live in Ireland, where our butter is some of the highest quality and most delicious in the world. As farmers, country kids and young chefs, we have a whole lot to be proud of – especially the great ingredients we’re able to produce, eat and bake with every day.

When you have such great butter at your fingertips, it makes sense to use it in a recipe where it will be the star of the show. These buttery shortbread biscuits are among my favourite treats in which to indulge over the holiday season. I love making them as gifts – and I equally love eating them with a glass of homemade eggnog or a hot cup of tea.

Some tips for making the perfect shortbread biscuit:

1 Use icing sugar instead of regular caster sugar. Icing sugar contains cornstarch, which will make your shortbreads melt in the mouth. Regular sugar will make them crunchy, which isn’t bad either – but there’s nothing like a tender, soft shortbread biscuit.

Make sure you chill the dough before you roll it out. / Janine Kennedy

2 Chill your dough. This is so important. If your dough is at room temperature when you put it in the oven, the biscuits will spread. You want nice tight edges on your shortbread biscuits.

3 Don’t over-mix your dough. You can mix the dough as much as you like until you add in your flour – then, just mix enough to bring everything together. Flour contains something called gluten, which is wonderful in bread, but not so great in tender shortbread biscuits. So don’t over-work that dough.

4 When your biscuits are baked and cooled, you can freeze them until you’re ready to give your gifts. Then, defrost, decorate (I love a piped rosette of buttercream icing and a few sprinkles, or a drizzle of melted chocolate over the top) and package for gifting.

You can pipe or spread the buttercream onto the biscuits. / Janine Kennedy

PS: I hear Santa is fond of these biscuits, as well, just in case anyone was wondering (sometimes he wants a break from the mince pies).

The best Christmas shortbread biscuit

These tender shortbread biscuits can be decorated with buttercream or drizzled in chocolate. / Janine Kennedy

Makes 24 biscuits

227g softened butter

75g icing sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla essence

315g plain flour

For the buttercream

115g softened butter

300g icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla essence

30ml double cream

Tiny pinch of salt

Thousands of sprinkles, to top

1 In a large bowl, add the softened butter and the icing sugar. Using a hand mixer or stand mixer (with paddle attachment), cream the butter and sugar together for three minutes. Add a dash of vanilla and a pinch of salt. Mix to combine.

2 Add the flour to the butter and sugar mixture. Start by mixing with the hand (or stand) mixer, but once it starts coming together switch to using your hands. Bring the dough together until it can form into a ball. Shape it into a disc and wrap it in some cling film. Put the dough in the fridge for 30 minutes to one hour.

3 Preheat the oven to 160°C. Line a baking tray with parchment paper, set aside.

4 On a clean surface like a countertop or a table sprinkle some flour and get out a rolling pin (you can use an empty glass bottle if you don’t have a rolling pin) and roll the dough to about 2cm thickness (not too thick and not too thin). Using a glass or a round biscuit cutter, cut out the biscuits and place on the lined baking sheet.

5 Bake the biscuits for 15 minutes, or until the edges start to turn golden brown. Place them on a wire rack to cool completely. You should get about 24 from one dough recipe.

6 Make the buttercream: in a large bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer) add the icing sugar, softened butter and vanilla. Mix them together until well combined. Then add the cream. Beat on high for 3-5 minutes until the buttercream is well whipped. It shouldn’t be too stiff. If you can’t spread it easily with a knife, add a splash of cream and mix again.

7 Add a small amount of buttercream to each biscuit (I use a piping bag for this, but you can just smear it on with a knife or small spoon) and then dip the biscuits into a bowl of sprinkles. Press firmly so the sprinkles cover the entire biscuit.

Simply press the biscuit into the sprinkles for an easy way to decorate. / Janine Kennedy

8 Let the icing dry completely over a few hours; then you can carefully pack the biscuits into Christmassy paper bags or in small tins (lined with baking paper). Decorate with colourful ribbon and hand out your biscuits to someone you care about.

TIP: Once made and decorated, you can store these biscuits in an airtight container in the freezer for up to six weeks.

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