Sam McKnight’s’s Shortbraids combine his mother’s recipe for shortbread with a stylish new twist…
I’m thrilled that my dear friend Camilla Morton has given us two posts for LLG, based around her delightful new book Make Life Beautiful.
Camilla is the bestselling author of How To Walk In High Heels, which was translated into seventeen languages, and A Year In High Heels. She is a fashion journalist, and spent many years working for Dior. For this book Camilla approached some of the world’s most exciting fashion designers and insiders, including Manolo Blahnik, Paul Smith, Lulu Guinness, Stephen Jones, and Christian Lacroix to share their ideas for adding a chic and irreverent twist to your world.
Last week Camilla talked about what makes life beautiful for her, and today’s post will be from one of the world’s greatest hair session stylists, Sam McKnight, as he gives us his personal recipe for Shortbread Braids from Make Life Beautiful.
Over to you Camilla:
“This project gives you a behind the scenes peek to all Sam’s photos and how to make shortbraids by hair mastero Sam McKnight, who I first met back in the day when I was running around backstage at the shows and got to know when we worked on the Dior campaigns together. He is one of my favourite people to have tea with, or interview.
Any iconic head – from Princess Diana to Kate Moss – he was and is the man – yet he’s low key about that, has a wicked sense of humour, and for the book indulged for the first time his two great passion – hair and baking – creating not shortbread but braids… in between shooting Chanel and Fendi campaigns. Here we are running the unedited story of his braids, as told to me when I interviewed him for the book.”
And now over to Sam:
“I started baking as a child, I like doing things with my hands; hair, gardening, baking… When I do hair I like things to look very natural, to use my hands more than tools, I think that physical connection makes things beautiful. When I am shooting, or at the shows you have your team, the schedule and every minute is frenetic and planned and I love it – but you need a balance, so my garden, or my kitchen is how I relax. I can come home at the end of the day and bake – it’s great. It’s a calm, isolating and a very solitary thing.
I didn’t always have my own garden; a walk around the rose garden in Regents Park can be just beautiful, but baking isn’t dependent on the weather, and it helps you slow the pace and relax. The results don’t have to be perfect: it’s the process and the taste that needs to be beautiful. People always love cakes, and you can always find something creative to make in your kitchen.
I love trying new recipes, baking new cakes, and sharing them either on shoots or on Instagram and I try to put the same attention to detail into my bakes as I would any of my work. These shortbraids combine elements of many things I love and should have a sweet sense of humour to them.” Sam McKnight
You Will Need:
110g caster sugar, plus extra for dusting
395g plain flour
Milk, to brush
1. Pre-heat the oven to 170oc/gas mark 3. Cream sugar and butter together in a large bowl until light and fluffy.
2. Measure out the flour and cornflour and sieve together as you fold into the butter and sugar. Mix thoroughly but do no over-mix – just like over-styling with too much product, it’s all about balance.
3. Tip onto a lightly floured work surface and lightly knead until a dough is formed. Roll or pat out the dough so it’s 1.25cm thick.
4. Draw a braid on a piece of paper that you will use as your template: you can either make one or two braids, or smaller bite-sized braids.
5. Rolling the dough/braid to your desired length, scallop around the edge and use a small sharp knife to draw in the details of the braided hair. Be careful not to cut too deep into the dough or to make the ends too wispy else they will snap off.
6. Use the side of the knife to soften the edges and create the plait detail in the dough and don’t forget to finish with either an iced bow or a shortbread bow to style.
7. Brush with a little milk if desired, and transfer your braids onto a lightly greased baking sheet using a large kitchen palette knife.
8. Pop in the oven for about 15-20 minutes. Just as you would when getting your hair coloured, keep an eye on how they are doing – be sure to catch them just before they go too golden brown. Shortbread baking tones may vary according to the oven so attention to bake is necessary. Light is good; brown means overdone!