Shortbread Cookies

No Christmas would be complete without a classic shortbread cookie with their buttery taste and flaky texture they just melt in your mouth.  This recipe is the Best Shortbread Cookie Recipe ever hands down.

With only 3 ingredients you would think shortbread cookies are easy to  make and they are but there are certainly a few tricks to making them light and flaky so I have broken down the tricks with some pics to guide you on your way.  A tower of shortbread cookies with green sprinkles

My grandmother McFeeters has now passed but one of the best days with her ever was a day we spent baking together.  That day she passed down a century worth of recipes and tricks to making perfect bake goods.  No gadgets, just old school baking!

When I was a kid my mom used to try and make my Grandmother’s recipes but they were never quite right so I thought it was time to spend a day with the Master and get a hands on baking class.   My grandmother was about 90 at the time but still full of energy and on the day of my visit she had hand written cards with all the family recipes waiting for me to dig into. So today I am passing on some of the learnings.

 A tower of shortbread cookies with green sprinkles

Shortbread Cookies can be a little finicky but follow these instructions and pay attention to the pictures and they will work out great.

First the butter needs to be at room temperature.  Now this does not mean put it in the microwave to soften.  That won’t work.  You need to take your pound of unsalted butter and let it sit on the counter and naturally soften.  You can’t rush a masterpiece!

In a large bowl add 1/2 a lb of unsalted butter.  Put a large sieve over the bowl and add 2 1/2 cups of pastry flour and 1/2 a cup of icing sugar to the sieve over the bowl.  Now here is the next trick… All purpose flour just won’t do.  If you want light and flaky shortbread cookies you need to use pastry flour.  My Grandmother always told me to look for the red and white plaid bag otherwise known as Monarch Pastry Flour.   Of course any pastry flour will do but this is the one she used so I don’t like to stray too far from the Master Plan.

Pastry flour

Sieve the flour onto the butter so to ensure the flour and sugar are evenly blended and all lumps are gone.

Now from here you could use a pastry mixer but again sometimes old school is better.  Time to get your hands dirty!  Use your thumb against your fingers and blend the flour mixture into the butter.  Hard to explain in writing but in both hands pick up a handful of butter and flour and rub through your thumb and fingers kind of like you were sprinkling salt.  The idea is you want to blend the butter and flour together but only until the mixture starts to look like oatmeal.

shortbread cookie mixture

You want ripples of butter through the dough.  This is what gives the shortbread it’s flakiness.

Now your want to knead the mixture until it forms a ball of dough.  Do this but pushing down on the dough   and pushing the dough together until if forms a ball.  The heat of your hands will help bring the dough together.

shortbread cookie dough

Once done sprinkle your clean counter with flour and a little on your rolling pin and gently roll the dough out to about a 1/2″ thickness.  Cut with a round cookie cutter or any shape you like.  You can add sprinkles now or ice later when completely cooled  if you wish.

Bake at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for about 10 minutes or until they are firm to the touch and only just starting to brown on the bottom.   Remove from the pan to a cooling rack.

Alternatively you can also bake shortbread in an 8 X 8 glass dish.   Just pat the down down evenly and puncture through out with a fork so that they will bake evenly.  This method takes about 25-30 minute for them to bake but keep an eye out… when the bottom starts to turn a light golden brown and the top looks flaky they are done.  Cut into squares when warm and then let completely cook before taking them out of the pan.

A close up of shortbread cookies rimmed with green sugar crystalsA close up of shortbread cookies rimmed with green sugar crystals

Now that you have the basics let’s talk about how to decorate them or make this recipe your own:

WAYS TO DECORATE AND CUSTOMIZE SHORTBREAD:

  • Cut them into unique shapes using a cookie cutter
  • Decorate by rolling edges in sprinkles or coloured sugar
  • Dip them into melted chocolate
  • Go  old school and bake them in a square 8 X 8 pan
  • Add ingredients like rosemary, lemon zest, cranberries etc.  Once you have the base you can make these your own!

The Best Shortbread Cookie Recipe:

5 from 14 votes
A close up of shortbread cookies rimmed with green sugar crystals
Shortbread Cookies
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
15 mins
resting time
1 hr
Total Time
25 mins
 

A classic buttery and flaky shortbread cookie recipe using only 3-ingredients to create a melt in your mouth experience.

Course: Dessert, Treat
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Cookies, Shortbread
Servings: 20 cookies
Calories: 148 kcal
Ingredients
  • 1 cup unsalted butter at room temp
  • 2 1/2 cups pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • Sprinkles optional
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees

  2. In a large bowl add butter cubed
  3. Place large sieve over the bowl and add flour and icing sugar to sieve
  4. Run flour and icing sugar through sieve to ensure well blended and no lumps
  5. Blend by hand the icing sugar and flour into the butter until it forms an oatmeal like texture
  6. Knead mixture to form a large ball
  7. Roll out until about 1/2" thickness
  8. Cut with round cookie cutter
  9. Add sprinkles as desired
  10. Bake for 10 minutes or until cookies are firm to the touch and only just starting to brown on the bottom
  11. Remove cookies from oven and to a cooling rack
Nutrition Facts
Shortbread Cookies
Amount Per Serving (1 cookie)
Calories 148 Calories from Fat 84
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 9.35g 14%
Saturated Fat 5.9g 30%
Trans Fat 0.37g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.41g
Monounsaturated Fat 2.4g
Cholesterol 24mg 8%
Sodium 73mg 3%
Potassium 19mg 1%
Total Carbohydrates 14.42g 5%
Dietary Fiber 0.4g 2%
Sugars 2.5g
Protein 1.71g 3%
Vitamin A 12%
Calcium 1%
Iron 4%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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27 thoughts on “Shortbread Cookies

  1. These look so delicious! They are festive, too! Shortbread cookies are my favorite, but one I have never made! I have to rectify that with all of your tips!

  2. These cookies look so beautiful for the holidays! I cannot believe there are only 3 ingredients needed. My daughter loves baking and has tried short bread cookies over and over, but hasn’t quite mastered them yet. Thank you so much for the tips, tricks, and visuals!

  3. Oh, these cookies look so gorgeous! Kids would love making these for the coming hols especially that there are just 3 ingredients needed. My daughter in particular started recently to really love baking and I am soo sure she will make these. It really sounds like a great recipe 😉 yummy!

    1. I have made them every year with my kids since the age of about 5. Baking is so good for kids I think. It not only teaches them how to cook but there is so much math involved. Fractions everywhere!

  4. I love these pictures! I’ve always struggled with shortbread, especially in a mould, so the idea of using a glass dish for speed sounds fab. I’m going to have to try yours with the sprinkles though as they are so pretty!

    1. I have always used a glass since I was a kid. That is how my grandma always did it. I find those molds or cookie cutters hard too. I always end up breaking off the point of the star or an antler or something LOL

  5. The recipe seemed easier than I thought. As I am traveling I would be making this once I am back. One query, can I add cardamom in it?

    1. I don’t see why not? That is what is so great about shortbread. Once you have the base down you can really make it your own. I wouldn’t add more than a tbsp though because it is a flour/powder like ingredient so adding too much throws off the butter to dry ingredients ration. But you could totally add cardamom, cinnamon, rosemary, lemon zest. What ever you like!

  6. I am not a very good baker but even I could follow these directions! If I get ambitious and can actually find pastry flour I just might try to make them–I am a cookie monster after all!!

    1. Hi Gladys, Pastry flour is actually pretty easy to find and is all I use for 90% of my baking. Cake flour is the next best thing. Pastry flour is worth having on hand because it really makes for a lighter flakier cookie. Good luck!

  7. My kids would absolutely love these. This would disappear in no time at our house! This is my kind of a Holiday treat.

  8. Yum! I’m a huge shortbread fan, but I’ve never made them myself. I think I’ll try this recipe during Winter Break and see how close I get!

  9. I really appreciate reading about the finer details of the steps in making an otherwise very simple cookie. With such few ingredients it should really be possible to take the time to let the butter get to room temperature and use a sieve. It makes total sense that the cookies will be more airy and more delicious. Will give it a try. Thank you!
    xx Luci

    1. Room temp butter and sifting the dry ingredients makes all the difference. You won’t regret these extra steps.

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