Classic Shortbread Cookies

Baking Shortbread Cookies

Most of us think about shortbread cookies around the holidays. Everyone is baking for parties and family get togethers and cookie recipes are being pulled out of drawers and recipe books. Maybe you have thought about shortbread cookies during the rest of the year, but it seems that we only bake them during the holidays. That’s a same, because these rich, dense, sweet cookies are a delight and should be enjoyed all year long.

Are Shortbread Cookies The Same As Sugar Cookies?

People get these two cookies mixed up. Both are similar in their basic ingredients-sugar, butter and flour. It’s the other ingredients that create the difference between the two. The “short” in shortbread literally refers to the lack of eggs and leavening agents in the dough. The dough tends to be crumbly (another definition in Scottish baking for “short”) and is very high in fat. Sugar cookies use granulated sugar, eggs and baking soda to get their chewy, puffier cookie taste and texture.

Traditional shortbread cookies are made with a 1-2-3 ingredient ratio. One part sugar, two parts butter and three parts flour. The only other ingredients will be salt and vanilla extract. It’s a simple recipe and is quite easy to use.

Unsalted Butter Is The Key

Almost every shortbread cookie recipe will call for unsalted butter. The reason for this is that butter makers aren’t consistent in the amount of butter that they use and this inconsistency can create some nasty taste issues. By using unsalted butter, you can control the amount of salt used and ensure a sweeter taste.

Purists also insist on using high fat content butter, sometimes called Irish Butter Or European Butter. It is about 2% higher in butterfat than American butters and will give the cookies an even richer flavor.

Shortbread Cookie Recipe


10 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature

1/2 cup confectioners sugar (powdered sugar)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour, sifted

1/2 teaspoon salt


Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the butter and vanilla until lightly creamed.

Add the sugar and salt until mixed. Don’t over beat.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the flour. Set the mixer to low and mix until blended well.

Shape the dough into a rectangle, wrap well in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Heat your oven to 350 degrees.

Slice off pieces of dough that are about 1/2″ thick.

Place on the baking sheet, about 1/2″ apart.

Make any designs that you may want on the tops of the cookies.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until the cookies start to very lightly brown. Rotate your baking sheet halfway through the cooking time for best results.

Remove and let cool on a wire rack.

You can make this dough ahead of time. It will stay in the refrigerator for a week and up to 3 months in the freezer.

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