This shortbread cookies recipe is easier to make than you might think. You don't need to wait for the holidays to make these crispy, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth cookies.
With only a few ingredients that you already have in your pantry, you can make a batch of shortbread dough. Bake some cookies now and freeze the rest of the dough for treats anytime.
What Is Shortbread?
Shortbread's namesake comes from the high ratio of butter in the dough. The butterfat prevents the formation of gluten bonds in the flour and produces a tight, dense crumb in these cookies.
Shortbread cookies are crisp and buttery. They are baked at a low temperature so that they have minimal browning.
You can also use shortbread dough to make a shortbread crust for desserts like lemon bars or cheesecake.
Pro Tips For This Recipe
- If your butter isn't at room temperature, set your microwave to heat for 1 minute on 50% power to soften just enough.
- Beat the butter and the sugar until it is light and fluffy.
- Do not overmix the flour.
- Chill the dough before you bake it. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
- Use the drop method to get flat edges on your shortbread. After wrapping the dough in plastic, lift and drop the shortbread bricks on each side. This helps to square off the sides.
Ingredients For This Recipe
- Unsalted European butter. European butter has butterfat of at least 82%. I like using European butter in shortbread to give the dough a richer and more buttery flavor.
- All-purpose flour.
- Granulated sugar. Superfine sugar works well in shortbread becasue it combines with the butter more quickly. You can also use powdered sugar in this recipe.
- Egg yolks. Shortbread can be made with or without the egg yolks. In this recipe the egg yolks add flavor and give the cookie a more tender texture.
- Vanilla. Use a high quailty vanilla in this recipe.
- Vanilla bean. Scrape the vanilla seeds out of the bean.
- Salt. I recommend kosher salt or fine sea salt when baking.
How To Make Shortbread
- Cream the butter. Combine the butter, sugar and salt. Using a paddle attacment cream the butter until the sugar is dissolved. You don't want the butter to be fluffy but you want the sugar to melt into the butter so that it's not grainy.
- Add the egg yolks in one at a time, mix each on in before adding the next.
- Add the vanilla and the vanilla bean scraping. Mix to incorporate.
- Add the flour in and mix until the flour is incorporated. Do not overmix.
- Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface.
- Cut the dough into 3 to 4 pieces, depending on how large you want you cookies to be. Use a food scale to measure out the dough so that you can get 4 portions that are roughly equal in size. They can be a gram or two off from each other.
- Shape the dough into logs, round or rectangular that are approximately 10-inches long.
- Wrap each log in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours, up to overnight.
When You're Ready to Bake The Cookies
- Preheat the oven to 350℉ (325℉ if you are using convection.)
- Slice the logs into cookies, approximately ¼ - inch thick.
- Place the cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet.
- Bake the cookies for 15-20 minutes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Shortbread is fully cooked with the edges turn a very light golden brown. If you underbake the shortbread it will be soft in the middle and not crisp. If you overbake it the cookie will be too dark.
I have made a version of shortbread cookies with coconut oil (the solid kind). My Pecan Finger Cookies are essentially short dough that is packed with nuts.
You might be able to make a traditional shortbread cookie without the butter but you'd be missing out on all that buttery goodness.
Shortbread cookies are not usually gluten-free. However, this recipe works well with gluten-free flour, such as King Arthurs One to One gluten-free blend.
Press the shortbread dough into the pan that you will be baking in. Dock the dough and prebake the shortbread crust.
Once the crust is done, remove it from the oven and then let it cool completely before adding the filling.
Shortbread Rolled In Sugar
You can add a fancy edge of sugar to your cookies by rolling the logs in coarse sugar, like turbinado, or colored sanding sugar before you refrigerate the dough.
The sanding sugar is great for adding a pop of holiday color to your shortbread cookies. Nonpareils are also a fun addition to shortbread cookies.
Coarse sugar comes in a variety of colors and adds a fun pop of color to the edges of shortbread cookies.
A type of hard candy sprinkle. They are perfectly round tiny balls that add crunch and color to cookies.
Chocolate Chip Shortbread
Add 12 to 24 ounces of chopped semi-sweet baking chocolate to the shortbread dough. I like to err on the side of too much chocolate. Chocolate wafers work great for this. You can also use chocolate chips, but I've found that they are harder to slice. 😃
Replace a ½ cup of flour with cocoa powder to make a chocolate shortbread dough. You can use dutch process cocoa powder or black cocoa powder which will give you a rich extra dark cookie.
Traditional Cocoa powder is made from cocoa beans that have been fermented, ground into cocoa nibs, and then into a fine powder There are many different varieties, most commonly Hershey's cocoa powder. Experiment with different brands to find the flavor profile that you like best.
Other Cookie Recipes
- Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Pecan Shortbread Cookies
- Chocolate Shortbread Cookies
- Sugar Cookies
- Parmesan Shortbread
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Shortbread Cookie Recipe
Chocolate For Dipping
- 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips 1 package of chocolate chips
- Combine the butter, sugar and salt. Cream the mixture on medium speed until blended, about 2 minutes.1 ¾ cups unsalted butter, 1 ½ cups granulated sugar, 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- Add the egg yolks one at a time, mixing after each addition until incorporated.3 egg yolks
- Add the vanilla extract and the scrapings of the vanilla bean. Scrape down the bowl.2 tablespoons vanilla extract, 1 vanilla bean, scraping from inside
- Turn the mixer off and add the flour. Turn the machine to low and mix until the flour is incorporated. Do not overmix3 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
- Remove the dough from the bowl. Working on parchment or wax paper, shape dough into 4 logs, each 10 inches long and 1 ¼ inch in diameter. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill overnight (or at least 4 hours).
- Slice the logs into ¼ inch slices. Place the slices on a baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
- Bake at 325℉, 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
Chocolate for Dipping
- Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Alternatively you can melt chips in the microwave: Microwave on high for 2 min, stir, then microwave 1 min at a time until thoroughly melted.
- Dip one end of the cooled cookies in chocolate. Set on wax or parchment paper and let chocolate harden.