Shortbread – All kinds

Shortbread is a tradition around Christmas, but honestly, I wouldn't turn it down any day of the year.

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My mother always made the best shortbread when I was a kid. I took it for granted that shortbread would be around every Christmas, but my piano teacher didn’t. He was British, just like my mum, and he waited every year for my mother’s shortbread, which I would present to him as a holiday thank you, packaged up in a cardboard box or Christmas tin. I think it wasn’t until he actually said something about how much he loved my mother’s shortbread that I started paying attention to this cookie that had no chocolate in it. 

A pan of plain shortbread cookies.

Amazingly, shortbread has only three ingredients (sometimes four, but by definition 3). Sugar. Butter. Flour. Traditionally, these three ingredients were weighed out with a very simple ratio – 1 part sugar, 2 parts butter and 3 parts oat flour. More recently, home cooks use a 1:1 ratio of butter and all-purpose flour (1 stick of butter to 1 cup of flour), making the 3 ingredient ratio 1 part sugar, 2 parts butter, 2 parts flour. Both ratios work, but the outcomes are a little different. The 1:2:3 ratio gives you a cookie that is more dense. The 1:2:2 butter:flour ratio gives you a cookie that is more tender. 

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Orange Shortbread Cookies with a halved orange on a soapstone tray.

Most recipes will tell you NOT to cream the butter and sugar too much. A shortbread, after all, is supposed to be a dense cookie, so there’s no reason to incorporate air into the butter. Not creaming the butter certainly is faster and easier if you’re making the cookies by hand so it’s easy to opt for that version and just make sure the two ingredients are well blended. You can, however, cream the butter and sugar together for several minutes if you like a lighter more crumbly shortbread. The lesson here is that you can’t really do it wrong – you can just say you like shortbread “this way” better! ?

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Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies with chocolate chips on white marble.

What is important when making shortbread is to get the best butter you can and have that butter at the right temperature. Not all butters are created equal. European cultured butter has a little more flavor than your average butter and when you only have three ingredients in a recipe, it is important to get the best tasting ingredients you can. If you can find it, go for the European cultured butter. Then… temperature. Fighting with butter straight out of the refrigerator will just make you angry and waste your time. Be sure to take the butter out of the fridge at least 30 minutes to an hour ahead of time (assuming you are not in a hot climate). The butter should be soft enough to hold a fingerprint, but not so soft that your finger goes straight through.

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Rosemary Shortbread Cookies on grey marble.

As with all things from childhood, you miss them once you are out of the house, on your own and depending on only yourself to recreate the memories. I’ve been playing around with different flavors of shortbread – chocolate (because… chocolate), orange or lemon zest (for a springy zing), and rosemary (for a savory-sweet biscuit). I’ve also tried making the traditional oat flour shortbread and a gluten-free almond-lemon shortbread. It’s nice to have some variety in life, but I have to admit that I gravitate to the plain ol’ plain version. I’ve been out of the house for many MANY years now, of course, and even though I can make all these different shortbreads, there’s still something about my mother’s shortbread that always beats my own. Guess maybe it’s that fourth ingredient – love.

Chocolate Chunk Shortbread - Food Processor Method

  • Prep Time: 15 m
  • Cook Time: 45 m
  • Chill Time: 15 m
  • Total Time: 1 h 15 m
  • Servings:
    16

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces sugar generous 1/2 cup, plus more for dusting the pan
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter 2 sticks, cut into small cubes
  • 12 ounces all-purpose flour 2 1/2 cups
  • healthy pinch salt
  • 3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chopped (scant ¾ cup)

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 325º F and butter a 9-inch square cake pan.
  2. Using a food processor, process the sugar until it becomes superfine sugar – pulse it for about 30 seconds. Add the butter and process until smooth, light and fluffy, scraping down the bowl of the food processor a few times during the process. Add the flour and salt and pulse the food processor until the mixture can be squeezed together in your hand to form a dough. Add the chocolate chunks and pulse one last time for about 15 to 20 seconds until the chocolate is evenly dispersed.
  3. Transfer the mixture to the buttered cake pan and press the dough into the pan, using a round can or drinking glass to smooth it out at the end.
  4. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for 15 minutes and then transfer to the oven and bake for 45 minutes or until very lightly golden brown.
  5. Remove the shortbread from the oven and cut the shortbread into the desired shape with a knife. Let it cool. Once cool, cut the shortbread one more time into the desired shape, following the score marks and enjoy.

Plain or Flavored Shortbread - Stand Mixer or by Hand Method

  • Prep Time: 20 m
  • Cook Time: 45 m
  • Chill time: 15 m
  • Total Time: 1 h 20 m
  • Servings:
    24

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces sugar generous 1/2 cup, plus more for dusting the pan
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter 2 sticks, cut into small cubes and slightly softened at room temperature
  • 9 ounces all-purpose flour roughly 2 cups
  • healthy pinch salt
Optional flavor ingredients
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 4 teaspoons chopped orange or lemon zest

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 300ºF. Butter a 9-inch square cake pan and then line it with parchment paper, leaving flaps of parchment paper to hang over the sides of the pan (this will make it easy to remove the shortbread). Butter the parchment paper too.
  2. Using a food processor or mini chopped, process the sugar until it becomes superfine sugar – pulse it for about 30 seconds.
  3. Blend the butter and sugar together in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or in a bowl with a wooden spoon. Add the flour and salt and blend just until the ingredients are combined into chunks and no dry flour is visible.
  4. Transfer the mixture to the buttered cake pan and press the dough into the pan, using your hands, a spatula or a drinking glass to smooth it out at the end.
  5. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes or longer. Dust the top of the shortbread with more superfine sugar and then transfer to the oven and bake for 45 minutes or until very lightly golden brown around the edges of the pan.
  6. Remove the shortbread from the oven and let it set up for 10 minutes or so. Then, cut the shortbread into the desired serving sizes.The cookies will be tender, but will get crispier over time. Store in an air-tight container for up to 3 weeks.

    *To make flavored shortbread, add any optional ingredient to the butter and sugar and combine before adding the flour.

Traditional Oat Flour Shortbread

  • Prep Time: 20 m
  • Cook Time: 45 m
  • Chill Time: 15 m
  • Total Time: 1 h 20 m
  • Servings:
    24

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces sugar generous 1/2 cup, plus more for dusting the pan
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter 2 sticks, cut into small cubes and slightly softened at room temperature
  • 12 ounces whole grain oat flour
  • healthy pinch salt

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 300ºF. Butter a 9-inch square cake pan and then line it with parchment paper, leaving flaps of parchment paper to hang over the sides of the pan (this will make it easy to remove the shortbread). Butter the parchment paper too.
  2. Using a food processor or mini chopped, process the sugar until it becomes superfine sugar – pulse it for about 30 seconds.
  3. Blend the butter and sugar together in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or in a bowl with a wooden spoon. Add the flour and salt and blend just until the ingredients are combined into chunks and no dry flour is visible.
  4. Transfer the mixture to the buttered cake pan and press the dough into the pan, using your hands, a spatula or a drinking glass to smooth it out at the end.
  5. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes or longer. Dust the top of the shortbread with more superfine sugar and then transfer to the oven and bake for 45 minutes or until very lightly golden brown around the edges of the pan.
  6. Remove the shortbread from the oven and let it set up for 10 minutes or so. Then, cut the shortbread into the desired serving sizes.The cookies will be tender, but will get crispier over time. Store in an air-tight container for up to 3 weeks.
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Comments (9)Post a Reply


  1. I love shortbread and this is a good recipe. I used the food processor method. The first time I used high quality butter that I had on hand and didn’t put chips in and it was very good. The second time, I bought cultured butter and put the chocolate chips in and it was even better. The hint to use the parchment paper is good. It’s nice to lift the whole batch out of the pan so neatly.

    1. I like to use cultured butter for as many items as possible, but especially for shortbread where the flavor of the cookie really depends on the flavor of your butter. So, yes, European butter is perfect for this.

  2. I’m not very computer savvy but was looking for your shortbread video and recipe that you made by hand.
    I made it last year and was so delicious.

    1. Hi Joyce, I added 4 teaspoons of orange zest to the dough. You can see the full instructions under the “Plain or Flavored Shortbread” tab on the recipe card

  3. My father was born and raised in Scotland and when he came to the US he brought a recipe for shortbread. As in yours there was flour butter and sugar but the recipe also called for rice flour. He made it every Christmas.

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