Traditional recipes

The best shortbread recipe

The best shortbread recipe

  • Recipes
  • Dish type
  • Biscuits and cookies
  • Shortbread

I've tried so many shortbread recipes over the years, this is the best, nice and buttery. A friend of mine shared this with me.

2 people made this

IngredientsServes: 6

  • 115g (4 oz) self raising flour
  • 115g (4 oz) plain flour
  • 115g (4 oz) caster sugar
  • 115g (4 oz) cornflour
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 225g unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 tablespoon caster sugar

MethodPrep:15min ›Cook:40min ›Ready in:55min

  1. Preheat your oven to 150 C / Gas 2.
  2. Add flours, caster sugar, cornflour and salt to a bowl. Work the butter in with your fingertips until it resembles bread crumbs.
  3. Then work the dough until it holds together.
  4. Roll it out on a floured surface and cut into shapes. Put on a lined baking tin and prick it all over with a fork.
  5. Bake until light in colour, about 40 minutes.
  6. Once done place your shortbread on a wire rack to cool then sprinkle with the sugar.

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All-Butter Scottish Shortbread

Shortbread is one of the most famous Scottish cookies. It's eaten around Christmas and is also an essential part of Hogmanay, the traditional Scottish New Year. Made with a lot of butter, this was considered a special treat when butter was a luxury item. Thankfully, we can make and eat shortbreads more often, and enjoy their crumbly and buttery texture all year round.

The success of what's known in Scotland as a "shortie" depends on handling the dough with care and working it as little as possible—cold butter, cold work surface, cold hands, and no pounding or heavy kneading help achieve the perfect texture for the dough. When overworked, the dough becomes a greasy mess, the gluten in the flour will develop, the butter will melt, and the crumb will be either too chewy or too tough. A successful shortbread should be light and crumbly, with a dense, buttery taste.

The term "short" refers to the crumbly texture of the cookies afforded by the high fat content. Standard recipes have few ingredients, and the addition of cornstarch depends on the tradition each home cook follows. Some swear by the use of it, like us, but some prefer to leave it out. Adding it has been done for decades and helps to make the shortbread crisper on the edges and softer in the center. Because there are just five ingredients, the quality of each one is vital for a successful cookie, and using the best butter you can find is very important.

Our main recipe shows you how to shape these delicious treats before baking, but you can learn how to do it once the shortbread is cooked in the recipe variations. For storing either version of the shortbread, chose an airtight container and keep it in a cold place for a week, or 10 days in the fridge.


Instructions

Preheat the oven to 160°C/Fan 140°C/gas 3.

Lightly grease a 30cm x 23cm roasting or traybake tin.

Mix together the flour and semolina in a bowl or food processor. Add the butter and sugar and rub together with your fingertips until the mixture is just beginning to bind together. Knead lightly until the mixture forms a smooth dough.

Press the dough into the prepared tin and level it with the back of a spatula or a palette knife, making sure the mixture is evenly spread. Prick all over with a fork, sprinkle over the flaked almonds if using, and chill until firm.

Bake for about 35 minutes or until a very pale golden brown. Sprinkle with demerara sugar and leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes, then cut into 30 fingers.

Carefully lift the fingers out of the tin with a palette knife and finish cooling on a wire rack.


Shortbread Cookies

Store-bought shortbread from a holiday cookie tin are very good. But homemade is even better. Luckily they're even easier to make than chocolate chip cookies. And they're perfect for dipping in coffee or hot chocolate.

Our classic recipe is great as is, but one of the best parts about shortbread is that you can infinitely adapt it. Feel free to use our basic formula as a base and take if from there. Here are just a few fun variations to try out.

Add about 1 tablespoon of lemon or orange (or both!) zest to the dough with your butter to make a slightly tart cookie

Leave out the vanilla and trade the sugar for grated Parmesan and add some freshly cracked black pepper. It makes a delicious appetizer or snack!

Instead of vanilla extract use 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract. If you want some crunch, add 1/4 cup of finely chopped almonds or pecans crunch too!

Replace 1/2 cup of flour with 1/2 cup of cocoa powder for the chocolate lovers in your life.

Editor's Note: This recipe was tested and updated on September 10, 2020 after noticing comments about the cookies not being sweet enough.


  • 8 1/4 ounces unsalted butter
  • 4.2 ounces superfine sugar, plus extra for sprinkling on top
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 8 ounces all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 ounces cornstarch
  • 2 1/2 ounces finely ground semolina

Draw an X with butter on the bottom of a 9x9-inch walled pan and line it with parchment, ensuring that some extra parchment hangs over the sides. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, approximately 3 minutes. Beat in vanilla until completely incorporated. Sift in flour, cornstarch, and semolina and mix on low speed until dough comes together. Finish mixing by hand to avoid overworking the dough. Press dough into the prepared pan using your fingers. Cover top with plastic wrap and press or roll with a small round cylinder. Place in fridge to chill for at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Use a fork to poke holes all over surface of the dough. Bake until shortbread is a light golden brown, about 55 minutes, rotating every 15 minutes. Use a sifter to distribute a fine layer of superfine sugar over the surface of the shortbread. Allow to cool for 15 minutes, the carefully use the overhanging parchment to pull shortbread from the pan. Cut while still warm, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to three days.


Shortbread Recipes

1. Bake your shortbread in the top 1/3 of your oven for best results.

2. Many shortbread cookie recipes tell you to take your shortbread out of the oven before it begins to turn golden-brown. This is not the case with Brown Bag shortbread pans. Before releasing your cookies from the shortbread mold, be sure the top of the shortbread has turned a light, toasty brown.

3. Let the cookies cool for 10 minutes before releasing them from the shortbread pan.

4. Hold the pan about 2″ above a wooden or plastic cutting board and simply drop it! This will release the shortbread from the mold.

5. Using a thin, sharp knife, slice the warm shortbread into serving pieces as soon as you remove it from the pan.

6. Let shortbread pans cool before washing up in the sink or dishwasher.

7. All shortbread pans are lead-free and made in the USA.

Traditional Scottish Shortbread Recipe

Authentic Scottish Shortbread is made of just 3 ingredients: butter, sugar and flour. It gets its name Shortbread because shortening is the crucial factor in this rich, buttery cookie. Over the years, creative bakers have dreamed up recipes for all kinds of new takes on traditional shortbread – chocolate, with nuts, with fancy flavorings like rosewater or lavender blossoms, with chocolate chips or savory anise seeds. You can’t really go wrong with adding special touches to the basic recipe, but first it’s important to make sure you’ve got that basic recipe down! Follow these steps for making perfect, authentic Scottish shortbread cookies:

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup room temperature butter
1/3 cup powdered sugar

Cream the butter in a bowl, using the back of a large spoon or frosting knife. When it is soft, creamy and light, it is properly creamed. Dust the powdered sugar into the bowl as you continue to make the creaming motion with your utensil. Once it is gently worked in, add the flour, mixing in with a few good whisks of your utensil. It is also fine to mix the dough in a mixer. Turn the mixture out onto a bread board and knead it gently with your hands until the 3 ingredients become a uniform, soft texture. Form into a ball.

Spray your mold lightly with a non-stick vegetable oil spray and set the ball of shortbread dough in the middle of it. Working from the center of the dough outward, press the shortbread out so that it completely and evenly fills the shortbread mould. Prick the surface of the cookie dough all over with a fork. Don’t skip the pricking step as it is key to the texture of the finished shortbread.

Place the shortbread pan in an oven set to 325 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until lightly browned on top. Remember that few ovens are alike, so checking for the toasty brown color on top is your surest method of knowing that to your shortbread is done. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes.

Finally, turn your shortbread pan upside down over a cutting board, holding it about 2 inches above the surface. Then, let it drop! This will jar the cookies out of the mold. Lift up the pan and slice up the shortbread with a thin, sharp knife while the cookies are still warm Serve the cookies design-side-up!

Scotch Shortbread cookies can be enjoyed warm or cold. They will keep well well in a lidded tin for at least a week, but we’ll be surprised if they last that long!

Did you know that Scottish shortbread recipes date back to the Middle Ages? Small wheaten and oaten cakes were eaten by the populace as a part of daily life, but the richer shortbread, with its luxurious addition of butter and sweetener, were reserved for very special occasions such as weddings and holidays. Lucky for us, in modern times, we can enjoy shortbread just about any day of the week. Few cookies are easier to make or more gratefully accepted! With these handcrafted Brown Bag ® shortbread pans, you will be serving up a traditional treat that turns out perfectly beautiful every time.

Brown Bag ® is a registered trademark of Hill Design, Inc. All Brown Bag ® cookie molds are protected by design copyrights owned by Hill Design, Inc. All rights reserved.


True Scottish Shortbread

When I was a young kid one or other of us in turn occasionally used to be allowed to wreak havoc in the kitchen. I used to make the most mess - but the best cakes! This is a recipe I asked for from the elderly Scottish pastry cook who used to live opposite. She even had me bake it one time in HER kitchen - none of my siblings were so privileged - boy was I was smug about that! She used to bring over some of the most amazing goodies! I have searched and baked and bought, but never found a shortbread recipe that was anything like as good as this. Fortunately my mum found a 'new' copy of her much-spattered cookbook and she gave me her old one which had this recipe manually type-written and stuck into it. Nobody, but nobody!, bakes better shortbread than I occasionally treat myself to (I DO share some of it!) when I bake using this recipe. Do try this one - it's just the ultimate! :) Despite the Scots preference for slightly warmed shortbread I strongly urge you to wait until it's fully cold before devouring - not refrigerated cold, but ideally no warmer (or cooler really) than a cool room temperature. The instructions call for some care in the preparation but as I'm passing on the tips as they were given to me when I was between 8 to 10 years old, I'll pass them on to you rather than leave them out. - She felt they were important for best results, and the resulting shortbread proves she knew what she was talking about! The recipe is very simple and robust enough that a child can make it well, but the best results will come from taking extra special care. This recipe doesn't double well either, sadly. Do especially keep that mixture cool and do it by hand not machine – it’s only a few minutes of fussing about after all! Sorry to those without a set of kitchen scales, recipes in Europe are almost entirely written by weight.


Best Shortbread Cookie Recipe 

"Shortbread is a wonderful starting point for all kinds of sweet adventures: top it (nuts, chocolate, jam) flavor it (lemon, hazelnut, coconut) or do both (cappuccino with a mocha ganache drizzle, anyone?).

Then again, if you're a "make mine vanilla, please" kind of guy or gal, leave it alone it can stand on its own in perfect simplicity,"  adapted from King Arthur Flour.

I've included many of my best homemade cookie recipes - now they are yours.  Enjoy.

Makes approximately 2 dozen cookies.

MELT IN YOUR MOUTH SHORTBREAD COOKIES

These are whipped short bread cookies - The Melt in your Mouth Kind.

Whip the butter for 15 minutes (yes, 15 minutes).

PREHEAT oven to 350 degrees.

Sift the dry ingredients together and add to the mixture and whip for another 5 minutes, or until "white" in color.

For a fancier looking cookie, place dough in a pastry bag and drop onto cookie sheet using the large star icing tip.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes. Watch them carefully, because the edges can burn easily. Leave on the cookie sheet to cool completely.

The following recipe for shortbread cookies is a gem.  You may use your favorite jam and I also included a easy glaze to drizzle over them if you wish.

homemade unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 cups flour
1/2 cup homemade jam

PREHEAT oven to 350 degrees and line the cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Beat the butter and sugar together for 10 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract and mix in the flour until dough comes together. Roll dough into small balls and place on the cookie sheet.

Use your pinkie to make indentation in the center of the cookie and place a small amount of jam in them. Put in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes before baking to set.


Shortbread Squares

These shortbread squares are versatile &mdash one cookie, three delicious variations.

To make Chocolate-Peppermint Shortbread Squares: Using electric mixer, beat butter on medium speed until smooth. On low, gradually add confectioners' sugar until fully incorporated. Add heavy cream and pure peppermint extract and beat 2 minutes. Spread over cooled crust and refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes. In medium bowl, melt chocolate chips and butter (cut into pieces) in microwave on 50% power in 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval until melted and smooth. Spread onto peppermint layer and refrigerate until set, at least 30 minutes. Cut into pieces.

To make Toffee-Pecan Shortbread Squares: In heavy-bottomed medium saucepan, combine sugar and water. Heat on medium (do not stir), swirling pan occasionally, until sugar has dissolved. Increase heat and boil until sugar is deep caramel color (do not stir). Immediately remove from heat and stir in heavy cream (it will bubble up), then fold in toasted pecans (very roughly chopped). Pour mixture over cooled crust and sprinkle with flaky salt. Let cool completely, then cut into pieces.

To make Red Currant Crumble: Prepare Shortbread Dough, but transfer 3/4 cup dough to piece of plastic wrap, roll into log and freeze until firm, 30 minutes. Spread remaining dough into pan and bake 12 minutes let cool. In bowl, combine jam with orange liqueur and orange zest and spread over dough. Using box grater, coarsely grate frozen dough over top. Bake until topping is golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool, then cut into pieces.


Super-Easy Shortbread (3 Ingredients)

The original recipe (called Shortbread Stars) came from my McCall's recipe box collection, which I subscribed to in the 80's. It was the first shortbread recipe I ever made, and I've never found a better one. The ingredients are so basic and easy that you'll soon have them memorized. Other recipes don't seem to produce the same perfect texture and flavor. My modification to the original was to try using a 9 x 13 pan rather than chilling, rolling out, and cutting into shapes. (Who has time for that, except on special occasions?) However, using a 9 x 13 pan changes the baking time, and the time given is approximate and based on my experience with a convection oven. I tend to overbake them a bit because I like shortbread very crisp. These are perfect with a cup of tea, of course, and ideal for tea parties or even a quick dessert for company. You nearly always have the ingredients on hand. Now you'll never need to buy (delicious but expensive) Walker's shortbread again!