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Classic Shortbread Cookies

Sometimes the classics are the best. Carmel crunch chocolate chip cookies are fine and dandy, but I get cravings for plain shortbread cookies far more often than I do those loaded chocolate cookies. There’s something so satisfying about buttery, crumbly, not-too-sweet shortbread that makes this is a forever recipe in my household.

Shortbread originated in Scotland and since then has become an emblem of Scottish and British culture around the world. These cookies have a lot of fat from the butter, which inhibits the formation of long protein strands (gluten). The “short” (i.e. crumbly) texture is in contrast to risen baked goods which have a stretchy dough and airy texture. We still call fats shortening to this day for the way they affect the texture of baked goods.

To make this recipe begin by creaming together the butter and sugar. Then add in vanilla extract and all-purpose flour and don’t forget to add a pinch of salt. There are no eggs in this recipe, but if the dough turns out too dry then you can add a spoonful of milk. Only do this if absolutely necessary since you actually want a dry and firm dough that just barely holds together for these cookies.

Classic Shortbread Cookies

Roll the dough out and then use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes. Triangles, circles, rectangular bars, and even molded designs are all fine here. You can also use a cookie press if you have one.

Place the raw cookies 2″ apart from each other on baking sheets and refrigerate for 2 hours. The chilling of the dough helps to prevent the cookies from spreading out and melting in the oven. I speak from experience that if you skimp on the chill time the results will be less than satisfactory with thin, burnt, uneven cookies to show for all your work. But, if chilled properly these cookies don’t get gooey in the oven and instead bake to perfection.

Classic Shortbread Cookies

If you like you can sprinkle some large-grain sugar over the tops of the cookies before popping them into the oven. This is optional, but gives just a little bit more sweetness. Either way these cookies are a delicious recipe to have at the ready. And, they go wonderfully with a cup of tea or a nice glass of milk. This is one classic that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Makes 24 cookies

2h 20m prep time

10m cook time

2h inactive

Rated 4.7 out of 5
Rated by 13 reviewers

Allergens: Gluten, Milk

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 to 1 Tbsp milk, only if needed
  • Large crystal sugar for garnish (optional)
  1. In a large bowl cream butter and sugar together. Add vanilla and salt and then combine. Add flour to butter mixture and finish with tablespoon of milk if too dry. Dough should be texture of dry Play-Doh.
  2. On floured surface roll out dough to 1/2” thickness. Cut into 2” rounds or other shapes using cookie cutter. Alternately, you can press cookies into cookie molds if desired. Place cookies on ungreased cookie sheets and refrigerate for 2 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Take cookies out of fridge 5 minutes before baking. Optional: garnish each cookie with a sprinkle of large crystal sugar before baking.
  4. Bake for 10 minutes or until bottoms of cookies are just beginning to turn golden. Remove to cooling rack for 15 minutes before serving.

Recipe adapted from Lil Luna.

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