These easy, melt in your mouth 3 Ingredient Shortbread Cookies, are a must for every Holiday Cookie Tray. All you need is flour, butter and sugar, cut out or roll and slice, they will be loved by all.
If I were to say my favourite Christmas Cookie has got to be shortbread. I love it so much, I have quite a few recipes on the blog with a couple more ready to be posted. I think I have made a shortbread for almost every taste imaginable. Although probably not as I will keep on searching and creating more.
My friend is always telling me you have to make shortbread with just 3 ingredients, just like her Mom did and she does now. So after reading a little on the origin of shortbread I discovered that the British like to use fruit sugar or Caster sugar rather than icing/powdered sugar. So I decided to half the recipe and make half with fruit sugar and half with icing sugar.
- Butter – I use salted softened
- Sugar – Powdered/Icing sugar or Caster/Fruit sugar
- Flour – all purpose with at least 11% protein
What is fruit/caster sugar?
Caster or also known as superfine sugar, baker’s sugar or bar sugar is a super fine ground sugar that is between the consistency of granulated sugar and powdered/icing sugar. It is possible to make your own, just blend until finely ground but not powdered.
How to make the cookies
In the stand up mixer with the paddle attachment or large bowl, cream the butter and sugar for a couple of minutes or until light and fluffy. Add the flour and mix on low speed just until the dough starts to come together.
On a lightly floured flat surface gently form the cookie dough into a ball. Wrap the dough in a piece of plastic wrap and refrigerate.
With a rolling pin roll the dough to about 1/2 inch thick and cut out with your favourite cookie cutters. Place on the prepared baking sheet and refrigerate while the oven is pre-heating.
Bake until the edges are just starting to turn lightly golden. Let cool for a bit on the cookie sheet then move to a wire rack to completely cool. Be sure to let the shortbread cool completely before eating, because they really do taste better.
The difference between the two shortbreads?
The fruit sugar produced a softer dough, which was a bit harder to roll out. I would probably form this shortbread dough into a roll before wrapping in plastic and chilling, and then just slice and bake the cookies, that way I wouldn’t need to use too much extra flour to roll them out without sticking.
The powdered sugar produced a firmer dough which made it much easier to roll out, because I didn’t need to use a lot of extra flour, which made it the perfect dough for making cut out cookies.
Not only does a higher protein flour at 12% or higher help keep the dough from spreading too much which is essential when making cut out cookies, but using Icing sugar will also help too.
Once the cookies are baked you can’t tell which cookie was made with which sugar, unless you are comparing size because they look very similar. And as far as taste goes I preferred the powdered/icing sugar shortbread. Although not by much because the fruit sugar ones were also very good. I think it just depends on taste.
How to keep the cookies from spreading
To keep the cookies from spreading for some cookies including some icing sugar in the mixture also keeps the cookies from spreading.
And probably most important of all, is to use a higher protein flour with at least 11.5- 12% protein count.
And don’t forget to chill the dough for at least 1 hour and again before baking while the oven is pre-heating. Using most of these will help produce the perfect Shortbread Cookies.
How to store
The baked cookies should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week. I sometimes store mine in the fridge because I like cold cookies. They will last up to 10 days by storing them in the fridge.
How to Freeze Shortbread Cookies
To freeze the shortbread cookies, place parchment paper in between the layers of the completely cooled cookies this prevents them from sticking together when they are in the containers for freezing, or you can also place the baked cooled cookies on a cookie sheet and freeze them, then move the frozen cookies to either airtight bags or containers. Baked Shortbread Cookies will last up to a month in the freezer.
To thaw the cookies be sure to remove the frozen cookies from the bags or containers (this way no condensation will form) and let them thaw at room temperature. In our house no one waits for them to thaw!
More Shortbread Cookie Recipes
- Lemon Shortbread Cookies
- Chocolate Chip Whipped Shortbread
- Chocolate Toffee Shortbread Cookie Cups
- Chocolate Hazelnut Shortbread Cookies
So if you are looking for a very traditional Shortbread Recipe I hope you try these 3 Ingredient Shortbread Cookies and let me know how they went and what sugar you used. Enjoy!
3 Ingredient Shortbread Cookies
- 1 cup salted butter*
- 1/2 cup icing/powdered or caster/fruit sugar
- 2 cups all purpose flour**
*Salted butter makes this a 3 ingredient recipe if you prefer you can use unsalted but add 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of salt. Be sure to use a good quality butter, apparently this year 2022, store brand butter quality is not what it used to be. Less fat could mean a dry not so tasty cookie.
**Be sure your flour is at least 11% protein, any less and the cookies will spread.
- In the stand up mixer or with a hand beater cream the butter and sugar for a 1-2 minutes or until light and fluffy.Add the flour and mix on low just until the dough starts to come together.
- On a lightly floured flat surface gently form the dough into a ball (see note). Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 60 minutes.
- Roll the dough to about 1/2 inch thick and cut out with your favourite cookie cutters. Place on the prepared cookie sheet and refrigerate while the oven is pre-heating.
- Pre-heat oven to 325F (160C).
- Bake for approximately 10-12 minutes or until the edges are just starting to turn lightly golden. Let cool for a bit on the cookie sheet then move to a wire rack to completely cool. Be sure to let the shortbread cool completely before eating, because they really do taste better. Enjoy!
Hello there from Canada
I have my Mom’s shortbread recipe that uses just 3 ingredients too. But your lemon shortbreads sound delicious.
Can I just add lemon zest to half of the shortbread once it’s mixed together. And I will put the lemon glaze on too
Hi Catherine, sure you could do that. If you find the dough a bit dry then you could add some lemon juice. Let me know how it goes. Take care!
enid luchetti says
Receipe wonderful like all of yours made the whipped shorbread cookies husband ate all he is old school Italian…Cannot wait to make the shortbread S SHAPHEd COOKIES My grandmother came here from Italy and she baked a basket everyyear to die for
Hi Enid, thanks so much, glad your husband enjoyed them. I hope you like the S cookies. Take care!
I am baking the 3-ingredient shortbread cookies at 325 per the recipe. They have been in the oven for 17 min and not lightly browned yet. I can’t imagine 325 for 10-12 minutes. It must be my oven! Has anyone else had this happen? I hope they taste good.
Hi Susie, just the edges should be lightly golden, shortbread cookies are quite pale when baked. I would also check the oven temperature, I think it might be off. Let me know.
You are correct! The oven is off, but the cookies are delicious! And so easy to make. I’m going to make these one of my main Christmas cookie recipes and then decorate every dozen or so differently. Thanks!
Hi Susie, thanks so much, so glad you enjoy them. Sorry to hear about your oven, but glad you figured it out. Take care. Have a great week.
This recipe is so easy, thank you for sharing. Honestly, I’m not much of a baker, so I wasn’t sure how they would turn out. While I was out picking up the 3 ingredients, I came across a couple big bars of candy coating chocolate on clearance – I figured this was a test batch anyway,why not try dipping a few for a little extra something. I’m just finishing up my 5th batch of these scrumptious “why not” chocolate dipped shortbread cookies, they are a hit! I’ve received so many compliments. I do half the batch regular shortbread, a quarter batch dipped in white chocolate with milk chocolate drizzle, and the last quarter is milk chocolate with white chocolate drizzle. No more bringing chips ahoy to the cookie swaps for me!!! Thank you so much for sharing your simple, no fail recipe!
Hi Amy, thanks so much, so glad you liked them and they were a hit. Dipping in chocolate is always a good idea. Take care and have a great weekend.
Natasha du Plooy says
I used the powdered sugar and it worked beautifully.
I also dusted the cookies immediately after they came out of the oven with a little caster sugar and let the cool on the dry rack.
It was most delicious.
Natasha du Plooy
Hi Natasha, thanks so much so glad you enjoyed them. Take care.
After chilling the dough- how do you soften it for rolling out and cutting it with cookie cutters? It’s rock solid!!!
Hi Gina, after 60 minutes it really shouldn’t be rock solid, but if it is, then just cut in half a gently knead a few times to soften it up enough to roll. Hope that helps.
I going to make them round for regular shortbread
Hi Barbara, I hope you enjoy them.
Julie Symmes says
Excellent recipe. I used 1 cup of bread flour and 1 cup of all-purpose flour. Worked well with no spreading and easy handling of the dough. So glad to finally understand the correct protein percentages for shortbread.Getting ready for Christmas with a light dusting of snow, near Toronto, Ontario.
Hi Julie, thanks so much, so glad you enjoyed it. Yes, it’s amazing what the correct flour does to a recipe. I really miss the snow. Have a wonderful Holiday season.
Someone had researched the different flour brands protein percentages, anyone know where that was?
Hi Linda were you talking about my answer in the Orange Crescents? The lowest protein amount would be pastry or cake flour with 7-9%, all purpose 10-12%, bread flour 12-16% and whole wheat 16%. I am actually writing a post on flour that I hope to finish soon. Hope this helps.