These Simple Shortbread Cookies can be made two ways, both are a delicious easy to make Shortbread Cookie Recipe, a melt in your mouth cookie that you will make year after year. Choose the traditional Shortbread or Brown Sugar version.
Probably the most awaited Christmas Cookies! But to tell the truth I like to make these not just at Christmas Time! They are so good how can you not?
- Butter – softened
- Sugar – powdered sugar or brown sugar (depending on the recipe)
- Flour – all purpose flour
Brown Sugar Shortbread Ingredients
- Brown sugar
How is shortbread different from cookies?
Most cookies have baking powder, baking soda and eggs in the recipe, they are usually lighter and sometimes chewy, whereas shortbread do not have baking powder or soda and contain few ingredients and they tend to be a tender, crumbly and melt in your mouth type of cookie.
How to Make them – Classic Shortbread
Beat butter until creamy. Then add a little at a time the sifted icing sugar, corn starch, salt and flour.
Move to a lightly floured flat surface and knead until mixture cracks slightly. Pat or roll gently to 1/3″ thickness. Cut out cookies with your favourite cookie cutters.
Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheets or an un greased non stick cookie sheet and bake.
Be sure you don’t let them brown they should be a very light golden colour when done. Let cool on cookie sheets, then move to a wire rack.
This dough is so easy to work with you don’t even have to roll it out, but you can if you want, just pat to your desired thickness, (I tend to like them thicker, more cookie for the bite you could say).
I love Simple Shortbread Cookies, they practically melt in your mouth. I always had a friend who said that her Brown Sugar Shortbread was the best and made exactly how it should be made with only 3 ingredients, butter, sugar and flour.
But to make her happy I would make her Brown Sugar Shortbread cookies, and I have to admit she did have a good argument, they are pretty yummy. I love the flavor the brown sugar gives the cookies. Although I would argue that my Mom made the best cookies and hers had five ingredients. And yes I still stand by my Mom’s.
How to make Brown Sugar Shortbread
Cream butter until fluffy, add sugar and cream together, then add the flour gradually and mix until almost combined.
Move the mixture to a lightly floured flat surface and with your hands work the dough until it comes together and forms a ball. If it is too sticky, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for approximately 30 minutes.
On a lightly floured surface roll to 1/3 inch (1 cm) thickness. Cut out with desired shapes, place on prepared cookie sheets and bake for approximately 10-12 minutes. Let cool on cookie sheets and then move to a wire rack.
How to make Shortbread Cookies without a cookie cutter:
With this Shortbread dough you can actually just roll the dough into a log shape, then slice it and bake on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. I would probably refrigerate the log (before cutting) for about 30 minutes.
Can this Shortbread Recipe be made with a stand mixer?
If you can’t or don’t want to knead the dough by hand, then yes a stand up mixer using the paddle attachment will work just fine.
I would only knead up to a point, when the dough just starts to come together (or even better, very coarse crumb mixture) and then knead the dough by hand. Completely kneading by machine can make the dough tough and dry.
As a reader Trina, stated “The dough does come together with elbow grease. I wouldn’t add more butter, it just takes kneading and I found that the mixer does not bring it together, you need to get in there with your hands”.
Why use powdered/icing sugar?
Powdered sugar will help keep the cookies soft for longer and it helps to keep the cookies from spreading while baking.
What does brown sugar do in shortbread?
Brown sugar will make a softer cookie and a subtle caramel flavor. Because brown sugar can increase spreading in cookies it is a good idea to chill the dough and the cookies before baking.
What is the best flour for cut out Cookies?
Be sure to use a high protein, at least 11.5 – 12%, my flour is about 13%, a low protein flour will cause the cookies to spread, and believe me refrigerating the dough will not help.
Why do you add Cornstarch to Shortbread Cookies?
I have recently discovered that a lot of people add corn starch (my Mom’s fourth ingredient) to cookie and cake recipes, the reason is because it adds softness to the finished cookie or cake. It also helps keep the dough from spreading.
To add a twist I even topped a couple of big stars with some Nutella and one with jam, then put some crumbled up dough on top and then baked them.
How to keep cookies from spreading
To keep the cookies from spreading it is best to beat the butter and sugar just until combined and not creamed (of course this also depends on the type of cookie), 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 the cut out cookies before baking while the oven is pre-heating. Using most of these will help produce the perfect Christmas Cookies.
And why is it called Shortbread
According to British Food History – Dating back to the 12th century , shortbread was originally called biscuit bread.
These biscuits were made from left-over bread dough that was sometimes sweetened and dried out in the oven to form a hard, dry rusk. This practise took place over the whole of the British Isles, not just Scotland.
How to Store Shortbread Cookies
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 6 months 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!
Yes you can make the dough in advance, wrap well and place in an airtight bag, it can be refrigerated for up to 2-4 days or frozen for up to a month in the freezer.
I like to bake my shortbread to a very light color, whereas my daughter prefers them a darker golden brown. It’s up to you.
In my opinion no, unsalted butter is not available in my area in Italy so I have never used it and I have never noticed a difference. Just be sure to adjust the salt accordingly.
Shortbread has a buttery melt in your mouth crumbly texture. For some people it can even have a dry sandy texture.
I would advise refrigerating the dough for at least an hour and then refrigerating the cookies for about 15-20 before baking. This can be done while the oven is pre-heating.
Yes you could add for example a teaspoon of vanilla, almond or orange flavoring. Or you could incorporate some chopped chocolate, coconut or even some finely chopped nuts.
I hope you try these Simple Shortbread Cookies, either my Mom’s or the Brown Sugar Shortbread or why not both, and be sure to let me know, which Shortbread Cookie you prefer. Enjoy!
More Shortbread Cookies You May Enjoy!
- Easy Chocolate Chip Whipped Shortbread
- Chocolate Hazelnut Shortbread Cookies
- Lemon Cheesecake Squares
- Almond Crescent Cookies
- Coconut Jam Squares
- Chocolate Shortbread Cookies
Simple Shortbread Cookies – Two Ways
MY MOM'S SHORTBREAD (Classic shortbread)
- 1 cup butter softened (salted)*
- ½ cup icing / powdered sugar
- ½ cup corn starch
- 1 pinch salt*
- 2 cups all purpose flour
If you use unsalted butter then add ¼ 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.
MY FRIEND'S SHORTBREAD (Brown sugar shortbread)
- 1 cup butter softened (salted)
- ½ cup brown sugar (lightly packed)
- 2 ½ cups all purpose flour
- 1 pinch salt
- Pre-heat oven to 325° (160 celsius).
My Mom's Shortbread. Line 2 cookies sheets with parchment paper.
- Beat butter until creamy about 3 minutes. Sift icing sugar, corn starch, salt and flour 4 times (I know, but it is worth it). Add the dry sifted ingredients to the creamed butter a little at a time and work in with a wooden spoon as long as possible*, then move to a lightly floured flat surface and knead until the dough cracks slightly.
- Roll gently with a lightly floured rolling pin to 1/3" (1 cm) thickness or pat to desired thickness with the palm of your hand. Cut out with Christmas cutters and place on the prepared cookie sheets, bake for approximately 10-12 minutes, don't let them brown. Let cool on cookie sheets, then move to a wire rack.
My friend's Shortbread
- Cream butter until fluffy, add sugar and cream together, then gradually add the flour and salt, mix with a wooden spoon* as much as you can. Move the mixture to a lightly floured flat surface and with your hands work the dough until it comes together and forms a ball.
- Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for approximately 60 minutes. On a lightly floured surface roll the dough to 1/3 inch (1 cm) thickness. Cut out into desired shapes, place on the prepared cookie sheets. Refrigerate the cookies while the oven is pre-heating. Bake for approximately 10-12 minutes. Let cool on cookie sheets and then move to a wire rack.
*or use the paddle attachment on the mixer until almost combined, then move to a lightly floured flat surface and continue with the recipe.
Updated from November 30, 2014
I used the brown sugar recipe, and used light brown sugar. It took WAY more than just a little elbow grease to knead the dough enough to where I could use a cookie cutter without it falling apart. It actually turned into somewhat of an upper body workout for me. Haha. But the end result was AMAZING and DELICIOUS! My cookies were the first dessert to go at my Christmas party. I also live in a higher altitude, so I ended up baking my cookies for 25-30 minutes to get the kind of consistency where it was crunchy on the outside and chewy, melt in your mouth texture on the inside. But I think bake times vary depending on altitude and also taste/what someone likes, so I suggest keeping an eye on the cookies while they’re in the oven. Will definitely be making these again.
Hi Kaity, yes you sure need to work that dough when you make it by hand. So glad they were enjoyed. Thanks and Happy New Year!
I tried this recipe for the first time yesterday and I could not be more impressed!! I did struggle a bit with getting my cookies onto the tray as they were pretty crumbly but by the second batch, I felt like a pro, and honestly, those shortbread cookies were the best I’ve ever had.
Thank you for sharing the recipe!!
Hi Vanessa, thanks so much, so glad you liked them. Take care and Merry Christmas!
Sherry S. says
I made the shortbread recipe & it was perfect. I must confess that I didn’t read the whole recipe & I did not knead at all, I used a hand mixer but the recipe was just fine. Sugar cookies don’t quite cut it for me but this recipe was just perfect.
Hi Sherry, thanks so much, so glad you liked them. Yes it does work with a mixer also. Merry Christmas!
I did the “My Mom’s Shortbread” version, and this will definitely be going on my go-to Christmas cookie roster! It was really crumbly, so I added a wee bit more butter (maybe a tablespoon?), but I found the more I kneaded it, the more it actually held together, so maybe the extra butter wasn’t even necessary… I’ll definitely try this again using more of that elbow grease first! 🙂
These are definitely a melt-in-your-mouth cookie! So delicious. I added a teaspoon of orange zest (because I had a ton of it I needed to use up!) but I think I may actually add a bit more next time as it gives the cookie a little bit of citrus flavour.
Thank you so much, Rosemary!
Hi Larissa, thanks so much, yes the dough really does need to be kneaded. So glad you liked the recipe and great idea with the orange zest. Merry Christmas!
Naomi Black says
Best Shortbread recipe!
I tried this recipe and noticed that after hand mixing it was still crumbly so followed your advice and put it in the stand mixer for a few minutes and it all came together beautifully.
Light, melt in your mouth cookies. I will add a bit of almond essence next time.
Hi Naomi, apparently I have heard the reason people are having trouble making cookies and the dough, is the quality of butter this year, it’s just not what it used to be, they are recommending that you purchase a quality brand and not a store brand. Anyway I don’t know if that could have been a reason for you, but I found it interesting. Glad it worked out and you like the cookies. Merry Christmas.
Mary Beth Christie says
Cookies are great. Heads up. The dough does come together just as the recipe is written. It takes a lot of kneading but it does come together very well. Great recipe
Hi Mary Beth, thanks so much, glad you like it and yes you need to knead! Take care.
Hi I was wondering if you can use margarine instead of butter? I’ve never made shortbread cookies. But your recipe sounds great.
Hi Cathy, no sorry for shortbread you definitely need butter. Take care!
I loved this recipe. I loved the way the dough handled. I think the key to this recipe is kneading the dough and the sifting of the dry ingredients. I will make this again.
Hi Ginny, thanks so much, so glad you liked the recipe. Take care and have a great weekend!
Lisa Birch says
I did have a problem getting my dough to go together. I added 1/4 c butter-additional and it was perfect. I chilled in logs overnight and ,baked at 350 degrees for 15 min. They turned out amazing! Melt in your mouth!
Thank you for the recipe!
Hi Lisa, thanks so much, yes it can depend on the flour, some flour absorbs moisture more than others. Take care!
I have made these cookies (first recipe) many, many times. I decorate them with royal icing. They are outstanding! Perfect cookie every time. Thank you so much for sharing!
Hi Jennifer, thanks so much, so glad you enjoyed them. Take care!
How do I keep my cookies from spreading???? I have chilled the dough before rolling and then chilled them again before popping in the oven. The highest protein flour I can get is just under 12%-should I use bread flour which has a higher protein content? Should I be hand mixing instead of my stand mixer- I use 2 sticks of butter- 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and then 2 cups of flour- it;s hit or miss- they either come out pretty well or too spread out..
Love your site!
Hi Gina, the just under 12% should be ok, although you could also try half bread and have all purpose. Chill the cookies while the oven is pre-heating 15-20 minutes that should help also. I have made them by hand and a mixer and they both worked fine for me. Let me know how it goes.
I was wondering if the short bread cookies are suitable for frosting?
Hi Andrea, I would say yes. They are pretty sturdy. Let me know how it goes.
Where can I find the recipe quantities?
Hi Elsa, the recipe card is at the bottom of the post, or you can use the jump to recipe button at the top. Hope that helps. Take care.