Tender, buttery and crumbly, these shortbread cookies only require 3 basic ingredients and can be made at the last minute or ahead of time! Perfect for holiday baking or for any day of the year really!
What Are Shortbread Cookies?
In its most basic form, a shortbread cookie is simply composed of butter, flour and sugar. A typical shortbread is a 1-2-3 cookie, made up of 1 part sugar, 2 parts butter and 3 parts flour.
High fat, low moisture cookies: Since they don’t contain eggs or liquids, shortbread cookies have a very low moisture content which comes mainly from the butter (about 15% water). The low amount of water, coupled with the high amount of butter that coats the flour, limit gluten development. As a result, shortbread cookies have a wonderfully tender and crumbly texture.
My mother would make a large batch of shortbread cookies on birthdays and holidays. This recipe which she got from my grandmother remains my favorite. If you tend to scoff whenever a recipe requires chilling time, you’re gonna love this one!
The dough is so easy to handle and doesn’t really require chilling, unless your kitchen is very warm. It has just the right amount of butter to make it rich without turning the dough into a soft and greasy mess.
How To Make Shortbread Cookies, Step-by-Step
Prepare the shortbread cookie dough
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (356°F, conventional setting). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Combine the butter, sugar and salt together in a large bowl. I just use a wooden spoon or a pastry blender (if the butter is still too cold).
- Add the flour and mix just until you get a smooth dough. Don’t overmix. The dough will look very dry initially but will eventually come together. I start off with the pastry blender to avoid warming up the dough too much. And then I’ll use my hands, to gather it into a ball.
- Divide the dough into two disks and place one in the refrigerator while you roll out the other one.
Cut out shapes in the shortbread dough
- Place the dough between two sheets of parchment paper.
- Roll out to a thickness of 6 mm (1/4 inch). Make sure the parchment paper isn’t wrinkled.
- Cut desired shapes, keeping them as close as possible to avoid rolling the dough out too many times. Very slightly twist the cookie cutter before removing it to get cookies with clean edges. Cookies with a hole: After you’ve cut out the shape, use the back of a piping tip (or whatever you have) to make a hole in the middle.
Bake the shortbread cookies
- Place on the baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spacing the cookies about 1 cm (1/2 inch) apart.
- Gather the scraps and repeat the process until you’ve used up the dough. You can work on the second disk of dough while the first batch is in the oven.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the edges are barely golden-brown. Rotate the baking sheet if you notice some of the cookies are baking faster. The bottom of the cookie will brown first, followed by the edges and finally the top of the cookie. For very soft cookies, take them out just when the bottom changes color. If you like them more on the crisp side, you can bake them for slightly longer. Note: The refrigerated batch will take slightly longer to bake than the batch you baked right away.
- Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Bubbles On Shortbread Cookies
These shortbread cookies don’t spread at all, even without chilling. But you might notice some of them puffing up, as seen in the picture above (right).
This could happen for several reasons:
- You overmixed the dough: You don’t want to mix the dough for long so you don’t incorporate too much air. Just enough until it comes together. Don’t overmix. If you are using a mixer, try mixing by hand next time.
- The dough was too warm: If your kitchen is very warm, you might need to refrigerate the dough a little before baking the cookies.
- Shape of the cookie: Some shapes will be more prone to trapping air bubbles. You can see from the pictures above that the flowers without a hole in the middle puffed up.
If you notice that the cookies are puffing up, gently press the cookie down with the back of a big spoon a few minutes before the end of the baking time. You could also prick the cookie with a fork before baking depending on the look you are going for.
And that’s it! Hope you enjoy making these!