Easy Shortbread Cookies

5 from 3 votes

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In the world of best-loved cookies, it’s hard to beat simple, buttery, dense but flaky shortbread.  

Easy Shortbread Cookies

As part of a holiday cookie platter, sidling up to a cuppa tea, boxed up in a pretty package, it’s hard to beat simple, buttery, dense — and slightly crumbly– shortbread.   This shortbread that is scored and docked and cut into triangles, with a bit of lemon added for interest. If you like Scottish Walker’s Shortbread, then this is the easy homemade version of that traditional cookie (or biscuit, as it’s known in England)! Apparently Mary, Queen of Scots, was very partial to this cookie, which is why it’s also known as Scottish shortbread.

The name shortbread refers to the high amount of butter in the dough making it a short dough. In baking and doughs, the word “short” means that there is a high percentage of fat to flour. More butter, more better.

Knife grabbing a slice of shortbread cookie.

Tips for Making Great, Melt-in-Your-Mouth Shortbread

  • Don’t overwork the dough, or the shortbread won’t be as tender
  • Make sure the butter is soft, but not melted so that the shortbread retains its firm structure 
  • Make sure to refrigerate the dough before baking. This will allow the shortbread to bake up a little flaky, with a deep bite and also allow the flavor to meld a bit.  
  • Use your fingers or a spice jar to flatten the surface of the dough before baking which will give it a more polished appearance and encourage more even baking.
  • Score (create lines for cutting the shortbread after baking) and dock (poke tiny holds in the surface) the dough before baking to prevent bubbles and buckling from occurring.  These holes allow steam to escape.
Shortbread Cookies piled on a plate.

Lemon Shortbread Cookies

Dorie Greenspan, baker and cookbook author extraordinaire, suggests adding lemon zest for a boost of flavor.  She advises using your fingers to rub the lemon zest with the granulated sugar and salt before combining with the rest of the ingredients to bring out the flavorful oils in the zest.  Tiny extra step, great flavor results.

Easy Shortbread Cookies: In the world of best-loved cookies, it’s hard to beat simple, buttery, dense but flaky shortbread.  

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Shortbread will keep at room temperature in a tightly sealed container for up to 2 weeks.  Well wrapped, it will keep in the freezer for about 4 months.

How to Make Shortbread

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the sugar, salt and lemon zest — use your fingers to rub the mixture together until you can really smell the lemon zest.

Woman rubbing lemon zest into sugar.

Add the butter and use an electric mixer to blend until well combined and fairly smooth; it won’t get very fluffy.  Add the vanilla and blend, then add the flour and mix on low just until combined.  

The dough should be soft and crumbly, and should just hold together when squeezed in the palm of your hand.

Woman holding a solid piece of shortbread cookie dough.

Transfer the crumbly dough into a greased 8-inch round cake pan.  Pat the top as smoothly as possible, and then use a spice jar to roll the top gently until smooth, or pat it smooth with the bottom of a glass.

Woman rolling shortbread dough in a bake pan with a spice jar.

Use the tines of a fork to score the dough into wedges.

Woman scoring shortbread cookie dough with a fork.

Use the back of the tines of a fork to make a border around the edge of the shortbread.

Woman using a fork to create a border on shortbread cookie dough.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.  The shortbread will be very pale when it is done, barely more golden than it was before baking, with the edges ever so golden.

Cool the shortbread in the pan on a wire rack.  Either cut the shortbread into triangles in the pan, following the scored lines, or carefully turn the shortbread out of the pan, then carefully flip it right side up onto a cutting board and slice along the scored lines.

Woman using a knife to cut a pan of shortbread cookies.

Shortbread Variations:  

Mini Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies

If you’d like to mix in 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips after you blend in the flour, go for it!

Espresso Shortbread Cookies

Skip the lemon zest and blend in 1 teaspoon espresso powder.

Scored Shortbread Cookies in a round cake pan.

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5 from 3 votes

Easy Shortbread Cookies

In the world of best-loved cookies, it’s hard to beat simple, buttery, dense but flaky shortbread.  
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Cooling time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings: 10 People
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Ingredients 

Instructions 

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour an 8-inch cake pan.
  • In a large mixing bowl, mix together the sugar, salt and lemon zest – use your fingers to rub the mixture together until you can really smell the lemon zest.
  • Add the butter and use an electric mixer to blend until well combined and fairly smooth; it won’t get very fluffy. Add the vanilla and blend, then add the flour and mix on low just until combined. The dough should be soft and crumbly, and should just hold together when squeezed in the palm of your hand.
  • Transfer the crumbly dough into the prepared pan. Pat the top as smoothly as possible, and then use a spice jar to roll the top gently until smooth, or pat it smooth with the bottom of a glass.
  • Use the tines of a fork to score the dough into wedges. Use the back of the tines of a fork to make a border around the edge of the shortbread (see above for step-by-step photos).
  • Bake for 25 minutes. The shortbread will be very pale when it is done, barely more golden than it was before baking, with the edges ever so golden.
  • Cool the shortbread in the pan on a wire rack. Either cut the shortbread into triangles in the pan, following the scored lines, or carefully turn the shortbread out of the pan, then carefully clip it right side up onto a cutting board and slice along the scored lines.

Notes

  • Don’t overwork the dough, or the shortbread won’t be as tender
  • Make sure the butter is soft, but not melted so that the shortbread retains its firm structure 
  • Make sure to refrigerate the dough before baking. This will allow the shortbread to bake up a little flaky, with a deep bite and also allow the flavor to meld a bit.  
  • Use your fingers or a spice jar to flatten the surface of the dough before baking which will give it a more polished appearance and encourage more even baking.
  • Score (create lines for cutting the shortbread after baking) and dock (poke tiny holds in the surface) the dough before baking to prevent bubbles and buckling from occurring.  These holes allow steam to escape.

Nutrition

Calories: 154kcal, Carbohydrates: 16g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 9g, Saturated Fat: 6g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 2g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 24mg, Sodium: 60mg, Potassium: 17mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 7g, Vitamin A: 284IU, Calcium: 5mg, Iron: 1mg
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About Katie Workman

Katie Workman is a cook, a writer, a mother of two, an activist in hunger issues, and an enthusiastic advocate for family meals, which is the inspiration behind her two beloved cookbooks, Dinner Solved! and The Mom 100 Cookbook.

5 from 3 votes (2 ratings without comment)

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1 Comment

  1. Ellen says:

    Easy recipe and delicious. I only used vanilla flavoring…yum!