These classic shortbread cookies are made with just 5 ingredients: butter, sugar, flour, vanilla, and a pinch of sea salt. A simple, perfect approach to a beloved Scottish tradition that’s a perfect Christmas cookie.
Classic Shortbread Cookies
- Quick Glance
- 25 M
- 1 H
- Makes 18 to 24 stars
Special Equipment: 2-inch (5-cm) star cookie cutter (or substitute another size or shape cutter)
Dump the flour in a large bowl, add the butter, and use your fingertips to rub them together until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Stir in the sugar, vanilla extract, and salt, if using, and work the mixture with your hands until it forms small clumps. Continue kneading the cookie dough until it’s smooth and the sides of the bowl are clean. It’s okay if the cookie dough is a little crumbly. (You can wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to several hours although you’ll need to let it warm at room temperature before you’re able to roll it.)
Gently roll out the dough between a couple sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap to a thickness between 1/4 and 1/2 inch (1/2 to 1 1/4 centimeters). The dough is a little more crumbly and dry than most roll-out cookie doughs, so don’t worry if it cracks or crumbles a little. Carefully transfer the dough to the refrigerator or freezer for at least 15 minutes. (The time spent in the fridge may test your patience, but it helps set the dough so it doesn’t spread into blobs during baking. If you’re impatient and bake the dough without chilling, chances are you’ll end up with some amorphous starfish rather than linear stars.)
Preheat the oven to 275°F (130°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
It may be necessary to let the dough rest at room temperature for a little while prior to being able to roll it out. Using a star cutter, cut out the cookies and transfer them to the baking sheet. Roll the scraps and cut out as many more cookies as you can.
Bake the cookies in the preheated oven for 22 to 30 minutes, until very pale gold in color.
Remove the cookies from the oven, let them cool a few minutes on the baking sheet, and then sprinkle with superfine sugar while still warm. Click here for more information on storing and freezing your cookiese. Originally published November 29, 2015.
Recipe Testers' Reviews
I made these classic shortbread cookies for a holiday party at the last minute and they turned out very well. They were simple to make and the dough is fairly easy to work with—great for getting kids in the kitchen over the holidays.
I was able to roll out my dough immediately after making it and it was fairly pliable. I rolled it between 2 sheets of parchment paper and had no trouble with it, even on the fourth re-roll of the scraps. My dough was rolled out to the thickness of my cutter, which was 1/2 inch high. My star cutter was 2 inches across (measuring from the tips of the widest points), and this recipe made 24 stars of that size.
I loved these—I dipped them in chocolate and sprinkled them with holiday-colored sprinkles. And you could, presumably, make a lot of these and freeze the stars to bake up when you need them, no?
These delightful shortbread cookies are delicious and only take 5 ingredients and need no mixer! Using a star cookie cutter and sprinkling superfine sugar on top really added an elegance to this simple cookie.
The dough isn't too sticky to put in between sheets of plastic or parchment and roll out right away but putting the rolled-out dough in the freezer for at least 15 minutes will help make it easier to cut out the stars. When the dough is too soft, you don't get the sharp lines of the stars and the cookies look more like starfish. I ended up leaving the dough in the freezer for a couple hours, so it ended up freezing solid. It took about 1 hour for the dough to get to a temperature that I could roll the dough. (If I was in a hurry, I'd roll the dough into a log and put it in the freezer for the required hour and then slice the dough into circles. It wouldn't be as pretty as stars but would still taste delicious!)