Easy Shortbread Cookies

Easy shortbread cookies are truly, well…easy. Only a handful of ingredients—sugar, butter, a pinch of salt, flour, and cornstarch (or semolina or rice flour), come together quickly but make a superlatively light and flaky, buttery biscuit.

Easy shortbread cookies cooling on a wire rack, beside a rolling pin and a large shortbread petticoat.

Adapted from Regula Ysewijn | The British Baking Book | Weldon Owen, 2020

According to Florence Marian McNeill in a 1929 book, The Scot’s Kitchen, a decorated shortbread, known as “infare-cake,” was the wedding cake ol’ rural Scotland. On the first day of the marriage, or “Infare day,” the infare-cake was broken over the bride’s head on the threshold of her new home. This very old custom finds its origin in paganism.

I’ve given the method for regular round biscuits, shortbread fingers, and petticoat tails, where the biscuit is baked in a large round and cut into portions like a pie. In the 1990s, it was popular in tearooms to push glacé cherries into the shortbread dough to make cherry shortbread. Today it’s popular to add edible lavender, but when it comes to shortbread, I think simplicity wins.—Regula Ysewijn

Easy Shortbread Cookies FAQs

How can I make smoother cookies without rolling them?

To make a smooth top on your shortbread, place a sheet of parchment paper on top of the dough and brush it with the palm of your hand.

Can I make these into shortbread fingers?

You sure can. Prepare the dough as described in step 1. Line an 8-inch (20-cm) square baking pan with parchment paper. Place the dough in the pan, and then pat and push it out to cover the base of the pan.

Place a second sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet and flip the pan over to turn the dough out onto the baking sheet. Slide the dough back into the lined pan, with the smooth side up.

Chill the dough for 1 hour. Use a knife to gently score lines to cut the shortbread into 16 fingers and prick lightly with a fork. Bake the shortbread in the middle of the oven until barely golden, about 35 minutes.

Easy Shortbread Cookies

Easy shortbread cookies cooling on a wire rack, beside a rolling pin and a large shortbread petticoat.
Textbook shortbread is one part sugar for two parts butter and three parts flour. My version contains slightly less sugar and a little more butter. Some of the flour is also replaced by rice flour, cornstarch, or semolina to make the biscuits even more brittle and short. I was looking for the taste and texture of my favorite shortbread fingers, and this recipe is very close.
Regula Ysewijn

Prep 15 mins
Cook 30 mins
Total 1 hr 45 mins
Dessert
British
12 cookies
105 kcal
5 from 1 vote
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Equipment

  • Round cookie cutter

Ingredients 

  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
  • 7 tablespoons cornstarch 1/3 cup (50 g) semolina, or 1/3 cup (50 g) rice flour, or a combination
  • 6 tablespoons superfine sugar (or blitz granulated sugar in a food processor until finely ground) plus extra for sprinkling
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks (6 oz) butter at room temperature but not soft

Directions
 

  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, semolina, or rice flour, sugar and salt. Use your fingers to rub in the butter until the mixture is the consistency of breadcrumbs. Knead the mixture until it comes together into a smooth dough, 5 to 10 minutes. Do not over knead, or the biscuits will be brittle.
  • Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.
  • Preheat your oven to 325°F (163°C).
  • Flour your work surface and pat the dough flat with your hands until it is about 1/4 inch (6.5 mm) thick. Do not roll the dough, or the shortbreads will be chewy.
  • Use a 3-inch (8-cm) cookie or biscuit cutter to cut out cookies. Pat the leftover dough back together and keep cutting out cookies until there is no dough left.
  • Neatly prick the shortbreads all over with a fork, place them on the prepared baking sheet, and bake in the middle of the oven until just barely golden around the edges, 30 minutes.
  • Remove the shortbreads from the oven and immediately sprinkle with superfine sugar. Let cool on the sheet for 5 minutes, then move them to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Keep the shortbreads in an airtight container and eat them as quickly as possible.
Print RecipeBuy the The British Baking Book cookbook

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Show Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 105kcal (5%)Carbohydrates: 24g (8%)Protein: 2g (4%)Fat: 1g (2%)Saturated Fat: 1g (6%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 1mgPotassium: 19mg (1%)Fiber: 1g (4%)Sugar: 6g (7%)Vitamin A: 3IUCalcium: 3mgIron: 1mg (6%)

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

“Down-home” is how I would describe these easy shortbread cookies—they really are so pleasing without any bells and whistles. And this recipe offers you buttery tender morsels that are simply perfect to have with a cup of tea or coffee.

Shortbread Biscuits-Chiyo

I love being able to mix the dough solely by hand, and the option for making shortbread fingers in a baking pan is welcome in my kitchen, as it eliminates any dough scraps. I made two batches of the shortbread fingers faithfully following the recipe for the first, and tweaking the method a bit the second.

Both batches offered equally delicious biscuits, but the adjustments I made to the second try worked very well. Instead of chilling the dough first, I filled the baking pan immediately after mixing the dough so it would be easier to cover the bottom of the pan, then chilled the whole thing in the refrigerator for 90 minutes. While the oven preheated I scored the dough in 8 rows and 3 columns, which yielded 24 fingers that are 1” x 2.5” each. I pricked the surfaced in varied patterns just to make it more fun.

These may be the easiest cookies I’ve ever made! Not to mention, they are truly delicious—buttery, delicate, and crisp. I used a combination of cornstarch and rice flour (50/50) and I think it really gave them a wonderful texture.

I cut my cookies into tiny fingers and got 36 cookies, which was smaller than what was recommended but I think they are the perfect size—two bites each so that you don’t feel guilty going back for seconds. I’ll definitely be making these easy shortbread cookies again for the holiday season.

Buttery and blissful—these easy shortbread cookies are delicious. They’re light and tender and just the perfect amount of sweetness. I especially enjoyed the sprinkle of sugar on top that is recommended when they come out of the oven.

They are a comfort indulgence at its best. Next time, I would consider adding cherries (as the author mentioned was popular) because I love their flavor.

I’m a big fan of shortbread but haven’t found a recipe that the dough does not fall apart. This was a great recipe, very simple. I think using other flours like semolina or cornstarch was a great addition.

Originally published December 19, 2021

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