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Melt-in-your-Mouth Shortbread

There is something so delicious about shortbread, beyond just the flavor. I think it’s the simplicity that makes it so appealing, that a few basic, simple ingredients can come together into an amazing product.

And that description is not over-the-top if you have had good shortbread.

I am of the opinion that everyone should know how to make shortbread. It is incredibly easy and you only need flour, butter and a little sugar. It’s hard to mess up. All you do is combine all the ingredients – I prefer to rub the butter in by hand, but it is perfectly acceptable to use a food processor – press into a pan and bake.

Of course, though plain shortbread is wonderful, there are many ways you can liven it up. For this batch, I added the zest of a lemon. Orange zest is an equally good choice. In the past, I have used mints and chocolate-covered espresso beans to top them, giving the shortbread a pleasing seasonal appeal, but just about any dried spice or herb can be added.

This recipe produces shortbread that is crisp and seems to melt into your mouth as it crumbles. I doubled the original recipe, increasing it from an 8×8 pan to a 13×9 pan. The baking time only needed to be extended by a minute or two, but I recommend watching the corners of the pan for browning. As they turn golden, the shortbread is done.


(from a Better Homes and Gardens Recipe)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

6 tbsp sugar

1 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into 10-12 pieces

1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 325F.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, sugar and salt. Pulse to combine. Add butter to flour mixture and pulse until mixture looks like very coarse sand.
Press evenly into 13×9-inch baking sheet.
Bake for 25-32 minutes, until the corners turn golden.
Let cool for 5 minutes, then gently score with a knife (a pizze cutter works wonderfully), cutting the shortbread into 30 pieces. Allow to cool completely in the pan.
Store in an airtight container.
Makes 30 pieces

Variations: Add zest of one lemon or one orange (or both) for a bright, summery variation. Add 1 tsp cinnamon, ginger or cardamom for spicer versions.
If you have vanilla sugar, this would be an excellent recipe to use it in.

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  • Lori
    July 7, 2006

    Shortbread is my favorite cookie in the world, followed only by chocolate chip cookies. I’ve tried several recipes, and I find that incorporating rice flour into the batter makes for the best, crumbliest cookies.

  • cj
    July 7, 2006

    My friend from Scotland swears that you must use unsalted butter… so I always do. Hers calls for no added salt. (I’ll try them side by side.) I’ve also added a tsp of almond flavor occasionally, then crushed the shortbread up for crust for your marbled cheesecake recipe. (mmmm)

  • Nic
    July 7, 2006

    CJ – I, too, use unsalted butter in this recipe. I use in in 99.9% of my baking, actually. I add the salt here for the same reason that I add it to everything else: to bring out the flavor. You can certainly leave it out if you really prefer to.

  • Stefanie Noble
    July 7, 2006

    Ohhh shortbread. Everytime someone writes about it, I launch into huge cravings and this time is no different.

  • doodles
    July 7, 2006

    one of the more versatile cookies and oh so delish……yours is a keep nic – thanks

  • LPC
    July 7, 2006

    Oh! The recipe looks do-able! I have always bought ready made shortbread thinking it’s one of the hardest things to do, given the crumbly buttery flavour. You’ve jsut helped demystify it for me.

  • dksbook
    July 7, 2006

    This is a great shortbread recipe. The one I use comes from Sunset magazine, and makes 1 9″ round pan, which I cut into 8ths. I often add about a sacant 1/4 cup chopped crystalized ginger to my recipce which calls for 1/4 lb. of unsalted butter. I also think a little salt is needed in shortbread, but I use extremely fine La Baleine sea salt in all of my baking (except when recipe calls for salt on the top of something). I also have a number of clay shortbread molds. I’m going to try your recipe to see how many shortbread roosters I get out of it.

    I also think shortbread needs to age a few days to really be good. I put it in a tightly sealed tin and hide it in the depths of the pantry a few days. It should be completely cooled first, though.

  • Alanna
    July 9, 2006

    It “is” hard to mess up shortbread: theoretically. But my sister’s shortbread is light and flaky where mine is dense and tough even though we both use our grandmother’s recipe! The Good News: She doesn’t mind being responsible for the Christmas shortbread! Nana taught us to cut elongated trapezoids, with fork pricks in the top. She also cut star and moon shapes.

  • Lauren
    July 27, 2007

    Is it possible to make this without a food proccessor? I have a regular blender, if that is an appropriate subsitute. Or perhaps my hand mixer? I would appreciate any advice, as I want to try this recipe!

    Also… can this be done in the bakers’ edge pan? I had to buy one after reading your articles on it!

  • Mel
    August 10, 2007

    Hello! I just made shortbread today using this recipe. I’ve got to say its pretty amazing. YUM! The cookie was sooo rich and buttery. It does taste a bit like sugee cookies (we have it here in singapore during the chinese new year period). I had to pop the dough in the fridge for abit though cuz the temperature here is a bit warm. But great recipe and so easy. Everyone loved it!

  • Eric
    December 22, 2007

    I’ve always wanted to make shortbread cookies in the past but I never did because I always thought that they must be hard to make. Well I am quite surprised how easy this recipe is! This is the second time I’ve made these this week. I love them! The flavor is so rich and buttery and the texture just melts in your mouth! The second time I made these I added a little bit more sugar, not much, and pure vanilla extract. Mmmm man oh man they even better the second time I made ’em! I’ll be making more for Christmas!

  • Eric
    December 22, 2007

    Lauren, you may have your question already answered. I use my hand mixer because I don’t have a food processor and they turn out great just the same! So yes you can use a hand mixer.

  • longtimecoming
    February 1, 2011

    Thank you for this recipe!! everyone at work loved these cookies, i dipped some in chocolate just to be saucy. My co-workers couldn’t get enough of them, and they are SO EASY!! i can’t wait to make them again!

  • Chris S
    February 21, 2012

    Thanks for the great recipe. I just made a batch of these and they’re perfect. I dipped them halfway in chocolate. I’m sure the kids will think they’re the best after school treat ever!

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