Sometimes you just want a cookie and since homemade is best, nothing is easier than these Shortbread Cookies. These buttery, yet crisp cookies are easy to make and they start with three everyday ingredients that you probably have on hand: flour, sugar, and butter.
For years, I looked for a shortbread cookie recipe that would hold its shape when baked and not spread. Time and time again, the picture promised success. A beautiful square, round or rectangle cookie that had straight sides. But time and time again, despite my best efforts of chilling, freezing, waiting the cookie would spread.
Looking back it's funny to think about how badly I wanted that cookie to hold its shape. The cookie tasted great and it wasn't like I was taking pictures. I had it in my mind how I wanted the cookie to look and was disappointed when I couldn't make that vision happen. But a few years ago I found this recipe for Mei Baking. Unfortunately, the website is no longer, but it was a very informative site while it lasted.
Classic Shortbread Cookie Ingredients
This shortbread cookie recipe is also known as classic shortbread or 3-2-1 shortbread because it is such a simple recipe. This shortbread recipe has three main ingredients:
- Flour. Use all-purpose unbleached flour for this recipe.
- Unsalted Butter. Butter adds flavor and produces a nice tender cookie. You can use salted butter, but don't add the additional salt that the recipe calls for.
- Sugar. Granulated sugar produces nice crisp edges and helps with the light browning on the bottom edge of the cookie
The 3-2-1 refers to the ratio between flour, butter, and sugar - 12 ounces of flour, 8 ounces of butter, and 4 ounces of sugar. Kosher salt is an optional ingredient, but I like the bump in flavor that the kosher salt brings.
How to Make the Cookies
You'll get the best results for this cookie if you weigh the three main ingredients because the ratio between the flour, sugar, and butter is what produces such a delicious cookie that holds its shape when baked.
Once the ingredients are weighed place the sugar, butter, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat with the paddle attachment on medium speed until the ingredients are combined and the mixture is creamy, about 2 minutes. This step helps aerate the dough and introduces the air bubbles that produce a light cookie.
The flour is added and the dough is mixed on low speed until all the flour is mixed in and the dough starts to come together. Mixing the flour in on low speed is important to prevent the development of too much gluten.
Use your hands to lightly knead the dough until it forms a uniform mass, then roll out to a 1/2-inch circle. Use a 2-inch cookie cutter to cut out the cookies and reroll the dough scraps to cut out the remaining cookies.
Chill the unbaked cookies for at least 20 minutes or up to 2 days before baking. The cookies are baked at 300 degrees F to prevent them from browning, but if you want a little color on your cookie, increase the oven temperature to 325 degrees and start checking the cookie after 15 minutes.
The cookies are done when you see a little browning on the bottom edge of the cookies. Remove the cookies from the oven, allow them to cool briefly on the baking pan then move them to a cooling rack to finish cooling.
Shortbread Cookie Variations
I've used this recipe as the basis for my several of my favorite cookies on the blog including:
- Strawberry Shortbread Cookies
- Chocolate Cherry Shortbread Cookies
- Cranberry Pistachio Shortbread Cookies
- Chocolate Shortbread Sandwich Cookies
There are multiple variations that you can try on your own and here are just a few:
- Make Vanilla Shortbread Cookies by scraping the seeds from half a vanilla bean and rub the seeds into the sugar with your fingers.
- Add your favorite spice: cinnamon, cardamom or nutmeg
- Add chopped nuts, dried fruit or dark chocolate
- Brown Sugar Shortbread Cookies. Replace the granulated sugar with light or dark brown sugar.
- Dip the cookie in dark chocolate.
The possibilities are endless and this is a great cookie recipe to experiment with. The cookie dough can also be frozen for up to 2 months after cutting out the shapes. Freeze the cookies on a single on a baking sheet and then place the cookies in a freezer bag. When baking the cookies straight from the freezer allow an extra 5 minutes for baking.
If you've been looking for a shortbread cookie recipe that produces delicious tasting cookies every time this recipe is the one you've been looking for.
- 4 ounces (114 grams) granulated sugar
- 8 ounces (227 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 12 ounces (340 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
- Place the butter, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and mix on medium speed until the mixture is smooth, about 2 minutes. Stop the mixer, scrape down the bowl and add all the flour at once. Turn the mixer to low speed and mix until all the flour is just combined. The dough will be crumbly at this point. Increase the mixer speed to medium and mix until the dough has completely come together.
- Turn the cookie dough out onto a lightly floured surface. You can also use a large piece of parchment paper or Silpat.
- Use your hands to shape the dough into a rectangle and lightly flour the top of the dough. Do not use too much flour, just enough to keep the rolling pin from sticking.
- Roll the dough out to 1/2-inch thick. Use a 2-inch round cookie cutter to cut out the cookies. Place the cookies on a parchment-lined cookie sheet about 1-inch apart. Prick each cookie in the center with a fork. Pricking the cookies will ensure they bake in the center.
- Reroll the cookie dough and continue to cut out cookies until all the dough has been used. You might have a small piece left over.
- Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes. Chilling the dough will help the cookies hold their shape when baking.
- Bake the cookies for 25-30 minutes. The bottom of the cookies will be lightly golden brown.
- Take the cookies out of the oven and allow them to cool for about 5 minutes on the cookie sheet before moving them to a cookie rack to completely cool.
- The shortbread cookies can be stored in an airtight container for 1 week.