This simple shortbread cookie made with the traditional ingredients in the traditional proportions. It uses butter, powdered sugar, and flour. Queen Victoria liked her shortbread with a little salt, so that is included as well.
Shortbread is a traditional Scottish recipe, with origins as early as the 12th century. What Americans call cookies are biscuits in the United Kingdom, which means twice-baked. The term short is used for anything crisp. These cookies are made without leavening from yeast or baking powder, so they are very firm when baked and can be packed for travel without breaking.
Mary, Queen of Scots, is said to have treasured shortbread in the 16th century and it was served for special occasions as butter was an expensive commodity. Shortbread was part of Christmas and Hogmanay (Scottish New Year's Eve) celebrations.
There are three traditional shapes for shortbread cookies. It can be baked in a single large round shape to resemble the sun and pressed with designs. You can make it in simple oblong finger with hole pressed with the tines of a fork. Or you can form them into petticoat tail wedges frilled with fork impressions.
- 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 2 1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- Mix together the flour and salt in a bowl and set aside.
- Cream together the butter, vanilla, and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the flour and salt mixture a small amount at a time, kneading it into the creamed mixture with your hands until you have a stiff dough which can be rolled. Do not overwork the dough.
- Turn the dough onto a floured surface and pat or roll out to 1/4" thickness.
- Cut the dough into squares (or any shape you want) and add texture or holes with the tines of a fork. Place the cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet.
- Bake at 325 F for approximately 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool and store in airtight containers.
Variations of Shortbread Cookies
Around Scotland, there are several variations for shortbread, so you don't have to worry if you'd like to add additional flavorings. For example, you'll see Walkers shortbread in a chocolate chip, chocolate, ginger and lemon, and chocolate-coated varieties. Enjoy these three recipe variations.
- Classic Shortbread Cookies: Made without vanilla or salt and using granulated sugar rather than powdered sugar.
- Orange Shortbread Cookies: This recipe uses brown sugar and orange peel for a delightful flavor.
- Butterscotch Pecan Shortbread: Made with brown sugar and pecans, you can dip them in chocolate for a special presentation.