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The Best Shortbread Cookies
We’re neck deep in cookies all over our kitchen and will hopefully continue the trend in the next couple of days. When there are Littles at home and they have friends, sometimes they all come swarming…and cookies disappear in nanoseconds.
We had such fun over the weekend celebrating the holidays early with some family and friends. Dozens of kids included, half of which were unapologetically hungry teens.
Translation: tables full of food and counters teeming with treats to satisfy those not-so-little-anymore Littles. Enter these butter shortbread cookies.
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What are Shortbread Cookies?
Shortbread cookies are just about the most simple cookies you can make during holiday season and beyond. They’re actually called “short” because of the traditional ratio of the 1:2 ratio of sugar to butter, providing a higher fat content to the dough. This ratio is what yields a soft, buttery crumb that is literally melt-in-your-mouth amazing.
Shortbread cookies are famous for their ultra-buttery, tender texture as well as their extraordinary flavor. With just 3 little ingredients, it’s surprising how big in flavor these shortbread cookies are. They’re the perfect canvas for rolling and slicing, shaping with cookie cutters, and decorating any which way you’d like.
3-Ingredients For ShortBread Cookies
These buttery, melt-in-your-mouth shortbread cookies contain only 3 simple, pure ingredients and nothing else. No fillers, no additives, nothing artificial at all.
You’ll only need:
- Salted Butter – you’ll want to keep the butter cold. No need to soften or melt the butter. No extra salt is needed in the recipe, since you’ll be using salted butter. However, if you use unsalted butter, you’ll want to add 1/4 tsp table salt.
- Light Brown Sugar – the tip for brown sugar is to use fresh brown sugar that has not lost any of its moisture from sitting in the pantry too long. Many shortbread recipes use white sugar or powdered sugar, but light brown sugar is the secret to a deliciously caramelized flavor.
- Flour – simple, all-purpose flour will do just fine for this easy recipe.
- Sprinkles are optional and lend a boost of colorful fun!
Shortbread cookies to Bake, Gift, Freeze
These 3-ingredient buttery shortbread cookies make my top 3 favorite holiday cookies every single year. They’re easy, no-frills, and 120% mouthwatering.
Bonus: they keep nicely for days, making them a tasty edible gift. The dough and baked cookies both freeze beautifully for at least a week or two. Once I make a batch of this cookie dough, I often use half and freeze the other half for all those seasonal cookie emergencies that inevitably pop up during busy holiday season and beyond.
Commonly Asked Questions
The main difference in the two types of cookies is the amount of sugar to butter ratio. Butter cookies generally contain more sugar and are baked a higher temperatures. Shortbread cookies contain a higher fat content, which yields a melt-in-your-mouth texture.
Shortbread is a wonderful balance of tender and slightly crisp textures when you bite into it. At first, there will be a light crunch, followed by a melt-in-your-mouth sensation.
It’s important that shortbread be made with 100% pure, quality butter. It’s the high butter content that makes these shortbread cookies so incredible.
Chilled dough allows butter to re-solidify and helps the cookies keep their shape during baking, preventing them from spreading too much.
More to Bake and Eat
- Forever Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies – these seriously stay chewy for days on end, if you can keep them around that long.
- Salted Caramel Cookies – super easy salted caramel cookies are yours, with this simple recipe.
- Brown Sugar Cookies, Soft and Chewy – these are our favorite year-round cookies to bake and eat. They’re the perfect canvas for any add-ins you like.
- Thick, Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies – all the oatmeal lovers in the house will adore these satisfying oatmeal raisin cookies.
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3-Ingredient Buttery Shortbread Cookies
Optional: sprinkles to suit any occasion throughout the year
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, add cold butter slices and brown sugar. Using paddle attachment on medium-high speed, cream until mixture is combined and has a pasty texture. Scrape down sides and paddle. Add only 3 1/2 cups of the flour and mix on medium-low speed just until combined; do not over-mix.
- On a large board, sprinkle 1/2 cup flour to keep dough from sticking to the board. Use rubber spatula to transfer dough to the board. Knead dough by hand, adding only as much of the remaining 1/2 cup flour as needed to make a soft dough, while continuing to knead. The dough should end up soft and pliable, similar to play-dough, not sticky. Gently work in desired amount of sprinkles, if using them.Important Note: You may not end up using all the flour, depending on how dough feels; it's important to stop adding flour as soon as your dough feels like soft play dough.
- Divide dough into 3 balls, and flatten them into discs. Wrap tightly with cling wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes or until firm enough to roll and cut shapes.Meanwhile, preheat oven to 325F, with rack on lower middle position. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats; set aside.
- Take out one of dough discs and roll it out to about 1/2 inch thickness – lightly flour board if needed. Either cut into 3×1 rectangular strips, triangles, or use cookie cutters (I use 1-2" cookie cutters). Place cookies 2 inches apart on baking sheet. Poke cookies with fork on top for a design, if not using sprinkles. Place entire baking sheet in fridge for 15 minutes.
- Bake chilled cookies for 15-20 minutes, or until edges are golden brown. For smaller cookies, bake closer to 15 minutes; bake longer for larger shapes. Repeat with the remaining dough, working in batches so dough stays chilled.
- Cool completely on wire rack before serving. Cookies keep very when sealed airtight, at room temp.
- Note that 2 cups butter = 4 sticks butter.
- Many shortbread recipes use granulated or confectioner’s sugar, but light brown sugar is the secret to a wonderfully caramelized flavor.
- If you need to use unsalted butter, add 1/4 tsp fine table salt to the dough.
- If you have unbaked cookies waiting to go into the oven, place them in the fridge to keep cold until it’s their turn to bake.
- Unbaked dough can be frozen for up to 2 months. Wrap completely airtight; defrost dough when ready to roll/cut.
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