Buttery and mouthwatering, classic Scottish shortbread cookies are irresistible! With just a few ingredients this traditional treat is easy to make at home.
There’s a reason shortbread has been a favorite for centuries in the UK, it has a buttery, crisp texture, tastes slightly sweet and is just downright delicious!
This Scottish shortbread recipe is easy to make at home with butter, flour, and sugar and its simple perfection appeals to both kids and grownups alike.
Traditionally shortbread is served in Scotland on winter solstice, Christmas, New Years Eve, or New Years Day. You might hear these called Petticoat Tails which is a nod to Mary Queen of Scots who preferred these baked in a large circle and cut into triangles.
No matter when you make this shortbread or if you decide to make it in a round shape or square, serve these melt-in-your-mouth cookies with coffee or tea, and they are pure bliss.
Table of Contents
Why Make Homemade Shortbread
- Easy to make: Make your cookie dough, chill it, then bake it, it’s that simple.
- Buttery: Need I say more? Real butter gives these their melt-in-the-mouth flavor and texture.
- Plain perfection: They are perfect as is or dip them in chocolate, top with candied ginger, candied citrus, or chopped fresh rosemary. They are delicious any way you eat them.
- Gifting idea: Gift these delicious homemade cookies at the holidays, everyone will love them.
Ingredients and Notes
Since shortbread has so few ingredients, there are not that many variations in how to make it from one recipe to another! My version though, uses cake flour which yields a tender baked good with an airy, moist crumb.
- Flour: You will need both all purpose flour and cake flour for this shortbread recipe.
- Sugar: Granulated sugar is best, if you can find caster sugar that is even better.
- Salt: Just a pinch to enhance flavor.
- Butter: Quality real butter is needed here, it’s not the time to use margarine! You will need it softened so plan accordingly.
How to Make Scottish Shortbread
Once you learn how to make classic shortbread cookies, there will be no need to buy them again!
- Make your crumb mixture: To start add both flours, sugar and salt to a food processor. Add the softened butter and pulse lightly until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
- Place dough in a baking pan: Remove dough from the processor and divide in half. Using your hands, pat the halves onto the bottom of two ungreased pie pans.
- Chill the dough: If desired press a fork into the edges to make a decorative pattern, then prick dough all over to allow steam to escape while it bakes. Refrigerate both pans for about 20-30 minutes.
- Bake: Bake your Scottish shortbread until golden, about 40 minutes. When ready, remove from the oven, carefully cut the shortbread into wedges and let them cool completely in the pans on wire racks. Remove and serve.
- Thin or thick: Use two 9 inch thick pans for thinner shortbread cookies or two 8 inch pans for a thick cookie.
- Don’t skip chilling the dough: This allows the fat to solidify, adds more concentrated flavor, and dries the dough slightly for better concentration of sugar. All this results in a chewy crisp shortbread texture.
- Softened butter: It’s important that your butter is not too cold otherwise it won’t mix properly. Letting it sit on your counter for about 20 minutes and it should soften enough to use.
- Quality ingredients: There are so few ingredients in this classic shortbread, choose quality over cheaper ingredients, especially when it comes to the butter.
- Flavor: You could add a pinch of vanilla extract or almond extract for additional flavor.
Why is it called shortbread?
The term dates all the way back to the 12th century! At that time, it was originally made with leftover bread-making dough that was dried and hardened into a type of biscuit bread.
As things do, it evolved with time, and eventually butter replaced the yeast and it became shortbread. ‘Short’ is a nod to the crumbly texture that results from the large quantity of butter used.
Do I have to use a food processor to make the dough?
No. If you have an electric mixer with a paddle attachment you can make your dough using that.
Should I use caster sugar?
Many Scottish shortbread cookie recipes will call for caster sugar. While granulated sugar is fine, caster sugar is a bit more fine in texture.
If you would like to use caster sugar, make your own at home by blending regular granulated sugar in your blender for a few seconds. Just don’t use icing sugar or powdered sugar as that contains cornstarch which is not needed for this recipe.
Can I make them into other shapes?
Traditional Scottish shortbread is baked in a circle and cut into wedges. Other variations are to bake it in a rectangular or square and cut it lengthwise into ‘fingers’.
You can also make them round into biscuits. But don’t let that stop you from experimenting with other shapes! For fun Christmas cookies, cut them in any shape you like and use a cookie stamp which adds a pretty embellishment.
You can store shortbread in an airtight container for several weeks or a month. The texture and flavor only get better with time.
To freeze your cookies after baking, store in an airtight container and place parchment paper between your layers. Thaw and bring to room temperature before enjoying.
More Christmas Cookie Recipes
- Brown sugar pecan cookies
- Christmas cut out cookies
- Easy nut cookies
- Classic butter cookies
- Thumbprint cookies
Classic Scottish Shortbread
- 2 cups Cake flour
- 2½ cups All purpose flour
- ¾ cups Sugar
- 1 pinch Salt
- 2¼ cups Butter (cut in pieces and softened)
- Heat the oven to 325 F (165C).
- In a food processor mix together both the flours, sugar and salt. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
- Divide the dough in half. Pat the halves onto bottom of two ungreased 9 inch pie pans or ,if you want thicker cookies, two 8 inch pie pans.
- Press a fork into the edges to make a decorative pattern, then prick dough all over. Refrigerate the pans for about 20-30 minutes.
- Bake shortbread until golden, about 40 minutes. When ready, remove from the oven, carefully cute the shortbread into wedges and let them cool completely in pans on wire racks.
- When cool, remove the wedges from pans and serve. Enjoy!