Shortbread

Shortbread is a wonderful starting point for all kinds of sweet adventures: top it (nuts, chocolate, jam); flavor it (lemon, hazelnut, coconut); or do both (cappuccino with a mocha ganache drizzle, anyone?). Then again, if you're a "make mine vanilla, please" kind of person, leave it alone; it can stand on its own in delicious simplicity.

Prep
15 mins
Bake
35 mins
Total
50 mins
Yield
2 dozen shortbread wedges
Bars of shortbread dipped in tempered chocolate and sprinkled with salt and pistachios - select to zoom
Bars of shortbread dipped in tempered chocolate and sprinkled with salt and pistachios - select to zoom
A baker sprinkling salt on top of chocolate-dipped shortbread - select to zoom
Shortbread

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Lightly grease two 9" round or 8" square cake pans. If you worry about the shortbread possibly sticking in your particular pans, line them with parchment and grease the parchment.

  2. In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, and extracts, then beat in the flour. The mixture may seem a little dry at first; keep beating until a stiff dough forms. If necessary, dribble in up to 1 tablespoon of water to bring the dough together.  

  3. Divide the dough in half (if you have a scale, each half will weigh about 300g), and press each half into one of the prepared pans, smoothing the surface with your fingers or a mini rolling pin. If you're having trouble pressing the shortbread flat in the pan because it's sticking to your fingers, cover it with a piece of plastic wrap and push on the wrap. Remove the wrap before baking.

  4. Use a fork to prick (dock) the dough all over; this allows any steam to escape, and prevents the shortbread from bubbling as it bakes. Prick the dough in a random pattern, or create a pretty design.

  5. Bake the shortbread until it's a light golden brown across the top surface and a deeper golden brown around the edges, about 35 minutes.

  6. Remove the shortbread from the oven and turn it out of the pans and onto a clean work surface.

  7. Immediately cut the shortbread, while it's warm; if you wait until it's cool, it won't cut easily. Using a pizza wheel or sharp knife, cut each round into 12 wedges. If you've baked squares, cut each square into four smaller squares, then cut each of those into thirds to make a total of 24 strips (12 per pan). Transfer the shortbread wedges or strips to a rack to cool.

  8. Serve as is, or garnish as desired (see "tips," below).  

  9. Store shortbread, well wrapped, for up to a week; freeze for longer storage. The flavor improves as the shortbread ages.

Tips from our Bakers

  • Looking for a gluten-free version of this recipe? Find it here: Gluten-Free Shortbread.

  • Although we usually use unsalted butter in our baking here at King Arthur, in this case salted is preferred. Why? Because, with no liquid in the recipe, it's impossible for added salt to disperse itself fully through the shortbread dough; you end up with unpleasantly gritty bits of salt in each bite.
  • Vary the flavor of your shortbread with the following simple additions.
    For ginger shortbread: Add 1/3 cup finely diced crystallized ginger and 1 teaspoon ginger.
    For butter-pecan shortbread: Add 1/8 teaspoon butter-rum flavor and 1 cup finely diced toasted pecans.
    For chai-spiced shortbread: Add 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon cardamom, and 1/8 teaspoon cloves.

  • Want to garnish your plain shortbread? Drizzle the baked wedges or strips with melted caramel, or spread them with melted chocolate and sprinkle with nuts. Or set aside two cookies and spread the remainder with a thick layer of jam or preserves; crumble the reserved cookies and sprinkle the crumbs lightly over the jam-topped cookies.

  • Want to make shortbread drop cookies? Drop the dough by teaspoonfuls onto a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Flatten each ball of dough to about 3/8" thick; use the bottom of a drinking glass, the tines of a fork, a cookie stamp, or whatever implement you think will make a pretty pattern. Bake the cookies for about 25 minutes in a preheated 300°F oven, until they're set but not really beginning to brown. Remove them from the oven, and cool on the pans or on a rack. Yield: about 4 dozen small (1 3/8") cookies.