Basic Shortbread Cookies

January 11, 2008

Basic Shortbread Cookies


I collected recipes and information from the web to come up with a very simple and fairly traditional version of Scottish shortbread. Although now it is always manufactured with white sugar and white flour, historically, those two ingredients were not available in Scotland. Flour was locally milled and more coarse. Sugar was generally unrefined and brown, but also much more flavorful. So I’ve used the closest modern aproximations: brown sugar and whole wheat pastry flour.

Note that ingredient amounts are given here, but they are actually just proportional. It is always 1 part sugar, 2 part, butter, 4 parts flour. So you can make as much or little as you like by following those guidelines.


    1 cup (2 sticks) butter (important — it must be real butter)

    1/2 cup brown sugar (Raw sugar or other darker, more flavorful sugar products are also acceptable. White sugar can be used too.)

    2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (Do not use plain whole wheat flour. It should be pastry flour. Plain white flour can also be used.

    flavoringsoptional –A teaspoon of vanilla or some lemon rind or some almond extract. Just use a dash of whatever you like.

    nutsoptional — In the South, some chopped pecans are added to this recipe, and they’re called Pecan Sandies. Chop the nuts very finely.


Soften (but not melt) butter. Cream together butter and sugar. Add in flavorings if desired. Mix in flour, and cream the mixture together quite thoroughly. It is helpful to use your hands for this step, as the heat of you hands will keep the butter soft and allow for more thorough mixing. Finally, add nuts if desiered.

Spread out the dough onto a cookie sheet in an even 1/2 inch thick layer. Score the dough with a knife in the shape of the cookie you want to end up with (a 1 inch by 3 inch rectangle is the typical shape). Prick the dough with a fork all over. (This seems to be mostly for looks.) Bake at 325 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Note that the thickness of the dough and time baked will have a substntial impact on the final product. For a softer result, the cookies should be 1/2 inch thick and baked only 20 minutes. For a much crispier and more durable cookie, the dough could be as thin as 1/4 inch thick and baked for 25 minutes. However, it is easy to over bake these cookies; so err on the side of less time.

When the cookies come outof the oven. Cut them into the desired size while still warm. If you scored them with a knife earlier, they will now be easier to cut.