Scottish Shortbread

5 stars based on 17 votes

scottish shortbread

I know that ‘Scottish shortbread’ sounds like something to serve ladies at high tea — or to quote my favorite British food writer, Nigella Lawson, “the sort of cooking someone else does.” But make it once and you’ll be convinced otherwise. Buttery, crisp, and mildly sweet, shortbread is simple to make with ingredients that are always on hand. Baked in large rounds to resemble the sun and cut into wedges, shortbread is traditionally served in Scotland on winter solstice, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day. It’s wonderful with coffee or tea any time of day — and since it’s appealingly plain, kids love it as much as grown-ups.

ingredients

Since shortbread is made with so few ingredients, there’s not a lot of variation in shortbread recipes. This recipe from King Arthur Flour, however, is unique in that it calls for confectioners sugar instead of granulated sugar, which makes the cookies extra tender. It also calls for almond extract in addition to vanilla — I love this flavor combination.

cut-shortbread

Begin by whisking together the flour and salt, then set aside.

dry-ingredients

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or beaters, combine the butter, sugar, vanilla, and almond extract.

butter-and-sugar

Beat until smooth and creamy.

mixing-butter-and-sugar

Add the flour mixture.

mixing-in-flour

Mix on low speed until combined into a stiff dough.

dough

Divide the dough in half and place each half in a greased cake pan.

divided-dough

Dust your fingers with flour and press each dough ball into an even layer.

spreading-dough-in-pan

To smooth the surface, place a piece of plastic wrap over the dough and smooth with your fingers.

smoothing-dough

Use a fork to prick the dough — this allows steam to escape while the shortbread bakes.

pricking-dough

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.

baked-shortbread

Remove the pans from the oven, and immediately turn each shortbread round out onto a clean work surface.

ready-to-cut

Using a sharp knife, cut each round into 12 wedges. It’s important to do this while the shortbread is still warm, otherwise it will crumble when cut.

slicing-shortbread

Transfer the shortbread wedges to a rack to cool.

cooling-on-rack

Serve and enjoy!

scottish-shortbread-1

My Recipe Videos

Scottish Shortbread

Servings: 24 wedges
Prep Time: 25 Minutes
Cook Time: 35 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off with a knife
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pans
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Lightly grease two round 9-in cake pans with butter. (If you worry about the shortbread sticking in your particular pans, line them with parchment rounds, and then butter the parchment.)
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or beaters, combine the butter, sugar, vanilla, and almond extract. Beat until smooth, creamy and well combined. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until you have an evenly mixed, stiff dough.
  4. Divide the dough in half (if you have a scale, each half will weigh about 10.5 oz), and press each half into an even layer in the prepared pans, dusting your fingers with flour as necessary to prevent the dough from sticking. To smooth the surface, place a piece of plastic wrap over the dough and smooth with your fingers. Use a fork to prick the dough all over in 1-in intervals to allow steam to escape while the shortbread bakes.
  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 pans from the oven, and immediately turn each shortbread round out onto a clean work surface. Using a sharp knife, cut each round into 12 wedges. (Do this while the shortbread is still warm; otherwise, it won't cut easily and will crumble.) Transfer the shortbread wedges to a rack to cool. Store in an airtight container for up to a month.
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Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Serving size: 1 wedge
  • Calories: 126
  • Fat: 8 g
  • Saturated fat: 5 g
  • Carbohydrates: 13 g
  • Sugar: 5 g
  • Fiber: 0 g
  • Protein: 1 g
  • Sodium: 50 mg
  • Cholesterol: 20 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

Reviews & Comments

  • 5 stars

    I plan to make this recipe for this Easter. Knowing that my daughter favorite thing in the whole world is the twix bar. I tested out the recipe last night. I cooked the shortbread in a square pan for the shortbread tradition shape. cooled them for awhile added the melted carmels and then the chocolate. they were teriffic. I am sure they will be a big hit at Easter,

    - SHARYN on March 1, 2018 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Oh my goodness – I just finished baking these, and cannot stop eating!
    I became vegan 4 years ago, and I tried a “vegan” shortbread recipe that was not – how shall I say – very tasty. (I think I ended up throwing it out!) Shortbread relies on the flavour of butter, and there is no vegan substitute.
    But this recipe! Absolutely scrumptious, and I can once again eat delicious shortbread!
    My pre-vegan go-to recipe had no flavouring other than the butter, and was excellent, but this is a fantastic substitute. Thank you so much for sharing this!

    - Janine on February 7, 2018 Reply
    • PS: I used Becel brand vegan margarine, and while it’s very very good, it’s not butter. And thanks to you, it doesn’t have to be:)

      - Janine on February 7, 2018 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I love shortbread. This is one of the best recipes I have seen. The only thing I do differently is to make it thicker. Yes, you get fewer servings, but who is counting servings? It’s all for me anyway LOL.

    Easy to make, wonderful to eat. I love it!!

    - Elizabeth Short on February 1, 2018 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I used to bake all the time. I’ve become disabled and I don’t bake as much as I used to. I always had King Arthur Flour, as well as regular white flour on hand. Recently, I told my husband to toss them and we’d buy some each week to makes were what we had was fresh. He mentioned my Shortbread, which he loves, and I have only white flour on hand. I always used the King Arthur recipe and didn’t know if it would work if I used the regular flour. Now I know! Thank you so much! I’m going to make it in a few minutes!

    - Kathleen G Maher on January 23, 2018 Reply
    • Hope you enjoy!

      - Jenn on January 24, 2018 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This is outstanding. I used the Trader Joe’s salted cultured butter from Brittany (did not add additional salt) and it was heavenly–this recipe is all about the butter! I made the entire thing in a single 9×13 and cut it into fingers rather than wedges. Finally, I melted some semi sweet baking chocolate on a plate and dipped some of the fingers in, and then froze them briefly to set the chocolate.

    - Erika on January 4, 2018 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Made these twice now. Easy and delicious. Can these be made ahead and frozen?

    - Veronica Rubin on December 10, 2017 Reply
    • Glad you like them! Yes, I think these should freeze nicely.

      - Jenn on December 10, 2017 Reply
  • Can I use the shortbread mould for this recipe- it is a square nordic pan with fluted edges and design in each square – would not be able to use the parchment paper but can liberally grease the pan .

    - priya rajkumar on December 7, 2017 Reply
    • Hi Priya, I think it should work. I’d love to know how it turns out!

      - Jenn on December 7, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This shortbread recipe is really wonderful and authentic, and is especially beautiful as part of a tea (darjeeling pairs particularly well with it). The cookies look invitingly rustic when made as the recipe specifies, or you can press the dough into a pan specific to shortbread, as seen here: :https://www.amazon.com/Brown-Bag-Thistle-Shortbread-Cookie/dp/B0028Y5TNY
    Either way, there is no substitute for pure butter, although I somtimes omit the almond extract as the flavor can hide the butter and vanilla. Using a rolling pizza cutter makes for very even, neat edges when the warm shortbread is cut. Outstanding, basic recipe worth mastering!

    - Dina Lattanzi on December 1, 2017 Reply
  • My question is, is confectioners sugar, the every day sugar or is it the powder sugar?

    - Janine on April 12, 2017 Reply
    • Confectioner’s sugar is the same as powdered sugar :).

      - Jenn on April 12, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Several years ago, I requested a recipe for shortbreads similar to Walker’s and you directed me to King Arthur Flour’s recipe. I have been baking them ever since. For many years prior, finding the perfect shortbread recipe was a mission for me…they are my husband and daughter’s absolute favorite. You have never lead me in the wrong direction, your recipes are spot on and require no modification and because of your shortbread recipe suggestion, my mission to find the perfect shortbread recipe has ended. These shortbreads are requested frequently. Thank you for your wonderful blog, your personal responses and I’m looking forward to your cookbook!

    - Aileen H. on April 2, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made this last week and for some reason they came out very hard and were difficult to eat… any idea what I did wrong? The only thing I did differently was to substitute 2 Tbs corn starch / cup of flour to make cake flour because I had read somewhere that doing that makes better shortbread… do you think my cleverness sabotaged my efforts? 🙂 The taste/flavor was awesome though… we still ate them all.

    - John on March 2, 2017 Reply
    • Hi John, I don’t think the cornstarch/flour would cause the problem. Shortbread should be crisp, but not hard. They may have baked for a bit too long, or is there a chance that you could’ve made a measuring mistake?

      - Jenn on March 3, 2017 Reply
      • There is always that chance 🙂 I’ll try them again since the recipe resurfaced in your emails. Thanks so much for those by the way… they provide some wonderful ideas!

        - John on December 7, 2017 Reply
  • 4 stars

    Delicious. I did skip the almond extract as my British husband wanted traditional shortbread. I also prefer using my food processor to mix the dough. Caster sugar is traditional so powdered sugar was a bit of a gamble. It paid off though. For tea and biscuits, I’ll stick to the tried-and-true as I’ve become accustomed to the slightly gritty texture of regular sugar in them. However, this recipe offers me an alternative for mince pie “crusts” so in the recipe box it goes.

    - rachel on February 15, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I really appreciate a crisp, not overly sweet cookie. This one definitely delivers 🙂

    - Eunice Smith on February 14, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made this recipe exactly as written. They were rich and buttery. My husband loves shortbread and thought these were the best ones he’s ever had. I will make these for the holidays and give away as gifts as they’re very easy to make!

    - Lori on February 14, 2017 Reply
  • Hi Jenn,

    They are baking as I type this. Just realized I only had 8 inch pans. How much longer should I bake? Thanks!

    - Lisa on February 12, 2017 Reply
    • Hi Lisa, I think I’m probably too late with this response, but the shortbread would just take approximately 5 minutes longer. Hope you enjoyed it!

      - Jenn on February 13, 2017 Reply
      • 5 stars

        Thanks Jenn! I baked exactly 5 minutes more and they came out perfect!

        - Lisa on February 14, 2017 Reply
  • Made these for our New Year’s day dessert. Simple ingredients and super easy. No problems getting them out of the pan. Husband and neighbors loved, so did I! Jenn, love your recipes.

    - Cheryl H. on January 3, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Because I only have one of the round pans I cut the recipe in half, it was really easy and quick to make. This is delicious!!! My father who is as picky as they come with food said I should make this every week, that it was the best thing I ever baked- lol. Really, this is very delicious to the point that it’s addictive! Thank you so much for this!

    - Christina on January 2, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Oh my! These are so good! Really easy to make — almost too easy. I see lots of these cookies in my future. My husband thought they were a little rich, but my teenage daughter said she wished she’d never tasted them because now she wants to eat them all. I cut them into smaller strips in hopes that I wouldn’t eat so much at once. Didn’t work. I did have a little trouble getting it out of my pan, and I was using a non stick pan that I buttered. Next time I’ll use parchment paper but I was able to eventually get it out in one piece. Wonderful and easy recipe.

    - Dwana on January 2, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made these cookies with my sweet 12 yr old granddaughter this morning and they are so buttery and delicious. We are baking another batch to pack in cookie tins for the neighbors. Fabulous!

    - Joan on December 31, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I just made this. The house smells heavenly!
    I only had one 9″ pan. That came out beautifully. The other was on a pie dish. It disintegrated.
    Am eating it as I write. It is delicious.
    I will certainly make it again. Thank you so much for sharing the recipe.

    - Sarah Sali on December 30, 2016 Reply
  • Hi!
    What does ‘cool at room temperature’ means? Does the butter not be mushy? Or it being soft but not too soft.

    - Sarah Sali on December 30, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Sarah, Yes it means soft but not too soft. I’ve changed it to just “room temp” to avoid confusion. Hope that helps!

      - Jenn on December 30, 2016 Reply
  • The shortbread I’ve had from Scotland has always been much thicker than this. Are there different types?

    - Liz MacKie on December 29, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Liz, I’ve seen shortbread in all shapes and sizes – I prefer it thin (this one is about 1/4-inch thick) but it can be made in a smaller pan for a thicker cookie, if you like. You can also use this dough to make shortbread drop cookies (read the baker’s tips at the bottom of the King Arthur recipe here).

      - Jenn on December 30, 2016 Reply
  • THIS is Scottish shortbread…1 cup butter, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 cups flour. Nothing else.

    - Nancy on December 29, 2016 Reply
    • Nancy.. I can’t wait to see your own blog!

      - Rick Delaney on December 31, 2016 Reply
    • Maybe the Scots have slightly different versions like us Italians do for making sauce 🙂 – This is my Scottish former mother-in-law’s grandmother’s recipe: 1 lb (yes, 4 sticks) salted good quality butter at room temp, 4 C flour (not packed), 3/4 C sugar and 1 egg yolk. Mix with wooden spoon (or hands-no mixer), spread in jelly roll pan, make crisis-cross pattern on top with fork prior to baking. Bake in 250 degree oven for 1-1/2 hours. When done, while still warm, lightly sprinkle sugar on top which settles in groves of fork pattern. Cut into squares. Store in tin if there is any left!

      - Cathy on December 31, 2016 Reply
  • Call it shortbread if you must, but most definitely not authentic Scottish shortbread.

    - Marilyn on December 29, 2016 Reply
    • Marilyn, Could you possibly give us an example of authentic Scottish shortbread recipe if indeed this is not correct? I thought this particular recipe was spot on.

      – LMM

      - LMM on December 29, 2016 Reply
      • I haven’t tried making it yet, so I’m really not in a position to comment but that doesn’t always stop me! I doesn’t look like the shortbread I’m familiar with, but I’d need to taste it before commenting further. I’d be interesting in Marilyn’s reason for saying it’s not authentic Scottish shortbread.

        - lucysky on December 29, 2016 Reply
    • True. Authentic Scottish Shortbread has nothing in it but flour, butter, and sugar. No flavourings of any kind, other than a pinch of salt. No vanilla, no chocolate chips, etc. It is also formed into either fingers, or in a wheel a little less than half an inch thick; with crimped edges to honour the sun. Some people call these petticoat tails. It is also not allowed to brown, but is taken out of the oven when a pale gold.

      - hopflower on March 18, 2018 Reply
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