This easy Scottish Shortbread recipe makes tender, buttery shortbread with only 4 ingredients! Plus, a professional pastry chef gives you all the tips and tricks to making perfect shortbread cookies!
Day 5 of the annual 12 Days of Christmas Cookies 2022!
This traditional Scottish Shortbread recipe only has 4 ingredients! The trick to perfect shortbread cookies is partially baking the dough, then cutting the pieces before continuing to bake. The result is crispy, tender shortbread cookies that don’t spread. I use a bit of rice flour in the dough to add texture and make the cookies extra tender.
Table of Contents
Why do you poke holes in shortbread?
The holes in shortbread allow the steam to release from the dough while it is baking. This will keep the cookies from puffing irregularly and will allow for an even bake.
Why is rice flour used in this Scottish Shortbread Recipe?
Traditional shortbread contains rice flour to add starch without adding gluten. This will give it a more tender texture. Rice flour also has larger particles than all-purpose flour, which gives shortbread its characteristic sandy texture.
Scottish Shortbread Recipe Ingredients
- Butter: I use unsalted butter for baking, because you want to control the amount of salt you are adding. Every brand is different and it makes adjusting the recipe a challenge.
- Kosher Salt: Kosher salt is lass salty than table salt and a teaspoon weighs less than other finer ground varieties. It heightens the flavor here and will keep your cookies from tasting dull or flat.
- All-purpose flour: Be sure to measure your flour by fluffing up the all purpose flour in the bag then spooning it into a measuring cup. Level it off with a knife. Be careful not to tap or compress the flour. Not measuring correctly, will lead to dry cookies.
- Rice Flour: Rice flour has a coarser texture than all-purpose flour, so it gives shortbread cookies their distinctive texture. It is also gluten free, so rice flour will add to the structure without developing the gluten protein network. This will keep the cookies tender rather than tough.
- Caster Sugar: Caster sugar is finely ground granulated sugar. It is not readily available in the United States, but you can make your own by processing granulated sugar in the food processor.
How do you make Caster Sugar?
If you live in the United States, most likely you do not have caster sugar readily available. No stress. Caster sugar is simply finely ground granulated sugar. It is typically even more finely ground than the Extra Fine Granulated Sugar that they sell here in the States. Simply place some granulated sugar in a food processor and process until fine. Let it settle a touch before opening the lid or you will get a nice sugar cloud coating on your face.
Scottish Shortbread Recipe Variations
- Citrus: Zest orange, lemon or grapefruit peel into the sugar and allow to infuse for at least 30 minutes to overnight. Mix according to the instructions for a super flavorful citrus shortbread!
- Glazed: Mix together powdered sugar, a tiny pinch of salt and just enough lemon juice to make a thick glaze that will run from the whisk. Drizzle over the top of the shortbread and allow to set.
- Chocolate Chip: After the dough for this Scottish shortbread recipe has come together, add up to a cup of mini chocolate chips or sliced chocolate like I did in these Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies.
Frequently Asked Questions
To keep shortbread cookies crisp, store in an airtight container at room temperature.
Scottish shortbread cookies will keep at room temperature for two week or frozen for up to 3 months. Though I do prefer to freeze the dough and bake them fresh.
You can freeze Scottish shortbread cookies. Once cooled, layer between parchment or waxed paper in an airtight container. OR you can freeze the baked cookies for up to 2 months in an airtight container.
You can make the dough up to 2 weeks in advance and store refrigerated or freeze for up to 2 months.
You can make as large a batch of shortbread cookies as you would like. You are only limited by the capacity of your stand mixer.
These cookies ship wonderfully especially when iced. Package them will with tissue paper as padding so they don't crash about in the tin.
You don't need to chill the dough prior to baking but chilling shortbread dough will keep it from spreading as much. We are mitigating this spreading by baking the shortbread first in one block, then slicing into individual cookies.
Chef Lindsey's Recipe Tips
For perfect shortbread cookies with straight sides, partially bake the dough at a 275°F until just set. Then slice desired cookie shapes or cut them with a cookie cutter, separate on the baking sheet and continue baking at 300°F until a light golden brown on the bottoms.
Scottish Shortbread Recipe
- Preheat the oven to 275°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer place the butter. Beat on high until completely softened and smooth. If your butter is already room temperature, there is no need to do this step.
- Place the remaining ingredients in the bowl with the butter. Mix on low until completely combined. This will take at least 10 minutes. There are no additional liquids in this cookie dough; it is just held together by butter. The dough will look clumpy but will hold together when squeezed in your hand.
- Gather the dough in a ball and press it out into a rectangle or your desired shape on the parchment lined baking sheet. It will be about ½ inch thick.
- The size and shape don’t matter but do think about the size you want before you bake them. I wanted 3 ½ x 1 inch sticks, so I pressed my dough out to about 7 inches high and 9 inches across. It will slope slightly on the sides when baked, so you want to have a little buffer to cut perfect rectangles.
- Poke holes with a fork. You can try and keep in mind the final shape or not.
- Bake in preheated oven for about 45 minutes. The cookies will be puffed and look a little matte on the surface.
- Remove them from the oven and slice into desired shapes on the baking sheet. If you try to remove the parchment from the baking sheet they will crack. Once you have cut the slices, separate them so they have enough airflow around each to cook properly.
- Increase the oven temperature to 300°F and continue baking for 30-45 minutes more until they have begun to brown on the bottom. If you want no browning, then continue baking them at 275°F for an additional 60-75 minutes. They will look completely matte.
- Cool before serving!
- Store in an airtight container at room temperature or in the freezer.
Before You Go!
Check out our other delicious, chef-developed recipes for Cookies!