The shortbread cookie recipe originated as early as the 12th century. However, the recipe was modified several times and the recipe that is available today can be attributed to Mary, Queen of Scots.
It is said, Queen Mary had a team of French chefs, who perfected the recipe many times over and over again. Scotland necessarily needs to be credited for its role in making the shortbread cookies recipe, which is extremely popular all over the world.
What Is a Shortbread and Are They Different From Cookies?
The Scottish have named the cookies simply ‘shortie.‘ Traditionally in Scotland, the shortbread is made with the following ingredients:
- Powdered sugar – 1 cup.
- Unsalted butter – 2 cups.
- All-purpose flour – 4 cups.
Cookies or Biscuits contain leavening agents such as baking soda or baking powder. On the other hand, Shortbread cookies can be baked without baking soda or baking powder.
This melt-in-your-mouth recipe is also known as Christmas cookies and is well known in Scotland during the holiday season.
Interesting Trivia About The Shortbread Cookie
- Shortbread is traditionally named short as the ratio of the ingredients used in the shortbread cookie recipe is one part sugar and two-part of butter.
- With a high fat content, the cookie is delicious and crave-worthy similar to that of shortcrust pastry.
- Ever since the middle ages, the Scots traditionally eat them on special occasions.
- So they are the same since many centuries ago.
- The traditional gift is given to loved ones on Hogmanay, the Scottish New Year.
- A box of shortbread with a bottle of whiskey is given to the new homeowner for good luck.
Nutritive Value of Shortbread Cookies
The nutritive value of each serving of the cookie is 85 calories. It contains saturated fat of 3 grams, polyunsaturated fat, and monounsaturated fat at 1 gram per serving.
Different Shortbread Cookie Recipe
1. The First Shortbread Cookies Recipe- Mrs. McClintock’s Shortbread Cookie
The first printed Cookie recipe appeared in the 1736 Scottish cookbook written by Mrs. McLintock. The cookbook has more recipes such as food preservation recipes, savoury recipes, and recipes on sweets.
At present, the Scottish cookbook has only two copies left in the entire world. Shortbread is another word for crumbly due to the amount of butter in the recipe.
The traditional shapes of the shortbread cookies are :
- Petticoat Tails – round-shaped cookie dough.
- Round Biscuits – individual round-shaped shortbread cookies.
- Fingers – rectangular-shaped shortbread cookies.
- Butter – 1 cup.
- Confectioners sugar – 3/4th of a cup.
- All-purpose flour – 2 cups sifted.
- Salt – a pinch.
- In a bowl sift the flour and keep it aside.
- Bring the butter to room temperature and beat the butter with powdered sugar till it becomes light and fluffy.
- Butter and sugar can be beaten using a wire whisk or in a food processor. It can also be done using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment.
- Add flour to the mixed sugar and butter mixture gradually.
- Add salt.
- Now gradually mix to form a soft crumbly dough.
- Pat the dough onto a baking sheet-lined pan. The baking sheets need to be cut into the right shape of the pan.
- Bake shortbread cookies at 325 degrees until golden brown.
- Cool completely on a wire rack.
- Cut them using differently shaped cookie cutters to get the desired shapes.
The simple recipe of the Shortbread Cookie has become a favorite dessert cuisine for families across countries. These delicious cookies need to be stored in an airtight container to retain their freshness and taste.
2. Mrs. Beeton’s Scotch Shortbread Cookies Recipe
Mrs. Beeton published the Book of Household Management in the year 1861. The book contained many recipes and was a bestseller for many years.
Mrs. Beeton has said about the Shortbread cookies in her famous book that Pilcaithly Bannock is a name of a kind of scotch shortbread, which consists of flat round cakes, the paste is made of flour, butter, sugar, almond extract, peel, and caraway seed.
- All-purpose flour – 2 lbs.
- Cornflour – 1/4 lb of cornflour or ground rice flour.
- Butter(unsalted) – 1lb.
- icing sugar – 1/4 lb.
- sweet almonds – 1 oz.
- Orange strips – a few strips.
- Firstly, cream the butter by beating it with an egg beater.
- Add flour gradually to the creamed butter.
- Add the powdered sugar with sweet almonds (blanched and cut into small pieces).
- Mix the ingredients till the dough is evenly blended and smooth.
- Divide the shortbread cookie dough into 6 parts.
- Press the dough into a separate piece of paper.
- Roll into a thickness of 1 inch.
- Pinch around the edges and prick it well with a skewer.
- Decorate it with 1 or 2 strips of candied orange peel.
- Preheat oven for 15 minutes and bake the shortbread cookies for 30 minutes.
This recipe yields a total quantity of 28 shortbread cookies. Mrs. Beeton’s cookie recipe had some faults. They are:
- The inclusion of almonds made the cookie dough more crumbly and difficult to handle the dough.
- Butter was not enough as the cookie dough was not cohesive enough.
3. Millionaire’s Shortbread Cookies Recipe
An interesting variation to the classic Shortbread cookies is the Millionaire Shortbread cookies. Shortbread cookies with caramel and chocolate on top are an ideal rich treat to be had with evening tea.
The Millionaire cookie recipe was first released in the Australian Women’s Weekly in the 1970s. The cookie’s three layers: Shortbread, Caramel and Chocolate make the cookies a rich dessert and hence the name “Millionaire’s Shortbread cookies.”
- Refined flour – 1 cup.
- Dark Brown sugar – 1/4 cup.
- Cornstarch – 2 teaspoons.
- Salt- 1/4 teaspoon.
- Butter(unsalted)-1/2 cup cut into cubes.
- ice water- 1 tablespoon.
- Egg yolk – 1 large.
- Firstly preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Take a 9-inch square pan and line it with parchment paper greased with butter.
- Using a food processor mix the flour, sugar, cornstarch, and salt till no lumps are found.
- Next, add in cold butter and mix till a coarse dough structure is formed.
- Add the ice and the egg yolk to the electric mixer and mix it till it becomes moist to hold.
- Pour the mixture onto the baking sheet-lined pan and press with your fingers to get an even layer.
- Pierce the dough all over with a fork and bake till golden brown for 20 minutes.
- Place the Shortbread cookies on a cooling rack to cool.
Ingredients for Caramel Layer
- Sweetened condensed milk – 1 can.
- Sugar (brown)- 1/2 cup.
- Unsalted butter – 6 tablespoons.
- Golden syrup or Dark corn syrup – 2 tablespoons.
- Vanilla extract – 1 teaspoon.
- Salt – a generous pinch.
Making The Caramel Layer
- Take a medium saucepan and blend the condensed milk, sugar, butter, golden syrup, vanilla extract, and salt together over low heat.
- Keep stirring till the sugar is completely dissolved, the butter melted and the mixture starts to boil.
- Attach a candy thermometer to the pan and wait for the temperature to register at 225 degrees.
- Constantly stir till the caramel thickens and then gently pour this hot mixture onto the cooled Shortbread cookies.
- Wait for 15 min or till the Caramel is set well on the Shortbread cookies.
Ingredients for Chocolate Layer
- Semi-sweet Chocolate – 6 Ounces (broken into small bits).
- Heavy cream – 3 tablespoons.
Making The Chocolate Layer
- Melt the chocolate and cream in a microwave
- Microwave the mixture for just 20 seconds at each interval.
- Microwave till the chocolate has melted 75 percent.
- Mix the smooth chocolate and cream mixture.
- Pour the chocolate and cream mixture over the caramel-layered shortbread cookies.
- Refrigerate till it is set.
- Cut into small squares and serve.
Do not super heat the chocolate as it will burn. The Shortbread cookies will crumble while cutting as that is the texture of the cookies.
Millionaire Shortbread cookies can be kept in an airtight container for longer shelf life. It can also be frosted for up to 3 months. To use frozen shortbread cookies, thaw overnight.
Secrets to Baking The Perfect Shortbread Cookies
High-quality butter is the secret ingredient needed to bake the perfect Shortbread cookies. Most brands of butter in the United States and Canada are defined as the flavor, color, texture, aroma, and body.
Using the brand of butter labelled AA with a 93 score would be the ideal choice to achieve the desired taste and texture of the Shortbread cookie.
Another brand of butter with a higher amount of butterfat will be European butter. This enhances the flavor, color, and aroma of the Shortbread cookie.
Cooking butter is available in two distinct varieties in the market. The salted butter and the unsalted butter. Many chefs and bakers prefer unsalted butter as the salt can be controlled individually in the recipe.
A recipe that uses unsalted butter usually has a distinctive pure sweet buttery flavor.
Different Types of Shortbread Cookies
1. Shortbread Cookies Dipped in Chocolate Recipe
Besides making hot chocolate bombs, you can also try your hand at making shortbread cookies dipped in chocolate. To make the chocolate dip, please follow the below-mentioned instructions:
Semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips – 180 gms.
- In a heatproof bowl, place 180 grams of chocolate chips and heat over a saucepan simmering with water.
- After the chocolate has melted, remove it from the stove.
- Stir the melted chocolate and make it smooth and glossy.
- Dip one end of each of the Shortbread Cookies into the chocolate.
- Place them onto the baking sheet.
- Refrigerate the chocolate-dipped cookies for 10 minutes.
To store shortbread cookies, place them inside an airtight container. The chocolate-dipped cookie makes a plain cookie into a fascinating Royal shortbread.
2. Whipped Shortbread Cookies
Whipped shortbread cookies are the best shortbread cookie that is both easy and tasty. The entire holiday recipe that needs a few ingredients can be made in less than 30 minutes.
The whipped shortbread cookies recipe is simple and quick to make. The cookies are similar to sugar cookies but are much lighter.
When compared with the standard shortbread cookie dough, the whipped shortbread cookies are much airier due to the amount of corn starch added to them.
- Butter – 226 gms- unsalted European butter is a better option and salted butter will not be preferable.
- Powdered sugar- 90 grams. The texture and taste of the cookies turn out to be a melt-in-your-mouth consistency if powdered sugar is used instead of granulated sugar.
- Vanilla extract- 1 teaspoon.
- Salt-3/4 teaspoon.
- All-purpose flour – 250 gms. Use a measuring cup to measure the flour as excess flour could make the dough very dry, crumbly and difficult to work with.
- Cornstarch – 2 tablespoons.
- Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment and beat together butter and sugar till a light, airy, pale yellow, and fluffy mixture is formed.
- Gradually add in the flour and cornstarch along with vanilla extract and salt. Beat the dough at low speed.
- Work the dough on a floured surface and knead it into small balls. Roll slightly to smoothen it.
- Place them about 1- 2 inches apart onto a baking sheet.
- Use a fork to flatten each cookie.
- Top with sprinkles and bake for 12 minutes at 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Please note that after baking, cookies will still be light in color. Cool the cookies on a cooling rack before removing them from the baking sheet and eliminate salt in the recipe if using salted butter.
Tips to Bake the Perfect Shortbread
Shortbread is an easy dessert to bake but it can also be extremely tricky as well. Any baker can make these baked goods and transform them into something totally elegant.
Although the full cookie recipe contains minimum ingredients, one must understand that baking the perfect shortbread is nothing short of intimidating. So to all those looking to bake the perfect shortbread here are a few useful tips to follow:
- Do not melt the butter, rather only soften it.
- Sugar and butter are to be creamed well by beating them together for 10 minutes at least.
- Dough Refrigeration – an important tip to be remembered as most recipes miss this step. Chilling the dough twice for two hours each would be ideal.
- Check the Salt – excess salt will make this sweet treat unbearable. If you are using salted butter, skip the salt in the recipe.
- Do not brown the cookie – the color of the cookie is traditionally white or a light shade of yellow. Ensuring the cookies are baked at low temperatures of around 300 degrees Fahrenheit would be the right choice. Another reason to make shortbread cookies at low temperatures is to help the starch set well as soon as the butter melts. The shape of the cookies will be a disaster if the butter melts too quickly.
- Cookie patterns – using a fork would be the ideal way to decorate the shortbread. A cookie cutter too can do the trick but a fork makes holes in the cookie evenly and thus the baking too is even. Adding toasted nuts and spices would make the shortbread more flavorful.
What Can Go Wrong While Baking Shortbread?
Shortbread dough can go wrong in many ways. However, the following are the two main reasons it usually goes wrong:
- Overworking the dough will incorporate more gluten and this may stretch the dough too much. The result will be chewy bread or cookies. Hence, do not overwork the dough.
- If the butter is too warm due to the room temperature or if the butter is broken into very small pieces then the shortbread will not have a crumbly texture
How to Tell When the Shortbread Is Done?
As soon as the bottom of the cookie turns brown, the shortbread is done and it is the right time to remove them from the oven. The longer the baking time, the better the shortbread cookies will turn out.
The sides of the cookies can be moved up and down gently by pulling the oven rack a bit. If the edges are not falling inward then the cookies are ready to be removed from the oven.
One of the best parts of the shortbread cookie recipe is that it has very few ingredients that one need not bother to look for a written recipe. Imagine a recipe that can be done without having to open a cookbook or scrabbling to remember the ingredients so desperately.
This short recipe is so simple and with wonderful rich ingredients such as butter, sugar, and flour, this can turn out to be one of the most loved baked goodies. Without much ado, the cookie recipe can be made using a single bowl in three easy steps- mixing, rolling, and decorating.
The baked cookies are a light shade of brown, and crumbly and the richness of butter makes it a comfort food that lingers on and on. Many love cookies for their simplicity and taste.
However, the cookie turns versatile too with perfect variations such as shortbread thumbprint cookies by adding a bit of jam or lemon zest cookies. One can add icing on the cookie or sprinkles to make them more Christmas-like or add peanut butter them to get an extra zing. There are endless possibilities with a shortbread cookie and all one needs is a good imagination.