My grandma was not a very serious person, except when it came to her bridge game and her shortbread cookies, a 6th generation family recipe from Scotland.
Despite this being such a simple recipe, my grandma had rules she'd follow year in and year out to achieve the perfect shortbread. Step one: always use salted butter. There is no other way to balance out the sweetness of the cookie, and the amount of salt already in the butter is just right. Step two: do not consider substituting granulated sugar with icing sugar. Icing sugar would be too sweet and wouldn't yield the proper shortbread texture.
I've never questioned this recipe because these cookies are straight-up delicious. They're buttery and flaky, and the recipe showcases the power of basics like butter, flour, and sugar.
Christmas is an indulgent time, and as my grandma used to say, "other people's shortbread aren't worth the calories."
Classic holiday shortbread
Total active time: 10 minutes
Total time before mass consumption: 40 minutes
Servings: 24 cookies
2 cups salted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour
Tools & equipment
cookie cutters (optional)
Mix together the butter and sugar in a large bowl. If using a stand mixer, use the paddle attachment to combine the butter and sugar.
Add the flour cup by cup, mixing until fully incorporated (but be careful not to overwork the dough). If using a stand mixer, set the mixer onto low speed to incorporate the flour.
At this point, you could flavour your dough with things like nutmeg, lavender, or lemon zest.
If you're making shapes out of your shortbread dough, flatten the dough into a round disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in the fridge for an hour. If you're just looking to bake some shortbread and eat them as fast as possible, you can simply roll the dough into a log here and cut into rounds about 1/4 inch thick.
Preheat your oven to 310°F.
Gently roll the dough out between two pieces of parchment paper to 1/4 inch thick and cut into desired shapes and sizes.
Place the cut outs onto a prepared baking tray and bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating the tray halfway through the bake. You're looking for the cookies to be barely golden on top and perfectly golden on the bottoms.
Cool on a wire rack and enjoy!
Shortbread can be stored in an airtight container for up to two weeks.