Shortbread Cookies

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Several months ago we attempted a New York Times recipe for a lemon confit shortbread tart. Like fellow food-blogger Deb, we had a miserable experience with the recipe. It was just too tart to eat. However, I had some extra dough from making the pie crust and decided to roll it out, cut some cookies, and see how they were. I rolled the cookies out pretty thin, much thinner than what is more typical of shortbread, and pulled them out of the oven just as their edges started to brown. They were so light, they practically melted on the tongue. My parents insisted that I make another batch the next day. I made several dozen. All of the cookies were devoured within 36 hours and I was not permitted to give any of them away to friends. If you are looking for something nice to make for your mom for Mother’s Day, these cookies may just be the thing.

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Shortbread Cookies Recipe

Ingredients

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice

Method

1 Combine flour, salt, butter, and sugar in a bowl. Mix with your fingers until it forms flaky crumbs and lumps. Mix in the egg, almond extract, and lemon juice. Continue to mix until it clumps; at first it may seem very dry. Shape into two balls, flatten into disks, wrap in plastic, refrigerate at least an hour, preferably overnight.

2 Pre-heat oven to 350°F.

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3 Let the dough sit at temperature for at least 10-15 minutes before attempting to work with it. The dough may be crumbly; if it falls apart, press it back together. Allow to relax enough to become somewhat pliable before rolling out. Roll out a disk, one at a time, between two sheets of parchment paper (or wax paper), to a 1/8 to 1/4-inch thickness, depending on how thick or thin you would like your cookies to be.

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4 Dip the edges of one side of your cookie cutter into flour and cut out your cookie shapes. If the rolled-out dough becomes too soft to work with, place it in the freezer for a few minutes to firm up. Place on parchment paper or Silpat on a cookie sheet, with at least 1/2-inch distance between the cookie shapes.

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5 Bake at 350°F for 8-12 minutes, depending on the thickness of the cookies, until the edges are just slightly golden brown. Remove from oven. Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes.

Makes 3-5 dozen cookies, depending on how thick, and the size of your cookie cutters.

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24 Comments

  1. radish

    Like so many, I too tried to make the tart and it was a horrible disaster. I didn’t even blog about it, but I was so dismayed with the results, I even tossed the rest of the dough. These cookies, however, look delicious – I’ll have to try them!

  2. Scott D.

    Sounds great! Will this recipe work for cooking like brownies, all in one piece, about half an inch or so thick?

  3. deb

    These are so adorable! I’m glad something good came out of that mess. In fact, I’d completely forgotten but I did exactly this, too, with some leftover scraps and remembered that they browned a bit more on the edges than I’d expected, and it was a very delicious thing. There are few things I love more than a simple shortbread cookie.

  4. Jill

    This reminded me of when I was young, my mom would take the leftover pie crust and roll it out and top with cinnamon sugar. She’d bake it until it was brown on the edges. We loved it!!

  5. Donna A.

    It looks great! The pie crust with cinnamon sugar and butter was how we ate it. Sure brought back memories.
    Donna A.

  6. Christina at Ramble Magazine

    What a great dough this is. It can be used for all sorts of things. Well, at least I think it’s the same I grew up with. If it is, a little too much tends to end up in my mouth before baking … and my American friends scream, “It has raw egg!!”

  7. Jo

    For those who love shortbread check out:
    http://www.joyofbaking.com/shortbreads/shortbread.html

    I found their discussion on flour types and shortbread texture quite interesting. I have been replacing 1/2 a cup of flour with cornstarch (recipe uses 2 cups of flour) as they suggest and it does make quite a difference – mmmm melts in your mouth.

    I always worry about rolling the dough too much and ending up with cookies that are harder than they should be. Is this fact or fiction?

    Cheers.

  8. Amanda

    I’m gonna make them and dip em in chocolate. :-)

  9. beyonduplication

    Well, my dough is in the refrigerator. I don’t know if I can wait until tomorrow – I will probalby start baking them in a couple of hours. I couldn’t help licking my fingers after it was all over, though, and I can tell you at least the dough is delicious!!

  10. Ami

    Oh, these cookies were delicious! I used a little bit more lemon than I should’ve but it does leave a pleasant feel. In my case, my older brother tried to devour all of them before I could pack them into goodie bags for my friends.

  11. wendy

    They look deliciouss :P
    I’m gonna make a batch for Christmas!

    But do the biscuits taste very lemony?
    Is omitting the lemon juice ok?

    Note from Elise: They do not taste lemony. I would not omit the lemon juice as it sharpens the flavor of the cookies.

  12. sherine

    Hi Elise,

    It’s such a wonderful recipe. I baked some last night, but it turned out to be crunchy hard (like biscotti).

    Do you think it’s because it was left a tad too long in the oven? (I timed it in 10 mins but kept longer in the oven till the edges were browned.)

    If it’s not the heat, how should I alter the recipe just so it’s softer to bite? More suitable for toddlers and old folks’ teeth :-)

  13. Elise

    Hi Sherine – They shouldn’t be as hard as biscotti, but they aren’t soft either. I make them super thin so that they almost melt in your mouth when eating them. I’m not really an expert at baking, so don’t know what to tell you on how to make them softer. I would look around and compare this recipe with others you can find on the Internet.

  14. sherine

    Thanks Elise nonetheless – it’s still one of the tastiest cookies coming out of the oven at home :)

  15. Ana

    I just made these cookies tonight and they really are fantastic. Yes, I wish I could make them a little softer (but my oven is bad anyways…) I baked them on a flat pan over foil becaues I didn’t have the non-stick paper.

    But the lemon was a really great touch. It gives it such an edge. Thank you very much :)

  16. natalie tierney

    I loved these cookies so much. Here’s a good treat to do with them : melt chocolate chips and peanut butter in a bowl, then just dip the cookies in and eat! It’s very very good, and fun to eat with friends! :)

  17. Nick

    I have my wife make these every year at Christmas out of the leftover pie dough(we even make extra dough for them). As to Elise’s question, you can roll them a little thicker to make them softer. The thinner and lower the baking temp, the more crispy they are. I brush them with a little milk then add the cinn/sugar before baking them. The only time ours has lemon is when the dough is made for my lemon meringue pie. Other than that it’s basically the same. I love them! Been eating them for over 40 years now.

  18. Gabby Kunnet

    These cookies looked great, but they were too crumbly. I had to add water to the dough, which still did not help.

  19. abby

    I had a very bad time with these cookies they took forever to make but ended up tasting awful. I would not make this recipe again.

  20. Mary

    The dough turned out perfect for me! I didn’t have any many problems with crumbly dough. For me, I think what helped was pressing the dough flatter once it was in a ball in the plastic wrap. The cookies themselves look absolutely lovely, and taste delicious.

  21. AV

    This dough was perfect – I believe the ratio of the flour (3 cups) to the butter (2 sticks) is just right. Other recipes seem to have less butter or less sugar etc. Cookies turned out great – made me feel like a real chef…:)

  22. jaclyn505

    this was simple to make, the dough was pliable…when I baked them they were soft…but I didn’t like the taste a lil too tart!! Wondering if I can subsitute the lemon juice for anything?? Or leave it out with the same results?

    You can leave out the lemon juice. Or just reduce it to a teaspoon. ~Elise

  23. Jean

    Hi, thanks for this recipe! I just have one question: where did you buy you heart cookie cutters and how big are they?

    Oh my gosh, I made these such a long time ago that I don’t remember either where I got the cookie cutters or their size. I have lots of sizes in my collection. I’m sure you can find the cookie cutters online. Look for metal ones, they’ll work better than plastic. ~Elise

  24. Emiko

    Thanks for this lovely recipe! (And all of your other ones as well.) These are a perfect paring for my lemon ice cream. As a note for those who hate to roll dough, as I do, this recipe worked perfectly well for slice and bake. Instead of two discs, I formed a single long log about 2.5 in. wide and wrapped in wax paper. After a night in the fridge, I sliced about 0.25 inch thick and baked. Not as pretty as shapes, but much less messy.

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