Shortbreads are an ideal type of cookie—they are buttery and crumbly without being too dry.
There are precisely two situations where shortbreads are a must for me: as an afternoon snack, alongside milky coffee or tea, and as a holiday treat for gifting. Throughout the holiday season, shortbreads fit snugly alongside sugar cookies, bars, and other celebration-worthy baked goods.
This Chocolate Shortbread recipe combines the best of two worlds: rich chocolate—I use Dutch-process cocoa powder—with buttery crumbly goodness. This recipe is highly adaptable, so you can create different flavors to suit your own tastes. I included some below!
How to Make Chocolate Shortbread
Shortbread is a butter cookie with a tender texture. The name shortbread comes from the word “short,” referring to the crumbly texture from the large amount of butter in the dough. Compared to sugar cookies, shortbread is crumblier, crispier, and has more fat, yielding a richer cookie. Some shortbread cookies are dense and crunchy, while others are soft, crumbly, and airy.
There are numerous versions of shortbread, though the base ingredients are always butter, sugar, and flour. This recipe adds cocoa powder for a chocolate flavor.
For these shortbreads, we start by creaming butter, sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Then, we mix in the flour and cocoa powder until a dough forms. The dough is shaped into a log, which is chilled, sliced, and baked. The cookies are buttery, tender, and just a bit crumbly with a hint of sweetness.
Tips for the Best Chocolate Shortbread
If you’re looking to achieve a delicious, chocolatey, and tender cookie, here are some tips:
- I recommend using Dutch-process cocoa powder for a darker color and pleasant chocolate flavor. When I developed this recipe, I tried it with regular cocoa powder. The texture was similar, but the flavor of chocolate was mild.
- Soften the butter to room temperature for tender, slightly crumbly shortbread. Some baking recipes call for cold butter, which gives the cookies a flakier texture.
- Use powdered sugar to eliminate any graininess in the texture of the cookie.
How to Know When Your Cookie is Baked
Plain shortbreads are easy to tell when fully baked because their bottoms will turn golden brown. Unfortunately, chocolate shortbreads are naturally darker in color and can be difficult to tell if they’re baked properly. Use the following cues to determine if your cookies are ready:
- As your cookies bake, they will turn from glossy and wet to a matte finish when done baking.
- If after 10 minutes the tops of the cookies look dry, take them out of the oven. Using your pointer finger (careful! it will be hot!) or the back of a small spoon, gently tap the top of a cookie. It should make a very slight indent when fully baked. If the cookies appear wet or your finger creates a significant indent, place them back into the oven for another two minutes before checking again.
Shortbread Cookie Variations
Though the base ingredients are critical to the texture and flavor of this shortbread, there are several variations you can try.
- Change the flavor: The recipe calls for vanilla extract, but you could swap in peppermint extract or orange extract for a unique twist. Add in spices such as 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger or 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Lemon or orange zest would be delicious!
- Add nuts or chocolate chips: Mix in 1/2 to 3/4 cup of chopped nuts or chocolate chips to the dough before rolling into a log.
- Roll in sugar: Sables are a French shortbread cookie rolled in sparkling sugar. Brush the chilled log with an egg wash, then roll the log in sparkling or demerara sugar before slicing and baking. The crunchy sugar adds an interesting texture and sweetness.
- Dip the shortbread: After baking the shortbreads, let them cool completely. Melt dark, semi-sweet, or white chocolate chips in the microwave, then dip the shortbread into the melted chocolate. Let them set completely on a baking sheet before serving.
Storing Chocolate Shortbread
There are several ways to store the shortbread before and after baking.
- For the dough: You can keep the dough rolled into a log and chilled in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours before baking.
- To Freeze: Refrigerate the log for two hours until firm, then place it in an airtight bag in the freezer for up to one month. When you want to bake the cookies, you can let the log thaw in the refrigerator for a few hours until sliceable, then proceed with baking. You can also pre-slice the log before freezing so that you can easily bake as few or as many cookies as you'd like.
- For the baked cookies: Once the cookies bake, let them cool completely. Store them in an airtight container at room temperature for three to four days or freeze them in an airtight container for up to one month.
Do You Love Shortbread? We Do!
- Classic Shortbread Cookies
- Chocolate Orange Shortbread Cookies
- Almond Shortbread Cookies
- Classic Lemon Bars
- Slice-and-Bake Pistachio Butter Cookies
- 2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup (29g) Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 2 sticks (230g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup (120g) powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Sift the dry ingredients:
Sift the flour and cocoa powder into a small bowl using a sifter or a fine-mesh sieve. Set it aside.
Cream the butter and sugar:
In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or handheld electric mixer, mix the butter and sugar on low speed until just combined and no lumps of powdered sugar remain. Increase the mixer to medium speed and cream the mixture until fluffy and creamy, about 3 minutes.
Add the vanilla and salt:
On low speed, add the vanilla and salt and mix until combined.
Add the dry ingredients:
Gradually, on low speed, add the dry ingredients into the butter mixture until just combined, about 30 seconds. The dough will be soft and slightly sticky.
If the dough feels dry and crumbly, you can add softened butter 1 teaspoon at a time until it comes together.
Roll dough into a log:
Divide the dough in half. Place one portion in the center of a large piece of plastic wrap on your kitchen counter. Fold the plastic over to cover the dough.
Use your hands to form the dough into a tightly compressed log shape, rolling it on the counter to smooth it out. It doesn’t have to be perfect! The log should be about 2 inches in diameter and 4 to 5 inches long. Repeat with the other half.
Chill the dough:
Refrigerate the cookie logs for 1 hour or until firm.
Preheat the oven and prepare the baking sheets:
About ten minutes before the cookies finish chilling in the refrigerator, arrange two racks in the middle and bottom third of the oven and preheat it to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Slice the cookies:
Use a sharp knife to slice the log into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Evenly arrange the cookies onto both baking sheets, leaving at least 1 inch between the cookies to account for spreading.
Bake the cookies:
Bake for 10 minutes or until the cookies are set, rotating the pans between racks halfway through.
The cookies will go from glossy and wet to dry and matte when baked properly. They will feel slightly soft out of the oven but should barely make an indent when gently tapped with your fingers.
If they look shiny or feel too soft, continue baking them until firmed up, about 2 minutes.
Cool the cookies:
Let cookies cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer them onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.