Christmas Cookies — Simple Shortbread Cookies


09 Dec Christmas Cookies — Simple Shortbread Cookies

Old-fashioned shortbread cookiesI could eat this entire stack of shortbreads in one sitting, but will restrain myself. I must leave some for others.

With no Scottish thistles pressed into the surface or fancy rosette piping, these are the ugly ducklings of the icebox cookie set. They are also, in my opinion, the best old-fashioned shortbread going.

Icebox cookies, aka slice-and-bake, freezer or even refrigerator cookies, are perfect for people who want to make cookies from scratch but don’t have much time. You can whip together the dough in a few minutes, roll it into logs and then pop it in the refrigerator or freezer until you’re ready to bake.

My family has been scarfing these buttery shorbread cookies since the 1940s when my grandmother got it from a neighbour. The recipe came with a demonstration of how to knead the dough with your wrists. My ever-practical grandmother took the recipe but skipped the kneading. Despite the omission the results are perfect.

So, here is my family shortbread recipe. I intentionally make these cookies square to distinguish them from other icebox variations I make — for example the eggnog cookies I promised to share. (Click the link to read the recipe at Accidental Hedonist.) Make them round or square or into Toberlone-inspired triangles. Just be sure you use salted butter. I’ve tried the recipe with sweet butter, adding my own salt, and it just wasn’t the same.

Old-fashioned shorbread cookies are a classice icebox cookie that anyone can make.

Simple Old-Fashioned Shortbreads
Recipe type: Baking
Cuisine: Christmas
Prep / inactive time: 
Cook / active time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 3 dozen
This is one of the simples cookie recipes going. Butter, flour and sugar. The trick? There is none. It's that simple. This is actually a classic ice box cookies, so you can make the dough in advance and bake the cookies as needed.
  • 1 cup salted butter
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
Prepare the dough
  1. In a large bowl, cream the butter with a sturdy spoon until pale. (You can also do this in a food processor fitted with a steel blade.)
  2. Add the sugar gradually and beat until the sugar is well dissolved.
  3. Add the flour, one half cup at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  4. Divide the dough in half. Form each half into logs about 2” in diameter. Wrap in waxed paper and chill until firm. (The unbaked dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months.)
When you're ready to bake
  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F.
  2. Let the refrigerated dough soften at room temperature for 10 minutes before slicing. (Frozen dough should be left at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before slicing.)
  3. Using a sharp knife, slice the dough into rounds ¼" thick. Place ½" apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 30 minutes or until slightly golden. These cookies should be pale. Remove the cookies from pan and cool on wire rack.
  4. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week, or freeze for up to a month.
Traditionally, this recipe is mixed by hand using a sturdy wooden spoon. I have very weak wrists and have been making them using a food processor fitted with a steel blade.

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No Comments
  • Darci Smith
    Posted at 14:39h, 09 December Reply

    These look amazing! And easy — I’m definitely adding them to my baking this season.

  • Darci Smith
    Posted at 14:39h, 09 December Reply

    These look amazing! And easy — I’m definitely adding them to my baking this season.

  • cheryl
    Posted at 15:22h, 09 December Reply

    Ah, a pure, naked cookie. I *love* the clean combination of butter, salt, and sugar, with nothing else to distract me.

  • Roxanne
    Posted at 15:28h, 09 December Reply

    Mmmm…. I’ll have to make some.

  • Dana McCauley
    Posted at 17:51h, 09 December Reply

    I don’t think these cookies are ugly at all. In fact, I like that they aren’t trying too hard. I can see them being perfect with a cup of milky earl grey tea. Yum!

    Have you ever tried making shortbread with rice flour as part of the starch? I’m not a life long shortbread maker but some of my short bread lovin’ pals swear by the rice flour trick.

  • Lisa magicsprinkles
    Posted at 18:23h, 09 December Reply

    3 ingredients??? Brilliant! I love them already.

  • Christie's Corner
    Posted at 18:52h, 09 December Reply

    Darci, wonderful to hear from you. Let me know how they turn out. And Roxanne, same goes for you. Report back, please!

    Cheryl, yes, it’s a most undistracted cookie. Good point.

    Dana, perhaps I should have called them plain. They don’t have lovely lumps of chocolate or artistic swirls. And they are perfect with tea.

    No, I haven’t tried rice flour. I might but I won’t tell my family. They would revolt at the mere suggestion.

    Lisa, yes, just 3 ingredients. Sometimes simple is best.

  • Puglette
    Posted at 03:18h, 11 December Reply

    mmmmm…shortbread, delicious! i have a recipe for brown sugar shortbread cookies that is very similar. it’s in my betty crocker cookie book from 1963.

  • C. Erickson
    Posted at 23:32h, 18 December Reply

    Thanks for this recipe, Charmian! My family really liked them – even though mine were overdone.

    I still have some of the dough, so I’ll make a new batch tomorrow and be sure to check them more often. My oven is not very precise, and doesn’t even have the courtesy to be consistent in its inexactness! (But I can’t have it repaired or I would lose my scapegoat. :D)

  • Christie's Corner
    Posted at 23:47h, 18 December Reply

    Puglette, I’ve never had brown sugar shortbread. Sounds wonderful, though.

    Carolyn, my oven is a bit off, too. I bought an inexpensive oven thermometer and it’s helped. I can still blame my oven since it’s so poorly insulated the heat varies widely during any cooking session. Here’s to old ovens that constantly provide a fresh batch of excuses.

  • C. Erickson
    Posted at 18:29h, 19 December Reply

    Okay, I made them again and they turned out perfectly.

  • Christie's Corner
    Posted at 20:26h, 19 December Reply

    Carolyn, I popped by your blog to take a peek and your cookies look perfect, absolutely perfect.

    Thanks for taking the time to update here. I’m always thrilled to hear back.

  • James
    Posted at 01:49h, 07 March Reply

    Wow.. this looks amazing. I love it.
    Tasty recipe.

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