Recipe: Simple Shortbread Cookies

Savour this seasonal treat that is a staple on UK holiday tables.

Photograph by Jared Sych.

Originating in Scotland, shortbread has been around for hundreds of years, with the first published recipe dating back to 1736. Despite the thousands of versions that have followed, most formulas remain largely the same: a simple ratio of four parts flour, two parts butter and one part sugar.

Since this traditional style of shortbread doesn’t require eggs or leavening agents, it tends to be sturdier, holding its shape so it can be easily rolled, cut, sliced or pressed into different shapes.

And though shortbread dough takes on added flavours well, most aficionados will argue that plain is the whole point with this holiday treat. More than any other sweet, simple shortbread truly puts the flavour of real butter and sugar on a pedestal.

Recipe: Simple Shortbread Cookies

Makes two dozen cookies


  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • ½ cup sugar (powdered, granulated or brown)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp. salt


1. Preheat your oven to 350˚F. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar for one to two minutes, until smooth, pale and light. Slowly beat (or stir) in the flour and salt. Once the dough comes together, knead it a few times, until it’s smooth.

2. Roll the dough until it is a quarter-inch thick and cut into rectangles, or into shapes using a cookie-cutter. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet and poke each cookie with a fork. Bake for 10 to 14 minutes or until golden


  • For whipped shortbread, continue to beat the butter and sugar for five minutes until it’s very pale and light, before adding the flour and salt.
  • Customize your shortbread with grated ginger or citrus zest, vanilla, finely chopped rosemary, tea leaves, lavender, nuts or chocolate.

[This story appears in the December 2019 edition of WestJet Magazine.]