Classic Shortbread with Flavor Variations and Icebox or Cookie Cutter Methods
Shortbread had me at hello.
The first time I tried really good shortbread was about 20 years ago on a trip to Ireland. It was dense, buttery, and so, so good with tea. It really opened my eyes and my mouth. Mostly my mouth. Even though my memory of shortbread is tied to Ireland, this buttery cookie traces its roots a bit north of the Emerald Isle.
So, where do traditional shortbread cookies come from?
The first shortbread recipe was adapted from medieval biscuit bread from Scotland, a twice-baked, enriched bread roll that was dusted with sugar and spices and then hardened into a dry biscuit. The name comes from the ingredients that are used. This rich biscuit calls for butter or shortening. The term "short" is due to how the shortening and butter make the gluten strands shorter, giving the cookies a buttery, crumbly texture.
Shortbread was for royalty and special occasions, so treat yourself!
Shortbread was expensive to make, so it was traditionally used in Scotland for holidays, special occasions, and weddings. We have Mary Queen of Scots to thank for our modern version—she loved this buttery Scottish biscuit and made it popular in the mid-16th century. You can learn so much about this rich cookie all over the internet, so for now, let's get back to the flavors.
Variations on a Traditional Shortbread Cookie
This recipe is a lot of fun because there are so many ways to make it your own. Try some of the suggested variations and see if you can pick your favorite! And if you love it so much that you want even more, check out my website, where you’ll find top-notch recipes like my Irish Whiskey Shortbread and London Fog Shortbread!
I also have a rich, caramelly Butterscotch Shortbread, Chocolate Dipped Shortbread, and Brown Sugar Pecan Shortbread in my cookbook, “A Gift of Cookies: Recipes to Make with Family & Friends” (bonus: all proceeds from this book go to local children’s charities.)