Scottish Shortbread Recipe By: Cece Kirkwood This post may contain affiliate links.
I am the third generation of women to be baking this Scottish shortbread recipe. This is by far, my absolute favorite holiday cookie recipe and it’s oh so festive.
My mom learned this recipe from my father’s mom and passed the recipe onto me and I am so honored to be continuing the tradition of baking these every holiday season.
It is one of the most simple cookie recipes, with only a few ingredients, most of them butter.
The flakey, buttery goodness will melt in your mouth and keep you coming back bite after bite, cookie after cookie.
These delicious Scottish Shortbread cookies are fantastic on their own, but could also be baked and prepared with a dollop of jam to elevate the holiday flavors.
What is Scottish Shortbread?
Many consider that the traditional Scottish shortbread that we know and love today to be attributed to the 16th century, specifically to Mary, Queen of Scots. She had a particular love for a shortbread cookie with a bit of caraway seeds added to it.
But shortbread actually began a few centuries before that, beginning as an actual “bread biscuit”. Cooks would take the leftover bits of bread after baking the first time, put them back in the oven and bake again. The word biscuit quite literally means “twice baked”. This original treat was more of a hard biscuit and not very sweet.
While likely not up to our taste bud standards of today, the ability to bake through an entire bread and have leftovers to bake again were a true luxury. This is where the cookie began to see its more festive roots – only being baked for special holidays and weddings.
Over time though, the leavening agent, yeast, was replaced by a lot of butter and eventually became the shortbread we know and love today.
A true traditional Scottish shortbread would only include butter, sugar and flour. That’s it. My family adds in a bit of baking powder and vanilla to sweeten things up just a bit for the holiday season.
Prepare your work station by pre-measuring the ingredients into small bowls and preheating the oven to 325ºF. Next, prepare the baking sheets by lining them with either parchment paper or silicone mats.
Mix Up the Shortbread Cookie Dough
First things first, add the butter to a bowl and using either a standing mixer with the paddle attachment or a handheld mixer, cream the butter for 3 full minutes at medium-high speed until the butter is extremely fluffy. Do not short change this time. Set a timer for the full 3 minutes and let the mixer do its thing.
Once the full three minutes is up, wipe down the sides of the bowl and add in the vanilla. Then, turn the mixer back on for 30 – 60 seconds on medium to incorporate the vanilla into the butter.
Then, wipe down the sides of the bowl once again.
In a separate bowl, sift together flour, powdered sugar, salt & baking powder. Gradually add the dry ingredients into the butter mixture. I normally add the dry ingredients in 3-4 batches. Add a little bit in, turn on the mixer for about 30 seconds, wipe down the bowl and repeat until all the dry ingredients are added.
Shape the Cookies & Bake!
For plain cookies
Scoop small mounds of dough into your hands and roll each into balls. Space them evenly on a cookie sheet and then flatten each cookie dough ball slightly with the palm of your hand.
For jam filled cookies
Repeat rolling dough into small balls and then place on cookie sheet and make an indent with your thumb. Spoon a small amount of jam (strawberry, or apricot, or raspberry…) into the indentation.
Bake for 16-18 minutes or until the edges begin to golden just slightly. I like to start checking the cookies around 14 minutes.
Allow the cookies to cool completely.
Finally, dust the cookies with sifted powdered sugar and devour!
Do I need an electric mixer to make these cookies?
Yes, you do need an electric mixer to whip the butter up into a very fluffy and light state. Either a hand held or standing electric mixer will work!
Why is this recipe in grams?
Baking is a science and in science you want things to be exact and precise. The best way to do this is by weighing out your ingredients using a simple scale. Ever baked a cookie using the same recipe, yet somehow it turns out slightly different each time? That is because when measuring by volume, you can’t be as precise. It is vital that your ingredient ratios are accurate for a reliable bake every time.
How long do the cookies last in the fridge?
I think these cookies are 1,000% better when chilled so once cooled, place these cookies in an airtight container and pop them back into the fridge. The cookies will stay fresh for up to 10 days in the fridge.
Can I make this gluten free?
Yes! Simply replace the flour in this tart with 1:1 Gluten Free flour. My favorite is Bob’s Mills or King Arthur’s 1:1 Gluten Free Flour. No need to adjust anything else!
The Scottish Shortbread RecipePrint
- Prep Time: 20 min
- Cook Time: 16 min
- Total Time: 36 min
- Yield: 18 – 20 cookies 1x
- 339g of room temp butter (3 sticks)
- 360g of flour
- 90g powdered sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
- Optional: Powdered Sugar for dusting
- Optional: Jam
- First things first, preheat the oven to 325 and pre-measure your ingredients.
- Next, line baking sheet pans with parchment or silicone mats and now get to baking!
- Cream the butter in an electric mixer for 3 full minutes at medium-high speed until the butter is extremely fluffy.
- Wipe down the sides of the bowl and add in the vanilla and turn the mixer back on for about 30 seconds on medium speed until it is fully incorporated.
- Wipe down the sides of the bowl once again.
- Sift together flour, powdered sugar, salt & baking powder and gradually add the dry ingredients into the butter until smooth and the dough is fairly stiff.
- For plain cookies
- Scoop small mounds of dough into your hands and roll each into balls. Space them evenly on a cookie sheet and then flatten each cookie dough ball slightly with the palm of your hand.
- For jam filled cookies
- Repeat rolling dough into small balls and then place on cookie sheet and make an indent with your thumb. Spoon a small amount of jam (strawberry, or apricot, or raspberry…) into the indentation.
- Bake for 16 – 18 minutes or until the edges begin to golden just slightly. I like to start checking the cookies around 14 minutes.
- Allow the cookies to cool completely.
- Finally, dust the cookies with sifted powdered sugar and devour!
Keywords: Cookies, Holiday Cookies, Shortbread, Scottish Shortbread