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Classic Shortbread Recipe

This classic shortbread recipe follows the time-honored ratio for this cookie’s traditional three key ingredients: one part sugar, two parts butter, and three parts white flour. A touch of vanilla is customary in this timeless recipe.

classic shortbread cookies

Prep time: 10-15 minutes

Bake time: 45-55 minutes

Makes about 5 - 6 dozen slices of shortbread, ¾ inch x 1 inch


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

½ cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon water

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.

  2. In a food processor using a steel blade, place flour, salt, and powdered sugar, pulsing a few times to combine.

  3. Add vanilla and water. Pulse a few times.

  4. Cut in butter. Pulse ingredients together just until dough is formed.

  5. Press dough evenly into an ungreased 13 x 9 baking pan.  If shortbread dough sticks to your fingers when you’re pressing it into the pan, cover it with a piece of plastic wrap. Press the dough through the wrap, spreading it evenly. Remove the wrap.

  6. Use the heel of your hand to smooth the surface. With a fork, prick the shortbread.

  7. Bake for 30-35 minutes until shortbread edges begin to brown. Remove the pan from the oven.

  8. While shortbread is still hot, use a sharp knife to slice it into thin bars, ¾ inch by 1 ½ inches.

  9. Let shortbread cool completely. Use a spatula to remove cooled bars from the pan.

  10. Store cookies in an airtight container.

A Special Tip from The Elf

Always use butter when baking this classic shortbread. The high butter content in shortbread produces the cookie’s crumbly texture. Fat inhibits gluten, a protein in wheat, which allows dough to rise. Gluten gives dough a chewy texture. Higher fat content slows down gluten. Its protein strands are then shorter, rather than longer, producing a more crumbly texture rather than a chewy one.

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