Shortbread Cookies, also known as 3-2-1 Cookies, are the simplest of all cookies. They contain just 3 parts flour, 2 parts butter, and 1 part sugar. There are variations on this, the biggest difference being the type of sugar used. Some use granulated sugar while others use confectioners’ (powdered) sugar. Beyond sugar, you can add all kinds of flavorings, from citrus zest, chocolate, and herbs. Shortbread cookies can be either sweet or savory depending on the additional ingredients added. I’ll share a few tips to make these super simple Shortbread Cookies a winner every time!
Confectioners Sugar VS Granulated Sugar
Most recipes are split between confectioners sugar and granulated sugar as their sweetener. I really loved the flavor that granulated sugar added to the Shortbread Cookie. But the texture was lovely and short in the confectioners sugar version. So I was torn between better flavor and better texture. I wanted both! (I’m like that)
Confectioners Sugar is just white granulated sugar that has been ground into a fine powdered and has cornstarch added to it. So, for my version, I combined the two. I used granulated sugar as the sweetener. And added cornstarch to make it nice and short.
A Few Tricks for Better Shortbread Cookies
- Whip It Good
No, not the Devo song, the butter. Make sure you whip your butter until it is light and fluffy and about doubled in volume. You can do this in a stand mixer but I actually feel like it’s easy to get everything to come together using just a wooden spoon (a hand mixer would work too but I don’t own one). You need to make sure your butter is really soft. I would suggest taking a couple of sticks out the night before you plan on making these.
- Bringing It All Together
When you add the flour and cornstarch to the butter, you’re going to mix until it resembles really coarse breadcrumbs. Pour the shortbread cookie dough mixture out onto the counter and start to “knead”. It’s not like kneading bread dough. This won’t get elastic. But you are going to push all of the ingredients into a ball, turn it over, push the ingredients together and keep doing this until it becomes a cohesive dough. It might take a minute or two. You are going to be thinking to yourself, “Liz, this is never going to come together.” But just keep at it. I promise it will work. And then you will think, “Hey, Liz was right.”
Adding Extra Flavor
These shortbread cookies would be beautiful with a little lemon or orange zest. Or dipped in chocolate. Or with a little almond extract. Or with whatever your imagination can conjure up!
I try to bake on a silicone mat as much as possible to reduce the amount of waste produced in my kitchen. But these did not do so well when I baked them on the mat. They spread. Not a lot, but enough that they were no longer perfect rectangles (they looked kind of like demented rectangles that someone had let melt in the sun or something). The cookies still tasted delicious but my hypercritical brain just couldn’t let it go (see what I go through for you folks? I do it because I love you, though.).
Increase Recipe Servings
Double, triple, quadruple, you can make as many of these cookies as you want! The only caveat I would give: the slab of dough can become a bit unwieldily the more cookies you try to make. I would start by doubling the recipe and rolling the dough out to see how you handle it before making larger batches.
Shortbread cookies freeze great! After you let the cookies rest for an hour in the fridge and have cut them out and docked them, wrap them in a double layer of plastic wrap and put in the freezer. Then you have cookie dough ready to bake whenever you want them! Just want one? No problem, just bake one. Yay! No need to thaw, preheat your oven as usual, remove the cookies from the plastic wrap and place on a parchment lined baking tray. They should cook in the same amount of time.
- ¼ cup plus 1 ¼ teaspoons granulated sugar 56 grams
- 1 stick unsalted butter, softened 112 grams
- 1 cup plus 4 tablespoons AP Flour 150 grams
- 3 tablespoons corn starch 12 grams
- ¼ tsp kosher salt 1 gram
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla optional
- In a large bowl, cream together butter, sugar, salt, and, if using, vanilla, until light, fluffy and doubled in volume, about 3-4 minutes. Add flour and mix together until a shaggy dough forms.
- Scrape dough onto your work surface and lightly knead until it forms a cohesive dough. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a rectangle, roughly 6-inch by 12-inch, that is ¼-inch thick. Use an offset spatula to carefully release the bottom of the dough from your work surface. Wrap with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least an hour up to 3 days.
- When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap your dough and cut into 1-inch by 2-inch rectangles. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and dock each cookie 6-8 times. Bake in the oven for 16-18 minutes or until the edges have just started to turn a light golden brown.