Shortbread Recipe

The classic proportions for shortbread are 1, 2, 3: one part sugar, two parts butter and three parts flour. These days shortbread recipes are both sweeter and richer than that. Surprised? The below recipe, inspired by Cook’s Illustrated, boosts the sugar content by about 50% and the butter by about 25%, which is OK by me. The formula is:

8.75 ounces (1 3/4 cups) all-purpose flour
1.25 ounces (1/4 cup) of either corn starch or rice flour
5 ounces (about 2/3 cup) extra fine sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes

Preheat your oven to 425. Combine the flour(s), sugar and salt in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Stir on low to blend. Turn the mixer up to medium speed and add the cold butter. Beat 2-3 minutes until the butter is fully incorporated and a dough comes together. It will range in texture from crumbly to smooth depending on your flour and the ambient temperature.

Shape into classic “petticoat tails” by lining a 9″ cake layer pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper, laying in the dough, covering it with another round of waxed paper, and pressing down on it with a second layer pan. Refrigerated the dough 30 minutes to firm it. Loosen the edges of the dough with a short knife, peel off the top layer of waxed paper, and turn the round out onto a parchment-lined sheet pan. Peel off the second piece of waxed paper.

Put the round into the oven and immediately turn the heat down to 300. Bake 20 minutes, then remove the round from the oven. Insert a 2″ round cutter in the very center of the round (this will be removed later). Score the shortbread with a sharp knife, like spokes on a wheel, into 16 pieces. Use a cake tester or wooden skewer to poke regular holes in the shortbread (the holes are part decorative, part functional, as they allow gas and steam to escape, keeping the shortbread dense).

Return the shortbread to the oven and bake an additional 40 minutes until only very lightly browned. Remove from the oven and sprinkle on additional sugar. Cool 10 minutes then remove the round cutter (saving the cookie at the center for yourself) and slice the shortbread along the scores into blunt pie-shaped pieces. Cool completely, a minimum of 3 hours.

11 thoughts on “Shortbread Recipe”

  1. Hi, I am loving your shortbread recipe, and several others on the site, but can you tell me how to print them, as I am having difficulty with the ends of the sentences being cut off. I did not notice it at first, until I went to make the short bread and had to come back into the site to read it all again and fill in the blanks, which I did with the others too. Is it me or can you fix this? I could not find a print recipe button on you recipes. Thanks.

    1. Hi Grace!

      So glad the recipes are working for you! I regret that I don’t have a specific print feature. Something to put on my wish list when I can engage my developer (and pay him). My suggestion is to simply cut, paste and format as you’d like. I have no problem with readers (or anyone else) copying, manipulating and printing content, so by all means feel free…and I’ll try to get that oversight fixed!


      – Joe

      1. Thanks Joe, I appreciate your quick response. I did cut and paste for 3 recipes and it worked just fine. I will be making the Shortbread again for my Christmas gift boxes, and also the Biscotti with the whole almonds – sounds delish. Then I am going to try my hand with the Popovers, which I loved as a kid when Mum made them but I never have, always seemed so complicated…you just simplified it enough for me to want to try it, wish me luck! You have a wonderful website here and I will be coming back for second and third helpings, so don’t go away! Ciao, G.

        1. I won’t, Grace — though sometimes I travel on business! I always come back sooner or later!

          – Joe

  2. Hi Joe,

    I love shortbread and after perusing your recipe have a couple of questions:

    1. Why add cornstarch or rice flour?

    2. Please help me pick the best butter from my current stock to use for shortbread. I usually just purchase store brand butter but have recently decided to start experimenting with European/European-style butters and have purchased a few but have yet to try them (taste test coming soon…). So, my current stock of butter includes (in alphabetical order):
    – Challenge Butter – Grade AA – salted (ingredients: cream, salt)
    – Kerrygold – Pure Irish Butter – salted (ingredients: cream, salt)
    – Lurpak – Imported Butter (from Denmark) – lightly salted (ingredients: cream, culture, salt)
    – Plugra – European Style – salted (ingredients: cream, salt, natural flavor)
    – Shannon Gold – Irish Style Butter – unsalted (ingredients: cream, natural flavor, beta carotene)
    – Sprouts Farmers Market – Butter – salted (ingredients: cream, salt)
    – Sprouts Farmers Market – Butter – unsalted (ingredients: cream, salt)

    I look forward to your recommendation, o wise one!

    1. Hey Karen!

      The corn starch or rice flour are there for tenderness. Not being wheat flour they have no gluten so the don’t contribute to a tough texture. You can use any non-wheat flour for the purpose, though finely milled flours like corn, rice or tapioca work the best.

      As for the butter, you definitely want to go with an unsalted, or only very lightly salted. I don’t know Challenge or Sprouts, but any of the others will work very, very well. I confess I personally like Lurpak the best of these imported butters, but it’s not always the cheapest! Cheers and let me know how it goes!

      – Joe

      1. Joe,

        You mean I can make shortbread even more tender? ((((swoon)))) Be still my heart!


        1. Would the use of corn starch or non-wheat flour be in addition to the wheat flour in my standard 1-2-3 recipe or would it replace (an equal?) amount of wheat flour?

        2. Does it matter how much to add/displace–I mean, how far can I go before I totally kill the end product? I normally use 12 oz (or about 2-3/4 c) all purpose flour for shortbread.

        3. I happen to have a package of tapioca starch that someone gave me; is that the same as tapioca flour?

        Thank you for sharing your wisdom, Joe. I appreciate it very much. As do those who consume that which I make. :-)

        1. My pleasure, Karen! I love what I do.

          If you’re planning to add a non-wheat starch you’ll want to substitute for the flour. I’d start by swapping out 1 tablespoon of flour for every cup in the recipe and see what you think. If you want to push the envelope try another tablespoon. At some point you’ll reach a limit where the shortbread will barely hold together, but honestly I don’t what that point is. If you find it tell me!

          And yes, tapioca flour and starch are the same thing.

          Have fun!

          – Joe

          1. Wow–Delicious! I substituted 2T tapioca starch for flour and used Lurpak butter. But I also learned one thing — that funky taste from pastry shops that I used to think was from old, past-its-prime butter? Turns out its from the butter many foodies appreciate. Who knew! I guess I just prefer the butter we get here, just plain uncultured, salted or unsalted butter. I still consider myself a butter snob, however, just not a connoisseur.
            I made a bunch of dough and keep rolls of it in the freezer to slice and bake when the whim hits. Once out of the oven I place a small bit of good chocolate on top and spread it once melted, then serve with a dallop of homemade Meyer lemon curd. Absolute heaven!

          2. Nothing wrong with good ol’ sweet cream butter! It was a breakthrough product for a reason, Karen!

            Thanks for the email…and lemon curd…oh…my favorite.


            – Joe

    2. Correction:

      Sprouts Farmers Market – Butter – unsalted (ingredients: cream, natural flavorings)

      Sprouts and Challenge are local producers/products.

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