Christmas Cookies of the World – Shortbread

I sure do like it when things work out well. I was all ready to share this recipe when Sweet was announced as the Friday Photos theme. There’s nothing sweeter than my Grammie’s Christmas shortbread!

By the end of December I’m pretty sure that I’ll be about 10 pounds heavier than I was when the month started. I am on a mission to bake the world of Christmas cookies, a feat which involves the eating of an unhealthy volume of biscuits. Why am I undertaking this mammoth task? Well, for you of course, dear reader. Christmas just isn’t Christmas without cookies, but who wants to spend hours slaving in the kitchen only to meet with disappointment and/or failure?

For you I will try and test and share the best!

First up?

Shortbread Cookies of Scotland

Shortbread Cookies

Shortbread has been a staple of festive celebrations in the UK for centuries, with the earliest version dating back to the 12th century, though these original biscuits bear little resemblance to the shortbread we know today. They were made with stale bread – yuck! Some brilliant soul decided to oust the stale bread and add butter, and thus created the delicious crumbly biscuit we all know and love today.

Shortbread is most associated with Scotland, the country in which this delicious cookie originated. Shortbread is said to have been a favourite of Queen Mary of Scots, who is reputed to have favoured the biscuit topped with caraway seeds.

Christmas Shortbread Cookies

I prefer coloured sugar to caraway seeds

Shortbread are one of those cookies that is deceptively easy. Few ingredients and simple process give the impression that anyone can pop these babies out, but perfection is in fact elusive. I have spent my full adult like attempting to perfect my Grandmother’s recipe and I am yet to come anywhere near to her standard. This year, however, I have come pretty darn close with these little beauties.

The trick with this shortbread recipe is a light touch and patience. You can’t rush the shortbread or you are bound to meet with failure – You have been forwarned.

I also have it on good authority that these are just as good straight out of the freezer.

Shortbread Cookie Recipe

makes 4 dozen cookies

1 pound butter (very soft but not melted)
1 cup minus 2 tbsps powdered sugar (icing sugar)
2 tbsp soft brown sugar
4 cups sifted flour (all-purpose for those in North America, or plain flour in the UK)

  1. Blend butter and sugars together thoroughly
  2. Stir in flour and mix with hands (be careful to not overmix)
  3. Divide the dough in half and wrap each section in plastic wrap to chill for at least an hour.
  4. Remove from fridge about 30min before rolling and preheat oven to 300 degrees fahrenheit (150 degrees celsius)
  5. Roll out dough 1/3 – 1/2 inch thick and cut into shapes (use shapes smaller than for other cookies, you want them to be just one or two bites.)
  6. Bake for 7-10 minutes, until the bottom and edges are only just turning brown.

Note: the recipe is easily cut in half if you don’t think having 4 dozen shortbread cookies is a good idea

Variation: Lavender Orange Shortbread

Well, if Mary liked it with caraway, then I can like it with lavender.

While shortbread is a regular addition to the Christmas cookie plate, the lavender version probably is not. The delicate flavour of lavender may not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s nice to have something a little bit different on offer, and if all your friends are too boring to try them you can always give them to the mailman.

Lavender Shortbread Cookies

Make the shortbread dough as usual but add about 1 tsp chopped dried lavender flowers and 1 tsp grated orange zest while mixing the flour in. You want to be careful to not add too much lavender because it an easily start to taste like soap, and no one wants that!


What are your favourite Christmas cookies from around the world?


6 thoughts on “Christmas Cookies of the World – Shortbread

  1. I just made some yesterday for the first time in years. Not to the recipe above mind you, I was using a handwritten one in a book my mother had given me.
    Must be at least fifty years old.

    Very tasty. Must remember to add lavender next time as that does make them seem incredibly indulgent.

  2. Pingback: Scottish Shortbread with a twist « On to the plate

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