Saturday, December 25, 2010

Shortbread cookies

One of the specialty things I only make at Christmas (besides Irish cream, of course!) is shortbread.  The secret ingredients to rich and flaky shortbread is butter (no substitutes!) and rice flour. Rice flour is pretty easy to find in most grocery stores. Shortbread has only four ingredients: flour, rice flour, sugar, and butter. I'm not milking Matilda right now, so I used store-bought butter.

Mix the butter and sugar together.  I soften the butter in the microwave then mix it by hand.  You don't need an electric mixer when making shortbread.

Mix the flour and rice flour together.

Then cut the two sets of ingredients together.

If the butter is soft enough you can use a spoon, otherwise you'll have to use your hands.

With regular shortbread (meaning, just flour, butter, and sugar), you can shape the dough however you like for baking.  Some people make large rectangles and later cut them into finger-shaped pieces.  Others make a large circle and cut it into pie-shaped wedges.  Since this particular recipe has rice flour, it's much more flaky than regular shortbread and so won't hold up if you bake it in large shapes.  So I just make small balls and gently flatten them with my palm.  The cookies tend to spread out as they bake, so I don't put more than six per sheet.

Watch the shortbread like a hawk when it's in the oven because it's easy to overbake.  Everyone's ovens are different so I can't give a precise baking time.  In my oven, the cookies take 13 to 14 minutes.  Yes, it's that precise.  Much longer, and the edges get too brown.  These turned out juuuuust a hair browner than I wanted, but not bad.

The cookies are very fragile, so don't manhandle them too much.  I like to let them cool on the cookie sheets for a couple minutes to harden up, then gently transfer them to a cooling rack.

Here's some of the completed batches.  These are given to friends and neighbors for a buttery treat.

Here's the recipe:

1 cup flour
1/2 cup rice flour
1 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar

Mix butter and sugar by hand (soften the butter if need be) until sugar is dissolved.  Separately, mix flour and rice flour together, then add to the butter mixture and knead until dough resembles short crust.  Bake at 350F.

I octupled the recipe and ended up with about eight or nine dozen batches (I lost count). The recipe multiplies very well.

Happy eating!


  1. Merry Christmas to You and Don and Children.


  2. Very similar to a recipe I have. For variations, add flavorings such as almond extract, fine orange or lemon zest, finely minced marachino cherries. Or eat them as just their perfect self!

    Hope you had a very fulfilling Christmas.

  3. What a wonderful recipe for Christmas morning! I ground fresh rice flour and used the 20% bran flour I have for baking bread. Much better than store-bought "shortbread" chemicals...err...cookies. They were a huge hit. My wife said "best cookie ever!"
    Thanks for the recipe and happy holidays!

  4. Patrice,
    Your recipe is very similar to mine which comes from a Scottish cookbook...We have been making this recipe since I was a girl and for us, it HAS to be patted out into a pizza pan we have that has a lip...when I make it for others, I usually make it into small most people think it is too rich for a big piece. The cookbook I have is so funny about says:
    "Shortbread is one of the simplest recipes in the world, and yet one of the easiest for a poor cook to ruin. False economy can kill its chances from the start, and dressing up can be its downfall.
    While it is true that there are many recipes where margarine can safely be substituted for butter, this is NOT one of those places....
    THe creative cook who feels the recipe is too naked as it stands, and dresses it up with vanilla, eggs, nuts, chocolate chips, or what have you, may be creating something. But it won't be shortbread."
    Anyway, I use a very similar recipe...which I have included below...I use Corn starch as a substitution for the rice flour...we have been making this for years and I never really thought about trying to find are right though, especially now that so many have gluten is pretty easy to find...
    1 lb sweet butter
    1 c. powdered sugar
    3 cups sifted flour
    3/4 c. corn starch (or 1 c. rice flour)
    cream butter...add sugar gradually...gradually work in flour/cornstarch.

    Either pat into rounds (bake at 375 for 5 minutes, then 300 for 45-60 minutes) or shape into cookies...bake at 350 for 15 minutes

    Merry Christmas...I have really enjoyed finding your blog. I don't always post comments, because I am on a REALLY OLD computer right now...but I do read it.

  5. I have my own shortbread recipe and I use an old shortbread cast iron pan. Turns out yummy.
    Unfortunately, this year it was apparently TOO tempting for one of my household.
    I baked 6 pans of shortbread. Put it on a plate and set it on the back of the stove while we ran to the store to get a few last minute items.
    Came home...half of the shortbread was GONE and our German Shepherd was showing all the symptoms of a bad belly ache!
    Yes, Andy the huge goofy dog ate half our shortbread! Darn dog is a cookie addict, I think.