5 Ingredients or Fewer

Proper Shortbread

September 12, 2014
7 Ratings
  • Prep time 45 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Makes 12 to 16 cookies
Author Notes

Classic shortbread, made with just four ingredients. —londonbakes

What You'll Need
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 pinch salt
  1. Using either a wooden spoon or an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy (at least 5 - 10 minutes)
  2. Mix in the flour and the salt until completely incorporated; you may need to knead the dough together if it's looking a little crumbly (as you would pastry) but it should stick together. Add a splash of milk if it's really not working for you.
  3. Roll the dough out thinly and cut it into shapes, rounds, or fingers. Place in the fridge for half an hour or so, until firm. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  4. Sprinkle the tops with sugar, chopped nuts, or cocoa nibs.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes or so, until just golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to stand on the baking tray for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Courtney C
    Courtney C
  • robin lewis
    robin lewis
  • Nosherium
  • Trick Gum
    Trick Gum
  • Jamie Cantrell
    Jamie Cantrell
Kathryn writes the baking blog London Bakes (www.londonbakes.com) and likes a proper English biscuit to dunk in her cup of tea.

20 Reviews

Lisa July 4, 2022
My mother has fallen in love with “Outlander” and so with all things Scottish. She bought an Outlander cookbook and asked me to make the shortbread recipe. Ugh! A crumbly mess! So, I tried this one. I made it according to the weight instructions (6 oz flour, 4 oz butter, 2 oz sugar) and used Irish Kerigold butter. I beat the butter and sugar for a LONG time (near 10 mins) in my KitchenAid. The cookies were perfect and easy to roll after kneading a short bit. My mother ate a whole dozen all at once!
nahrissarush December 24, 2021
I love the simplicity of this recipe, even though like others, I had trouble with a crumbly dough. But that is often the case when I try to make shortbread, and after reading the comments I know what to try next time to get a better result. I'll definitely make this again and what I did make is still tasty!
Gabriella R. October 22, 2015
I'd like to make them savory with finely chopped rosemary and cardamon. Might also consider adding nuts to a different batch. Will 1 teaspoon to 1-2 tablespoon (nuts) do?
Courtney C. August 14, 2015
I brought these to work today and they have been loved by all. I doubled the recipe, but decreased the flour by 1/2 cup. The dough was quite shaggy, but I worked it into a ball with my hands after a few minutes. Unfortunately, I refrigerated the dough overnight as I ran out of time for baking, which made the dough very difficult to roll out. I ended up pressing and rolling it into a jellyroll pan, pricking it all over with a fork, and slicing it before baking at 325 degrees. This worked well, although I had to slice them again when they came out of the oven. Next time I will not put the dough in the fridge before rolling! Overall though, very tasty - thanks for the recipe!
robin L. June 1, 2015
I added some milk, as the recipe suggested. I probaby added more than a few splashes, just so that I could clump up a good handful into a ball that I could then press and roll out. I've got about 56 cookies in the fridge now (I doubled the recipe), chilling for 30. It was quite fun, almost like playing with playdough 8^) I'm not a baker--I enjoy more savory food so baking's never clicked for me--but this recipe was pretty easy. I kneaded chunks of the dough and rolled those chunks out and made as many cookies out of them (w/a small biscuit cutter) and then went on to another kneaded chunk. It would be nice to have pics with this recipe, but I just kind of worked with it...and figured how wrong can you go w/4-ingredient cookies? (I guess we'll find out in about an hour.)
Nosherium May 21, 2015
I wonder if people are having issues because of the differing fat content in European and American butters. European has a higher fat content than American butter... Looking at a few American recipes, I see similar flour and sugar measurements being paired with an extra quarter cup of butter (1 1/2 sticks or 12 tablespoons total). I'm going to give this recipe a go with a little extra butter. Or maybe I'll just splurge on some fancy European butter!
Nosherium May 23, 2015
Update! I melted down my butter and let some of the water bubble off, then let it cool to room temperature before re-weighing and continuing with the recipe. I used londonbakes's weight proportions and it came out beautifully. I pressed the dough into two tins, then un-molded it and sliced it into rectangles. I baked it a bit too long, I think, but all in all, great recipe if you use weight measurements.
Trick G. December 19, 2014
I also ended up with a very crumbly dough. Ended up adding an extra 2-3 Tlb of soft butter until the dough could come together enough to roll out and hold the cookie cutter shape. I still had to be very careful handling the cookies because they don't hold together real well but they tasted great!
Jamie C. December 16, 2014
Some help for folks... I found that if you make sure that (1) your butter is soft enough and (2) you beat the butter & sugar together long enough, you will have a dough that is kneadable. That said, I found that adding extra butter helps ;-)
Hiromi M. December 15, 2014
Argh! I should have read comments before doubling the recipe! All I got was crumbles and I had to work really had to roll it out, even then I could only use the middle part since dough would fall apart if I cut out anywhere close to the edge. In the last batch, I added a bit of water, which helped roll it out. I will have to look for another recipe.
londonbakes December 15, 2014
Hi Hiromi - I'm really surprised that so many people have struggled with this as it's just a basic ratio (6 oz flour, 4 oz butter, 2 oz sugar - it's much easier by weight than cups) which is pretty standard for shortbread and I've made this recipe hundreds of times since I was little and I've never had a problem. Sometimes you have to knead the dough a couple of times to bring it together (like you would pastry) but it should definitely stick together and you should be able to cut it out easily. I'm so sorry it didn't work for you.
siok October 27, 2014
I agree with the earlier comments - all I got was crumbles despite making sure that I had properly creamed the butter and sugar! =(
londonbakes December 15, 2014
Hi Siok, I'm sorry this didn't work out for you. Sometimes you have to knead the dough a couple of times to bring it together - like you would if you were making pastry but this amount of flour/fat should definitely hold together.
Lilismom September 26, 2014
I don't know. I used Kerrygold butter and bake cookies quite a lot, so I knew how it was supposed to look. I just put the crumbles into a springform pan and smoothed them down, scored and baked that was. They still were yummy just not like yours. I will try again.
sweethog September 26, 2014
Just another quick comment, Ohshineon, try leaving butter out at room temp for only about 20-30 minutes, tops, and see if this helps you. It's definitely a chemistry issue here!!
sweethog September 26, 2014
Just curious, Ohshineon, might the butter be too soft? It took my sister almost a year to figure out that when a recipe called for butter softened or even room temp, that she was letting the butter get way too soft which doesn't allow the mixture to have enough air in it to become "light and fluffy" when you cream the butter and sugar together. This will completely and frustratingly, change the outcome of a recipe. Good luck!!
Kate S. September 24, 2014
Agreed, even with only one cup of flour the mixture is not sticking together at all.
londonbakes September 24, 2014
That's really strange; it's a fairly traditional recipe using a standard ratio of fat:flour and I've never had any trouble with it sticking. It might be something to do with the fat % of your butter or the butter/sugar mixture may need to be creamed for longer. It should have a similar consistency to pastry (the ratio of fat:flour isn't dissimilar). If it's not working, you can add a splash of milk or knead the dough a couple of times to bring it together. I hope it works out for you!
Lilismom September 20, 2014
By soft do you mean crumbly? I just have a bowl of crumbles.
londonbakes September 24, 2014
Apologies for the delay in replying - the mixture shouldn't be too crumbly. It's a firm but soft dough, a bit like making pastry (which is, after all, almost exactly the same). I'd imagine if it's crumbling either the butter and sugar needed to be beaten for longer or it will be something to do with the fat % of the butter that you use. You can gather the dough together and knead it a couple of times to get a smooth dough or add a splash of milk if it's still not sticking. I hope you managed to sort it out!