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Indeed, I usually search for humble shortbreads when all the other "glitzy" cookies come out during the holidays. It's a forever cookie.

As in the title, I use a tree-shaped cutter, which is not essential. Use the shape you love. And if you bake regularly, you probably already have a favorite shortbread recipe. Still, this one is my standard, and I love its simplicity and consistency--the cookies rarely come out wrong! That said, shortbread should be pale, not golden. So, keeping an eye on the baking process is vital to classic uses fresh ingredients, so the cookies don't have that "old butter" flavor.

Notes: Butter is unsalted.


Ingredients: 1 cup butter at room temperature (two sticks), 3/4 cup powdered sugar, 1/2 tsp. sea salt, 3/4 tsp. vanilla extract, 2 1/3 cups flour plus extra for rolling, 2 tbsp. decorator's (coarse) sugar.

Makes about two dozen 2 1/2-inch cookies.

1. Preheat the oven to 350*F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Beat the butter on medium-low with a stand or hand-held mixer. Slowly add the powdered sugar and salt, scraping down the sides of the bowl until well combined. Add the vanilla and mix in.

3. Add the flour gradually, mixing on low until just combined. Place the batter onto plastic wrap, forming a round disk. Refrigerate for one hour.

4. Sprinkle a little flour on a surface and roll the dough to 1/4-inch thick. Cut the cookies and place them onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 10 minutes, until firm but still pale. Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle with the decorator's sugar.

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