Simple, Tender, Subtle ❦ Shortbread Cookies


Simple, tender, subtle… no, I’m not talking about a single rose that expresses love or a baby’s kiss, just unadorned, old-fashioned shortbread cookies.


There are so many fancy, bold and somehow noisy cookies clamouring for attention out there, but sometimes I crave something plain and quiet that takes me back to simpler times.

I made these shortbread cookies for my Christmas open house this year but I didn’t bake them all then. Instead, I kept some sealed in a storage bag in the freezer. When I want to enjoy some, I set them out while the oven is pre-heating to 350°F and then bake for about 10 minutes or until the bottoms are just starting to brown and the cookies are still pale but firm on top. I confess: I don’t always have the patience to bake these for40 to 50 minutes at 275°F as per the directions below. My hurry-up method is probably sacrilege to shortbread purists and doesn’t produce as tender a cookie, but I think they’re still delicious. (For my open house, though, I baked them according to the recipe’s instructions; no shortcuts for my guests!)

On a cold, gray winter day the delicate and subtly sweet cookies are lovely by themselves or with a cup of honey-sweetened raspberry tea. They’re especially good served with a book and a cosy blanket for snuggling.


Simple Shortbread

This is the “Simply the Best Shortbread” recipe from my treasured Canadian Living Christmas Book published in 1993. The recipe makes 24 2-inch (5 cm) cookies, but I like to cut mine a bit smaller. I’ve revised the wording for the directions.

  • 1 cup (250 ml) butter, softened
  • 3 tbsp (50 ml) cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup (50 ml) granulated sugar
  • 1-3/4 cup (425 ml) all-purpose flour

Beat the butter until fluffy, then beat in the cornstarch followed by the sugar. Beat in 1/4 cup (50 ml) of the flour at a time with a wooden spoon.

Lightly flour your rolling surface and roll the dough to a 1/4 inch (5 mm) thickness. Use a lightly floured round fluted 2-inch (5 cm) cookie cutter to cut out the cookies. Place them on waxed paper-lined baking trays, prick each one three times with a fork and freeze until firm. (At this point you can transfer the shortbread to a freezer bag and store frozen for up to a month.)

Pre-heat the oven to 275ºF (140º C), then bake the frozen rounds on parchment-lined baking trays for 40 to 50 minutes or until firm to the touch. Remove from the trays and cool on racks.  (Can be stored in airtight containers for up to 2 weeks.)



  1. Mar – You know, I’m with you. Shortbread cookies, sublimely simple, speak Home to me. Nothing showy, nothing overly sweet, just home-baked comforting goodness.

    • Thank you so much, Danielle. I’ve just been looking at your beautiful blog and was very touched by your family story. I also enjoyed your writing style and of course the recipes.

    • It’s a raspberry tea that I’ve stirred some honey into since I have a cold (poor me). To be honest, I drink it out of a mug but used the clear glass for presentation. Such an artiste.

  2. There are so many cookies “out there.” Seems like there isn’t a fruit or nut that isn’t a cookie ingredient. Yet, for my tastes, there’s nothing like a shortbread cookie. That simple buttery goodness is unequaled in all of Cookiedom. No offense to our Girls Scouts but this year I won’t be buying shortbreads. I’m going to try making my own! Thanks, Mar.
    (PS Girl Scouts: Don’t worry. I’ll just double my purchase of Tagalongs.)

    • How lovely that you have your grandmother’s shortbread recipe. Now that you know you can freeze them, you’ll be able to enjoy them more often!

  3. Your shortbread is just perfect, nice and tender, pure white and they must have been so soft to nibble under those blankets. I need to whip up a batch of these with all our snow. I think they’re sublime not simple. ps Loved your photography today!! xx

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