One of life’s guilty little pleasures for me (and for many others I suppose) is cookies. I like ’em in all shapes, colors, sizes, and flavors and the only requirement is that they don’t have nuts. As I’ve been trying to branch out in my cookie-making skills over the past few of years, shortbread had never been something I attempted. Not sure why though…maybe because it was loaded with butter…or because of how delicate these cookies are, they seem like they would be difficult to make…or because the just seem so plain. I mean, what’s a cookie without chocolate or coconut or some kind of dried fruit? Well…simply, it’s shortbread.

Shortbread is like the red-headed stepchild of the cookie world – often forgotten because of how plain it looks but loaded with life once you give it a chance. While working in my last job, a new Fellow starting working with the two docs I worked for. Not only did she infuse the office with a certain “spunk,” but she was a fabulous baker!! Nearly every week there was some new baked good in a pretty little tin sitting on one of the desks in the office…Tracy had been baking again. Where she had the time to do the kind of baking that she did, I don’t know, but all conscious thought melted away after taking that first bite of whatever she brought in that day. Both Tracy and I have since moved on from that office (she, to Milwakee to start her first “real” job after so many years of medical and surgical training…and I, to the other side of campus to a new position), but I bring with me many fond memories of both Tracy and her heavenly baked goods.

This shortbread recipe was one of those heavenly baked goods and truly is one of the best shortbreads I’ve ever come upon. Tracy revealed to me one day in secrecy that this was a Martha Stewart recipe and I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that I’d be able to find the recipe and recreate it myself. I was afraid that I’d have to potentially beg her to reveal a secret family recipe.

So as this was shortly before Christmas last year, I knew I’d have the perfect opportunity to attempt the recipe…and my family would be the guinea pigs…heh heh heh. My mom, being one of the world’s foremost shortbread connoisseurs (kinda sorta but not really), would be the only person who would be able to honestly let me know if this recipe was on target or not. And of course it was…after all, it IS a Martha recipe!! These came out perfectly and were so incredibly easy to make it’s stinkin’ ridiculous! I just made them again today for a church function tomorrow and am having a wee bit (ok A LOT) of trouble keeping my hands off them. I hope they make it to church in the morning…….

Basic Shortbread
source: Martha Stewart

This buttery cookie gets better with age: It can be stored up to a month, and over that time its flavor deepens. Dip the tips of the cookies in melted chocolate for a decorative touch.
  • 1 1/3 cups (2 sticks plus 6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-by-1-inch baking pan, and line bottom with parchment paper. (I didn’t butter but just laid the parchment down in a dark non-stick pan.) In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add salt and vanilla, and beat to combine. Add flour, 1 cup at a time, beating on low speed until just combined.
  2. Press dough into prepared pan, leveling and smoothing the top. Using a dough scraper or the back of a knife, cut dough lengthwise into nine strips, each slightly less than 1 inch wide. Cut the strips crosswise into thirty-six 3-inch bars. Using the tines of a fork or a wooden skewer, create a decorative pattern on the surface.
  3. Bake shortbread until evenly pale golden, but not browned, 70 to 85 minutes. (With a dark pan, don’t cook for more than 70 minutes.) Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool. Invert pan, and remove parchment. Turn shortbread over, and carefully break, or cut with a serrated knife, into bars. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 month.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 70 minutes
Yields: 36 cookies
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Leave a Comment

  • Tracy
    November 25, 2007 at 1:36 AM

    Tara! I just saw this post and imagine the smile it brought to my face! I’m so glad you enjoyed the cookies and what do you know, it’s Christmas cookie season again! Love, Tracy