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Scottish Shortbread

Classic Shortbread Is Easy Yet Altogether Exceptional

Sometimes less really is more; case in point: these tender, pared-down bars of Scottish shortbread made up of little more than butter, sugar, salt, flour, and cornstarch. Sure, one could jazz them up with a hefty pinch of citrus zest, a drizzle of melted chocolate, chopped nuts, or a vast variety of other additions, but something about their simplicity and purity of buttery flavor is what makes them a star in my eyes, and those of just about everyone who's tried them.

I've been making this particular recipe for over a decade, and for good reason. Their effort-to-reward ratio is shockingly high — I've been making them unassisted since my tweens — they keep well, and their rich comforting flavor is soul-soothing whether nibbled on unadorned or generously dolloped with a bit of jam or preserves. Given their short ingredient list, use the best butter you can get your hands on; it will make all the difference.

Classic Shortbread

Adapted from Joy of Cooking: 75th Anniversary Edition by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker


Shortbread keeps particularly well when stored in an airtight container, and actually has a better texture on the second day.

Scottish Shortbread


  1. 10 tablespoons (5 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    1/4 cup (1 ounce) powdered sugar, sifted
    1-1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
    3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    1/4 cup (1 ounce) cornstarch
    1-1/4 cups (6-1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour


  1. Preheat the oven to 300ºF.
  2. Beat together the butter, powdered and granulated sugars, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer until lightened in color and fluffy.
  3. Sift together the cornstarch and flour, and add it in three additions to the butter-sugar mixture, scraping down the bowl between each addition. Mix until a cohesive dough just begins to form (it will be crumbly).
  4. Turn the dough out into an 8-by-8-inch square pan and press it firmly into an even layer. Prick the dough in a decorative pattern with the tines of a fork and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until light golden brown.
  5. Allow to cool for about 20 minutes, then cut almost all the way through to form bars. Sprinkle with a bit of granulated sugar. Allow to completely cool, then cut through the bars the rest of the way.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Nicole Perry
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