Shortbread cookies, also called Scotch shortbreads, originated in Scotland, where they were typically served on winter holidays. Thankfully, you don’t need a holiday or special occasion to whip up a batch of these crumbly, buttery cookies. They are delicious on their own and act as a backdrop for added ingredients. Because shortbread cookies contain minimal ingredients, quality can make or break the flavor of the cookies.

Things You'll Need

Remove unsalted butter from the refrigerator a couple hours before you intend to use it. “The Joy of Baking” recommends using the highest-quality butter you can find, preferably an AA or A grade butter. Grades are listed on the butter package.

Sift all-purpose flour and a small amount of baking powder into a mixing bowl. For every 2 cups of flour, use approximately 1/4 teaspoon baking powder. To alter the texture of the cookie, swap 25 percent of the all-purpose flour with cornstarch for a tender texture or rice flour for a crunchier texture.

Add the butter to a separate mixing bowl. Mix it with an electric mixer or stand mixer until it’s smooth.

Beat sugar into the butter. For every 1 cup of butter, which is two sticks, use approximately 1/2 cup of powdered sugar. Alternatively, use 1 cup of brown sugar for every 1 cup of butter, or 1/4 cup granulated sugar and 3/4 cup brown sugar.

Add vanilla extract to the mix once the butter and sugar are smooth, usually within approximately 2 minutes. It is important to use the best vanilla extract you can find. Avoid using imitation extract, which tends to leave a synthetic or bitter flavor to the cookies. Look for pure vanilla extract for optimal flavor.

Stir the sifted flour into the butter mixture with a spoon or your hands. Stir it just until the flour is incorporated into the dough before flattening it into a disk and wrapping the disk of dough in plastic wrap.

Chill the dough for 1 hour or longer. Approximately 10 to 15 minutes before you’re ready to start baking, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line your baking sheets with parchment paper.

Flour your work surface, rolling pin and hands to minimize sticking. Roll the dough out 1/4 to 3/8 inch thick. Cut it into rectangular cookies or cut it into the desired shapes.

Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes, or until they are golden brown.

Remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to cool for several minutes before transferring them to a rack to fully cool.