This shortbread recipe is one that has been in my family for over 100 years. I’m not sure where it came from originally, but my grandmother got it from her mother-in-law. It’s a traditional Scottish shortbread recipe that is buttery and rich and flavor. More importantly, this recipe comes from my grandfather’s grandmother through his Aunt Mary. Aunt Mary and my great-grandmother were from Scotland, and then came to the United States through Canada in the early part of the twentieth century. My grandmother stills makes these cookies for us each year at Christmas. I like having a recipe that has been in our family for centuries, particularly one that results in such amazing shortbread cookies!
It’s a very simple recipe, and requires relatively less refrigeration than your traditional rolled Christmas sugar cookies. However, it does take a while to make them. Even so, it is easier to make than many rolled cookies.
Scottish Shortbread Recipe Ingredients
- 2 sticks Margarine
- 2 sticks Butter (make one salted for good measure)
- 4 cups All Purpose Flour
- 1 cup brown sugar (I’ve used both, and prefer light brown, but feel free to experiment!)
(I asked my grandmother why it includes Margarine and Butter, and she said that Aunt Mary modified the recipe during the Great Depression. At that time margarine was so much cheaper than butter and people didn’t have a lot of money to spare. This was a way to make the cookies more affordable. My grandmother also says that you can make them with 4 sticks of butter if you want. I’ve done it with all butter, but they don’t taste like my grandmother’s cookies!)
Scottish Shortbread Recipe Instructions
Allow the butter and margarine to soften, and then cream the butter. Slowly add in the sugar. You want the butter/sugar mixture to be extremely smooth, so mix them thoroughly. Slowly add in the flour. You will need to stop your mixer a couple of times to make sure that all of the flour gets added in. The dough will be very stiff. It feels almost like a pastry dough. You do not have to chill the dough if it is “workable,” but my grandmother recommends chilling the dough if you have “hot” hands. I chill the dough for about an hour, but then have to knead and soften it for a while before rolling it out. Roll the dough out and use your preferred cookie cutters. We always use the card shapes in our house: Hearts, Clubs, Spades and Diamonds. I only made hearts this time. After you put the cookies on the cookie sheet prick the dough with a fork to create a pattern of little holes.
(I don’t know if there is a reason behind the holes, but the cookies have always had them! Maybe someone out there knows?) The instructions I have say to bake the cookies in a 325 to 350 degree oven until the edges are lightly brown. Be careful they burn quickly! In my oven, that runs hot, I cooked them for 8 and a half minutes at 325. This recipe makes a lot. I ended up with 120 of these hearts.
One final note: My grandmother and I were talking about this recipe, and she and I both agree that the cookies do better with “age.” They will taste better the next morning, so I’d suggest making them the day before you need them!