Good Question: What Does “Short” Mean In a Recipe?

updated Jun 4, 2019
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Here’s a question from longtime reader JenPDX: Hi there – I am more of a cook…I am not a baker. I’ve come across a cookie recipe that I want to make tonight. The recipe note says that: “The dough is very “short” and should be well kneaded.”

What does “short” mean in this baking context?

We were so inspired by the photo above from Flickr member .kaishin. – it’s the perfect photo to explain the use of this word.

“Short,” in a baking context, means that there is a high proportion of fat to flour.This is usually just applied to non-yeast doughs, by the way; you won’t see references to a “short” challah dough or brioche, for instance.

Usually these short doughs are very rich, crumbly, and tender with butter. They tend to be crisp instead of chewy, and slightly sandy. Shortbread is the quintessential “short” dough – it’s even in the name!

You do want to make sure that the flour is very well-incorporated into a thick, rich dough like this.

Check out the recipe connected with the photo above, at the photographer’s food weblog: Cranberry Shortbread Cookies at dash of food.

Related: Recipe: Earl Grey Tea Cookies – another rather short dough.

(Image: Cranberry Shortbread Cookies by Flickr member .kaishin. Licensed for use under Creative Commons.)