Recipe Review

Ina Garten’s Shortbread Recipe Is Crispy, Buttery Perfection

published Dec 22, 2022
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Ina Garten's shortbread shown on a surface and baking pan
Credit: Photo: Julia Gartland; Food Stylist: Jessie YuChen; headshot: Getty Images

When it comes to preparing shortbread, Ina Garten’s recipe is quite unique. For starters, she chills the dough, rolls it out, and cuts it into cookies before baking. (All other recipes in this showdown call for pressing the dough into a pan and cutting the cookie after baking). She also bakes the cookies at a higher temperature than the other recipes — 350°F as opposed to 300°F and 325°F. Anxious to see what kind of shortbread these decisions would yield, I softened some butter and got to work.

How to Make Ina Garten’s Shortbread Cookies

With an electric mixer, beat together softened unsalted butter and granulated sugar until just combined. Then beat in some vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, sift together all-purpose flour and table salt, then mix that into the butter mixture until the dough comes together. Shape the dough into a flat disk, cover it, and chill it for 30 minutes.

After chilling, you’ll roll the dough into a half-inch thickness and cut it into fingers using a cookie cutter. Arrange the cut dough pieces on an ungreased baking sheet, sprinkle with a little granulated sugar, and bake at 350°F for 20 to 25 minutes, just until the edges begin to brown (22 minutes for me). Allow the cookies to cool completely (the recipe didn’t specify to cool them on a rack, so I left them on the pan). 

Note: The recipe includes melted chocolate for dipping the finished cookies. To keep these tests as equal as possible, I skipped that step.

Credit: Photo: Julia Gartland; Food Stylist: Jessie YuChen

My Honest Review of Ina Garten’s Shortbread Cookies

Compared to the other recipes in this showdown, Garten’s recipe required a little more prep (chilling, rolling, and cutting the dough), and I was a little grumpy about that. And when my pan of cookies came out of the oven, I was disappointed that the cookies had puffed slightly and didn’t give me perfectly stick-straight shortbread fingers like the other recipes did. But when I tasted one of the cookies (and then another and another), my attitude changed.

The cookies had the perfect texture — crisp, crumbly-short, and melt-in-your-mouth delicate from end to end. They tasted more intensely buttery than any of the other recipes, even though I used the same brand of butter for all four recipes in the showdown. The vanilla was so subtle that it didn’t register as vanilla (shortbread shouldn’t taste like vanilla, after all) but instead offered a more rounded, complex flavor. And the little bit of salt gave more oomph to the butter and sugar. All in all, the wee bit of extra effort paid off significantly.

If You’re Making Ina Garten’s Shortbread Cookies, a Few Tips

  1. Chill, but not for too long. Chilling the dough for just 30 minutes makes it the perfect temperature and texture for rolling smoothly and evenly. If you chill it longer, it’ll be harder to roll (and you’ll need to let it sit out at room temp for a few minutes to soften).
  2. Don’t worry if you don’t have the right cookie cutter. The recipe instructs you to cut the dough with a 3×1-inch cutter, but you could cut the fingers freehand if you’d like (a pizza roller makes it go quickly), or just use a round or square cutter if that’s what you have.
  3. Allow a little room for expansion. Even though the dough doesn’t include a leavening agent, the cookies do puff a bit as they bake. Make sure to leave a little space between them on the pan.

Overall rating: 10/10