Recipe Review

These Delicate, Flaky Shortbread Cookies Make a Wonderful Holiday Gift

published Dec 20, 2022
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King Arthur's shortbread shown on a surface and baking pan
Credit: Photo: Julia Gartland; Food Stylist: Jessie YuChen

In the quest to achieve the perfect “short” texture — delicate, crisp, and a little crumbly — some recipes might call for rice flour, cornstarch, or powdered sugar. King Arthur’s recipe calls for powdered sugar and uses salted butter, unlike many other recipes. I was curious to see how the powdered sugar would affect the texture of the cookies, and how the salted butter would affect the flavor, so I rolled up my sleeves and got busy in the kitchen.

How to Make King Arthur’s Shortbread

While the oven preheats, grease two 9-inch round or 8-inch square cake pans or line them with parchment paper (I chose the parchment route). Then using an electric mixer, beat together softened salted butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract. You can also add an optional quarter teaspoon of almond extract; I chose not to include this. Once these ingredients are combined, beat in the all-purpose flour. 

You then divide the dough in half and press each into the bottom of one of the pans you prepared. The recipe offers a helpful tip that you can cover the dough with a piece of plastic wrap to help prevent it from sticking to your fingers as you smooth it. Prick the dough all over with a fork to help steam escape. It bakes at 300°F for about 35 minutes, until lightly golden on top and slightly browner around the edges. Immediately remove the shortbread from the pans and cut it into wedges (if you used round pans) or fingers (if you used square ones), then allow the cookies to cool completely on a wire rack.

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

My Honest Review of King Arthur’s Shortbread

The cookies were a little thin, only about a quarter-inch tall. That did help them achieve an almost flaky texture, which was delightful. The parts of the cookies that were in the center of the pans (the points of the wedges for me) were softer than the outside edges. The salted butter lent a little more depth and complexity and evenly distributed the salt flavor. But the powdered sugar gave the cookies the slightest bit of chalkiness on the palate; that’s the only thing preventing me from rating this recipe any higher. To be honest, my kids didn’t detect any chalkiness; it was admittedly faint, but it was there. I do think this is a good recipe, and your friends and family would be more than happy if you served them these cookies.

If You’re Making King Arthur’s Shortbread Shortbread, a Few Tips

  1. Go for color, not time. The recipe offers a rough time estimate for how long to bake the shortbread, but the more important indicator is the very specific color cue: “until [the shortbread is] a light golden-brown across the top surface and a deeper golden-brown around the edges.” This might take a few more (or less) minutes than the recipe suggests.
  2. Create a sling. If you worry (as I did) about breaking the shortbread as you try to remove it from the hot pan, try this. Cut a round or square piece of parchment to line the bottom of the pan, and also cut a long, 2-inch-wide strip to place underneath the round or square piece, allowing the edges of the strip to extend over the edge of the pan so that you can easily lift the shortbread out.
  3. Go for pattern. When you prick the dough with a fork, the small piercings remain in the finished cookies. Imagine what the cut cookies will look like, and try to create a pattern or design in the dough for more visual appeal. 

Overall rating: 8/10