Over the last couple years, shortbread has become one of my favorite cookies to make. It only takes a few ingredients to create a crunchy, buttery, sweet cookie that’s perfect alongside a freshly brewed cup of tea or coffee. Simple, but delicious.
The best thing about shortbread, at least in my opinion, is that it’s the perfect blank canvas for showcasing a variety of flavor combinations. You can add nearly anything to the dough, like fruit, nuts, spices or herbs, without having to change the entire base recipe. It’s ideal for mixing and matching with whatever sounds good to you!
In the recipe below, I’m sharing how to make basic shortbread and then instructions for three different variations: cranberries with thyme, cinnamon with bourbon soaked dates and dark chocolate with smoked sea salt. The possibilities are endless, though, so use the base recipe to come up with your own creative versions!
Makes about 2 dozen cookies
Basic recipe from Ina Garten
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
Using a mixer with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until combined. Mix in the vanilla along with two teaspoons of water.
In a separate bowl, stir together the flour and salt. With the mixer on low, slowly pour the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Mix until ingredients are fully incorporated.
Place the dough on a floured surface and form into a log shape. Wrap the log in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap the dough and slice it into about ½ inch slices. Place cookies on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 22-25 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies turn golden brown.
Remove from oven and allow cookies to cool on a wire rack. Serve and enjoy!
Cranberry + Thyme Shortbread
2-3 teaspoons dried thyme (or you can use chopped fresh thyme)
1 cup chopped fresh cranberries
Turbinado sugar (or other coarse sugar)
Follow the basic shortbread recipe above. Stir the thyme and cranberries into the dough.
Before baking the cookies, sprinkle each one with a bit of turbinado sugar. The sweetness of the sugar complements the tart cranberries. Bake as directed above.
Cinnamon Shortbread with Bourbon Soaked Dates
1 cup chopped Medjool dates
¼ cup bourbon
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Add the dates to a small bowl. Pour the bourbon over the dates to soak them. Set aside and continue making the basic recipe, mixing in 1 teaspoon of cinnamon into the dough.
Strain the bourbon out of the dates. Stir the bourbon soaked dates into the shortbread. Bake as directed above.
Dark Chocolate Dipped Shortbread with Smoked Sea Salt
6 ounces dark chocolate
Smoked sea salt
Bake the basic shortbread recipe as directed and allow the cookies to cool.
While the cookies are cooling, melt the chocolate over a double boiler or in 20-second intervals in the microwave, stirring frequently. Dip the cooled shortbread cookies into the chocolate and then lay them out on parchment paper.
Before the chocolate completely cools and hardens, sprinkle it with a little smoked sea salt. Allow the chocolate to harden completely before serving. (You can place the cookies in the refrigerator to speed up this process.)