Shortbread, or why I rely so much on the Joy of Cooking.

After my previous shortbread fiasco, I was going to try a recipe I found for Scottish shortbread on Not normally where I would go to find good recipes, but I was desperate. My most ‘reliable’ cookbook at the moment is Barbara Tropp’s The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking – not exactly a hub of baking perfection in this situation.

But then one evening, 354 and I ended up in Barnes & Noble, and I got a wild hair. I went to the cookbooks (after a fruitless search for decent dog training books) and found a copy of my favorite fallback instruction manual. I sat in the aisle and recorded an annotated version recipe for shortbread on the back of a business card, the only piece of paper I had available to me at the time. I felt guilty at the time, like I was shoplifting at the bookstore and that an employee would come up behind me at any moment and ask me politely but firmly to leave the store. Thankfully, none did, and I made a test batch of shortbread that very evening.

I’m so glad that I shoplifted this recipe. The shortbread was everything I hoped it would be. The annotated recipe is below, with notes to explain what you should be looking for. What can I say – I was in a rush to escape the wrath of B&N employees. Those bookstore folks, they can get pretty testy.

An Annotated Shortbread Recipe

from Joy of Cooking


1¼ stick of unsalted butter, softened

¼ c powdered sugar

1½  tsp granulated sugar

¼ tsp salt

Blend until fluffy.That means everything. I advise sifting the powdered sugar.

Sift 1½ c AP flour over top. Mix in the flour here, until your dough comes together and resembles pie dough – crumbly but not dry. If necessary, add water a few teaspoons at a time until you get it to come together. Knead until smooth. Press into 8×8 or mold; pierce with fork. Bake at 300°F in middle rack for 45-50. Cool until barely warm, sprinkle w/ 1-2 tsp sugar. When the shortbread has cooled in the pan, try brushing with a light egg wash or water before sprinkling to make the sugar stick, then cool completely on a wire rack.

*24 2 2/3×1″ bars If you cut them ‘properly’. I didn’t.

This shortbread has a light crumb but is still moist, soft and of course, buttery in an artery-clogging way. It’s great. I drop a half teaspoon of vanilla in mine for flavor, but I’ve toyed with the idea of cinnamon, nutmeg, cocoa, matcha… I’m patient. (That’s what I keep telling myself.) I sprinkled some turbinado sugar over the top to add a little sweetness; I think the color made a nice touch.

I’ve discovered that people are often divided on shortbread – love it or hate it. 354 and I are on opposite sides of the fence; I love it and he doesn’t. (He doesn’t even like Danish butter cookies… it’s a texture thing, apparently.) But he tried it on request and said if he liked shortbread, he would definitely eat this. I guess it doesn’t get much better than that.

These bars were sent to the 26 MEU, Unit 73890 as part of Operation Baking GALS Round 4.

5 thoughts on “Shortbread, or why I rely so much on the Joy of Cooking.

  1. FYI – a co-worker just made the Joy of Cooking shortbread recipe substituting coconut oil (actually more like a much softer/creamier version of shortening) in equal amounts for the butter. Incredibly short and delicious. And nutritionally, some believe coconut oil is actually somewhat healthier (breaks down faster than animal fats I think).

  2. It is not a crime … you could just buy the book, copy the recipes you want and then return it. Or, you could go to the local library and get all the recipes you want. Anyway, this is a great post and I love the shortbread. Next time, add a bit of rice flour for the extra crunch. So good!

  3. The Husband and I do tons of “dates” like this. I often find myself in the bargain stacks though… sometimes they have great deals on cookbooks too!

    Admitedly, I’ve stolen recipes from the bookstore. Do you really think that’s stealing if you didn’t buy the whole book? Hmm… maybe that’s the old addage… why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? teeheehee.


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