Holiday Shortbread Recipe (2024)

byBeth Le Manach


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If you are looking for an impressive, yet easy, Christmas Cookie Recipe, look no further than my Holiday Shortbread Recipe. This is such an impressive holiday cookie idea that’s SO easy to do because the shortbread pan does all the work for you!

For this recipe, I used Nordicware’s Snowflake Shortbread Pan. But really any shortbread pan will do! These cookies are not only melt-in-your-mouth delicious, but they make a great food gift too.

Looking for more cookies that make for great gifts? Try my Foolproof French Macaron Recipe, Madeleine Recipe, Pumpkin Pie Spice Biscotti, or my Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe.

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Shortbread Pan Designs

  • As far as shortbread pans go, there are so many cute designs to choose from, but for Christmas, I just can’t resist the snowflake design, and just like real snowflakes, they are each a little bit different!
  • But you might also enjoy this fruit and floral shortbread pan as well.

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Why You’ll Love This:

  • These cookies don’t just look good they taste delicious too!
  • They are light and buttery, with a faint hint of orange coming from the orange zest, and did I mention how they just melt in your mouth!
  • The texture is similar to my sable crust in my Strawberry Pistachio Tart which is a fancier dressed-up version of a shortbread crust.

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Watch my Video Demo of this Recipe Below!

Step#1: Cream the Butter

  • A major component of this recipe is the butter! It’s important that the butter is at room temperature. This will help it combine best with the other ingredients.
  • If you live in the U.S.A I would recommend salted butter. American salted butter is more flavorful than salty.
  • But if you are outside the States I would use unsalted butter since salted butter in other parts of the world can be pretty salty!

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Flavor the Shortbread with Orange Zest

  • A little orange zest in the dough makes these cookies even more flavorful and festive! I do this trick in my Pecan Bars with Shortbread Crust and everyone agrees it’s the best part!
  • Shortbread cookies don’t have a strong flavor, aside from the butter. They are really more of a textural sensation.
  • For this, the orange zest gives them another bit of interest without overpowering them.
  • Or you could also dip the bottoms of these cookies in chocolate after they are baked, that would also be a nice addition too!

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Step#2: Add Dry Ingredients

  • After the butter and sugar mixture is fluffy, you’ll add the orange zest, the vanilla, and then dry ingredients.
  • Beat the ingredients well, since the dough at first will be crumbly.
  • But once the butter is incorporated with the dry ingredients it will come together.

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Step#3: Refrigerate Dough

  • Once the dough comes together, roll it into a ball and then a disk.
  • Then wrap it up and refrigerate it for one hour.
  • Refrigeration is important for helping the cookies keep their shape and the shape of the pattern once they are baked.

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Step#4: Press the Dough in the Pan

  • Once the dough has been refrigerated, press it into the pan. It doesn’t need to be one perfect sheet of dough, it can be pieces at this stage.
  • It’s more about getting all the dough in the shortbread pan. So don’t worry if it looks a bit patchyworky.

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Leveling Out the Dough

  • In this next stage, this is where you will level out the dough into the pan.
  • Place the palm of your hand on top of the dough to flatten it out, and make the dough an even layer, turning the pan as needed.
  • This will allow the dough to impress itself into the pattern in an equal way.

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Clean Up The Edges

  • The last step of leveling the dough is to go around the edges of the shortbread pan and press down the dough so that none of it rises above the border.
  • This will give the cookies nice clean edges after the shortbread is baked.

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Why Do you Need to Dock Shortbread Dough?

  • Docking shortbread dough is to prevent the cookies from bubbling up when baking. It also helps the cookies bake evenly and prevents them from sticking to the pan.
  • Just before baking, dock the dough with a fork, all around the surface of the dough.
  • Since the decorative pattern is on the other side, you won’t notice these marks once the cookies are baked.

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Step#5: Bake and Cool

  • Place the shortbread in the oven at 325F. This is another tip when baking shortbread, the oven cannot be too hot.
  • While most cookies bake at 350F, I’ve found shortbread, because of its delicate texture, does better at 325F.
  • That way it can bake through, without becoming too browned. If it’s too golden brown, it will be harder to see the delicate snowflake pattern on the other side.

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How to Release the Shortbread from the Pan?

  • This is where some folks have trouble. This typically comes down to 3 critical issues.
  • The cookies were not baked all the way through in the center. Underbaked cookies will stick to the pan
  • The cookies cooled too long in the pan. Shortbread is best released when still a bit warm, but not too hot to handle. It is more fragile the longer it cools.
  • Not using a non-stick pan. I find the best shortbread pans are non-stick, especially for decorative designs. If yours is not then be sure to spray it well with baking spray first.

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Step#6: Release and Slice!

  • The easiest way to release the cookies is to place a cutting board on top of the pan and flip it.
  • You can then gently shake the pan, from side to side, tap gently on the bottom, and then lift the pan up.

Slice the Cookies When Warm

  • Don’t wait until the cookies are completely cooled to slice.
  • It’s better to slice the cookies, as soon as they are released from the tin and still a bit warm.
  • This will ensure smooth edges that won’t be too crumbly. The cooler the cookies become the more crumbly the texture becomes.

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More Great Cookie Recipes!

  • Chocolate Hazelnut Linzer Cookies
  • Easiest Christmas Cookie Ever!
  • Classic Gingerbread Cookies
  • Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
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Holiday Shortbread Cookies

Yield: 9 cookies

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 27 minutes

Total Time: 57 minutes

Wonderful Holiday Shortbread Cookies that make for terrific Christmas Cookies for gifting! So easy because the pan does all the work for you!


  • ¾ cup (180 g) butter
  • ½ cup (50 g) powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla
  • ¼ tsp (1.25 ml) salt
  • 2 tsp (10 ml) orange zest
  • 1 ½ (180g) cups flour


  1. Whip butter until fluffy, add sugar, beat to combine. Add vanilla, salt and orange zest. Beat together. Add flour. Beat until really well combined.
  2. Roll into ball. Wrap in parchment or plastic. Refrigerate 1 hour.
  3. Press into pan. Prick with a fork.
  4. Bake at 325F (175C) 25-27 mins. Allow to cool for 15 mins.
  5. Place cutting board on top of pan and flip over. Cut shortbread into squares while still warm.


How to Release the Shortbread from the Pan?

I find this is the time when some folks have trouble, releasing the cookies with the pattern intact. This typically comes down to 3 critical issues.

  • The cookies were not baked through in the center. This will cause them to stick to the pan
  • The cookies cooled too long in the pan. These are best released when still a bit warm, but not too hot to handle.
  • Greasing the pan with butter instead of baking spray. I find the best baking spray to use is Pam Baking Spray. I think it works the best! And be sure the also brush it on with a pastry brush into all the crevices for added insurance.
Holiday Shortbread Recipe (2024)
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