There is no cookie more associated with a specific country than shortbread is with Scotland. Many versions of the recipe call for rubbing the butter into the dry ingredients as for a pastry dough. I prefer to beat the butter and sugar until it is very light and soft—the beating incorporates air, makes the cookies puff a little while they are baking, and gives them a better baked texture. This is a variation on a recipe I got years ago from Peggy Pinckley, a native of Scotland.

Makes about 40 cookies, depending on the size of the cutter used

24 tablespoons (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)

2 cookie sheets or jelly roll pans lined with parchment or foil

  1. Set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
  2. Beat the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed until very soft and light, about 5 minutes.
  3. Remove the bowl from the mixer and incorporate the flour by hand, using a large rubber spatula.
  4. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and fold it over on itself 2 or 3 times to makes sure it is completely smooth. Use a knife or bench scraper to divide the dough into 4 pieces.
  5. Lightly flour the work surface and gently pat the dough with the palm of you hand until it is about 1/4-inch thick (The dough is much too soft for a rolling pin.)
  6. Run a large knife or spatula under the dough to make sure it isn’t stuck to the work surface.
  7. Use a 2 1/2- to 3-inch fluted cutter to cut out the shortbreads. Place them in the prepared pans about 1 inch apart on all sides as they are cut.
  8. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
  9. After you have used all the dough, gently knead the scraps together, then press the dough and cut it again. You may continue to do so until there are no scraps left as long as you don’t use too much flour under or on the dough, which will toughen the shortbreads.
  10. Bake the cookies for about 15 minutes, or until they are light golden. Change the position of the pans from upper to lower rack and vice versa, also turning them back to front at least once during baking. If your oven gives strong bottom heat, stack 2 pans together for baking on the bottom rack to provide extra insulation against burning the shortbreads.
  11. Slide the papers from the pans to racks to cool the shortbreads.