Dad’s Christmas Shortbread Cookies

Dad's Christmas Shortbread Cookies

It wouldn’t be Christmas for me without some traditional English shortbread cookies. Shortbread cookies have been a staple every holiday season, going back a long way. My Dad’s mother, my grandmother, made the best shortbread cookies, but as far as I know, she (sadly) never shared her special recipe.

Traditional, English style Christmas shortbread cookies recipe, with only a few ingredients.

For many years my now 80-year-old Dad has taken care of baking the Christmas shortbread. He bakes them up in early December and let’s them age for a few weeks until Christmas. This year, I asked if I could come by and document the annual shortbread cookie making and post about it here. He looked slightly terrified, so I promised to only photograph his hands :)

My Dad didn’t retire until he was 76, so he didn’t have a lot of time for cooking over the years. Since retiring though, he’s turned in to quite the baker. I clearly inherited both my sweet tooth and my baking ways from him.

Dad's Christmas Shortbread Cookies
Dad's Christmas Shortbread Cookies
Dad's Christmas Shortbread Cookies
Dad's Christmas Shortbread Cookies

 

It was a beautiful sunny day in the kitchen for baking cookies and my Dad had the dough all ready and chilled. My Mom swears by this cloth covered rolling pin and cloth rolling sheet and meant that Dad was able to use only a little flour for rolling out his dough. The less flour for rolling the better for these cookies as you can re-roll your scraps and cut more without introducing more flour in to the dough.

I’m a fan of rolled and cut shortbread cookies. The dough is perfect for it, as the cookies hold their shape really well. My Dad gets the dough out of the cutter by hitting the side of his hand on the pan until the dough drops out of the cutter and on to the baking sheet. This ensures that the cut shape stays perfect.

Dad's Christmas Shortbread Cookies
Dad's Christmas Shortbread Cookies
Dad's Christmas Shortbread Cookies
Dad's Christmas Shortbread Cookies

 

Traditional toppings for Christmas shortbread are glace cherries, in red and green (cut in quarters) or red or green sugar sprinkles. They make for a festive plate of cookies. You can also use a walnut piece or blanched slivered almond. Once the cookies are cut and topped with cherries or sprinkles, they are put in to the freezer on the cookie sheet for 10-15 minutes to chill again before baking. This helps them hold their shape well.

Dad's Christmas Shortbread Cookies
Dad's Christmas Shortbread Cookies
Dad's Christmas Shortbread Cookies
Dad's Christmas Shortbread Cookies

 

The cookies took about 30 minutes in the oven and were set onto cooling racks. As I noted above, shortbread cookies are ones that only get better with age, so bake them, cool and store in a cookie tin to age. You can also freeze both the cut dough shapes (to bake later) or the baked cookies.

Dad's Christmas Shortbread Cookies
And here are his beautiful finished cookies. I can attest to the fact that they were delicious since generous sampling was undertaken ;) Thanks Dad for sharing your cookie recipe and your kitchen!


Dad's Christmas Shortbread Cookies
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Traditional British-style shortbread cookies, decorated for Christmas with quartered red or green glace cherries, red or green sprinkles or a walnut piece or blanched, slivered almond. You can use salted or unsalted butter. If using unsalted butter, you can add about 1/8 tsp. of salt with the flour if you'd like. Both the dough and the baked cookies freeze well. Remember that shortbread cookies get better with age, so make them ahead and if you can resist, fill up a cookie tin and let them sit for a week or more before Christmas eating.
Author:
Recipe type: Cookies
Serves: 30

Yummly
Ingredients
  • 1 cup (8 oz. / 2 sticks) butter, at room temperature (you can use salted or unsalted butter. If using unsalted butter, you can add 1/8 tsp. fine salt with the flour if you like, but you don't need to)
  • 3 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpurse flour

  • Coloured sugar or quartered glace cherries, for decorating
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter until light. Stir in the cornstarch and sugar. Gradually add the flour mixing until a soft dough forms. (Dad mixes his by hand and shared that sometimes you have to ditch the spoon and just get your hands in there to form the dough). Form dough in to a ball and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes to chill.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll your dough 1/4-inch thick. Take care to ensure that your dough is rolled as evenly as possible, so that cookies cook evenly. Using a cookie cutter, cut shapes and place on to an un-greased baking sheet. You can re-roll your scraps and cut more, as well. Once your cookies are cut, top with quartered glace cherries, sprinkles or nuts. Place cookie sheet with cookies in to the freezer for 10-15 minutes. (You can also freeze the cut dough in freezer bags once solid on the cookie sheet for up to 2 weeks and bake later or as needed.)
  3. Preheat oven to 275° F. with rack in centre of oven. Bake for about 30 minutes for cookies that have been lightly chilled. If cooking from frozen, they may take up to 45 minutes. Cookies should be firm but shouldn't brown at all, even around the edges. They really just dry as they cook.
  4. Cool on racks then transfer to cookie tin or freeze. These cookies keep well and get better with age.

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32 Comments

  • Beautiful shortbread and so festive for the holidays! P.S. I was at my grandma’s for Thanksgiving last week, and she swears by the cloth covered rolling pin and rolling sheet too. Maybe she is on to something! :)

  • These cookies look yummy! I love the idea of a post with your daddy as the chef, so cute & cool! I hope I get my daddy to pose for me once, first I must teach him how to cook ;)!!

  • Such a special post to see one of your family’s traditions! Your dad is an excellent baker and has skilled hands. The cookies are just gorgeous! I’m sure I could not make them as pretty as his. My mother always had a cloth cover for her rolling pin, too, and the cloth surface for rolling out cookies or pie crusts. I liked the gentle texture it left on tops of cookies at Christmastime. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks Sophie. My Dad turned out to be a natural. I don’t think I would do as well baking while someone hovered with a camera documenting my every move. It was fun to capture and share it. They are yummy little cookies :)

  • This recipe reminds me of my grandmother and how she made them every year. I will be surprising everyone with these beauties this year and can ‘ t wait to see the reaction lol

    Merry Christmas to you and your family and thanks for the post .

    • Thanks Kelly and yes, I was impressed by how neat my Dad’s baking is. I clearly didn’t inherit that from him. I’m a totally messy baker :) Enjoy the cookies.

      • Deeeelicious! I’ve never made them before so I am quite happy, even if mine are much uglier than your Dad’s lovely cookies. I made buttercream frosting and now I don’t want to share! Thanks to you & your Dad!

  • Question, I tried making these tonight, and the dough wouldn’t stay firm enough to roll. I put half back I’m the fridge, and the other half are in the oven now (I just made balls and flattened) Did I do something wrong?

    • Hi Amie. Hard to say. Could be too little flour (depends how you measure) or your butter was too soft. Try popping the rest of the dough in the freezer for a bit, then rolling out sprinkling well with flour.

  • Jennifer, what a beautiful memory you have created – it would be great to scrapbook. I’m just wondering about the cloth cover for the rolling pin and the one to roll on. What kind of cloth is it? Where do you get it? Shortbreads are my all time favorite cookies. As a matter of fact our dough is in the fridge chilling as we speak. I was looking for different ways to decorate them when I cam across your dad’s recipe. Thanks so much for sharing and thank him for letting us see the special hands of a dad. (Mine is in a nursing home and today he gave me alittle hand painted box he made with his hands.) <3

  • these cookies look exacly like the ones my mom made at Christmas time. she is no longer with us,and I never got her recipe, so I am hoping these might just be them will let you know. also what is this cloth for the rolling pin called and where would.. I get one

    • Hi Teresa. I hope these cookies might be it! You can get the cloth at Amazon. Just search “rolling pin cover and cloth”. They are inexpensive, often less than $10.

    • Enjoy, Theresa! Just remember that shortbread like to “age” a bit, so if you can wait, put them in a tin for a week or so for best flavour.

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