Jean—a creative self-taught cook with a passion for helping people develop their cooking skills—has worked as a cooking instructor.
This Recipe is Especially for Beginner Bakers
Having said that, this recipe is a great way to get a bit of success when you have never been taught how to make cookies. It is also a really fun way to teach your kids and grandkids all about baking.
This recipe makes about 24 cookies depending on how generous you are with the size of each cookie.
Plastic Bag Shortbread
Shortbread originated in Scotland. For those unfamiliar with these festive treats, they are very simple cookies made from butter, sugar, and flour. The dough is very thick, like pastry dough, and it is either shaped, rolled, and cut or baked in a traditional shortbread mold.
Depending on the type of flour you use, the cookies can be crispy or melt in your mouth, and the debate continues as to which kind is the best.
Here is a simple recipe that even someone with no cooking or baking skills can make. If you have a large ziplock bag and a toaster oven, you can do this. Not only that, this recipe is fun and delicious. I'm sure the old Scottish Lord would turn over in his grave at the ways shortbread is being baked these days. I trust you will love this shortbread recipe enough to make it over and over again. I'll even show you how to add goodies to make it different each time. Come on! It's time to bake!
What Is Your Shortbread Style?
Tips and Tricks for Plastic Bag Shortbread
- Never use margarine to make shortbread. The taste and texture of classic shortbread comes from the freshest unsalted butter possible. If you can’t afford the best unsalted butter, use salted butter. The only difference is that unsalted butter is made from fresher ingredients, contains no salt and it has a shorter shelf life. Salt acts as a preservative so that salted butter keeps fresher longer.
- For best results, bring the butter to room temperature so that it is soft. Depending on your room temperature and the time of year, it can take from about 45 minutes to a couple of hours.
- After you add all the ingredients to the bag, make sure you squish the bag enough so that the dough all sticks together in a lump.
- Chill this shortbread for an hour in the fridge after you have formed the cookies on your cookie sheet. This will help the cookies retain their shape during the baking process.
- .Bake shortbread cookies in a 325 degree F oven until they are set and just starting to color. For these cookies, it took about 11 minutes.
- Shortbread cookies lend themselves very well to all kinds of decorations. Ice them, sprinkle them, drizzle them, sandwich them, the choice is yours. Have fun!
The Ingredients List
You will need:
- 2 cups of flour
- 1 cup butter (which is 1/2 pound or 2 sticks)
- 1/2 cup white sugar
This recipe uses unbleached white flour and white sugar. You can use any type of flour here and any type of granulated sugar or granulated sweetener equivalent to 1/2 cup.
You will also need a fairly large sturdy re-closable plastic bag.
Directions at a Glance
- Measure the flour, sugar, and salt and dump them into the bag.
- Squeeze as much air out of the bag as you can and seal the bag.It
- Squish and squeeze everything together until it can be formed into a ball inside the bag.
- It could take about 10 minutes.
- Squeeze the dough together every once in a while to see if it can form a ball.
- Open the bag and pinch off about 1 1/2 inch lumps of dough and pinch them or roll them into a ball with your hands
- Place them on your cookie sheet or your toaster oven tray with a finger-width of space between the cookies.
- Press them flat so they are half as tall as they were with a fork or your fingers.
- Put the cookie tray in the fridge for 30 minutes to set the dough and prevent the cookies from spreading when they are baking.
- Remove them from the fridge, put them in the oven or toaster oven and bake them at 325 degrees F. for about 11 minutes until they are just starting to color.
- Check them at 9 minutes to make sure they are not getting brown or burning.
- Remove them from the oven and enjoy
- If you want to ice them, then let them cool
- You can use ready-made cookie icing, just snip the end off the tube and squeeze.
2 Cups Of Flour
All About the Flour
Since this recipe only has three ingredients, all of them will contribute significantly to the taste of the cookies after they are baked. Some flours have a bitter after-taste that can be masked with flavoring in other recipes. But not this one. So choose a neutral-tasting flour. If you're not sure, ask someone in the bakery department of your local grocery store. For this recipe, I used unbleached all-purpose flour.
If this is your first time baking, and you are gluten intolerant, you can use rice flour BUT rice flour is very fine, and so you get more of it in the cup. See the capsule "How To Measure Flour Correctly" for best results.
How To Measure Flour Correctly
Flour can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Too much and the dough won't stick together, and too little makes everything turn into a big puddle in the oven.
There are two types of measuring cups, each slightly different. Glass measuring cups are for liquids only because they are calibrated that way. Plastic measuring cups are for dry ingredients like flour, sugar, cornmeal, and so on. They have a little handle on the side with the measurement (1/2 cup, 3/4 cup) stamped on it.
Take your one cup dry measuring cup and a large dessert spoon, and let's measure the flour accurately. Use the spoon to fluff up the flour in the container by digging the spoon into the flour, lifting the spoon and pouring the flour off the spoon.
Now use the spoon to gently spoon the flour into the one cup measure until it is overflowing. Do not shake or tap the cup on the counter, this just compacts the flour. Holding the measuring cup over your flour container, use the back of a knife or spatula and scrape it across the top of the measuring cup, allowing the excess flour to drop back into the container. You now have a more accurate measurement of the flour needed for this recipe.
How To Properly Measure Flour
One-half cup Sugar
A Word About Sugar
Traditional shortbread is not a really sweet cookie so minimal sugar was ever used, Today, however, there are hundreds of shortbread recipes, all with varying amounts and kinds of sugar.
White sugar keeps the cookies on the lighter side and is more neutral tasting. Golden yellow sugar gives a slightly darker finished cookie. The darker the sugar the more caramel-like flavor comes through. Some recipes even call for confectioners sugar, more commonly known as icing sugar.
Some flavorings like lemon, orange, and raspberry do not blend well in a flavorful way with dark brown or demerara sugar. Flavors like banana and butterscotch could be enhanced by the darker sugar. So for this recipe, which has no added flavors, any sugar or granulated sweetener equivalent to half a cup will do.
One Cup Butter, Softened
Butter Or Margarine?
Some people need or want to watch their dietary fat so they switch to margarine or their everyday "buttering the toast" thing. Adding some to steamed broccoli is also nice, but margarine is only about 30 percent fat. The rest is water.
Butter on the other hand is what gives baked goods their texture and of course contributes to their flavor. Using margarine to bake with could result in cookies spreading too thin and baking together into one massive cookie that fills the cookie sheet or worse, running off the side and landing in the bottom of the oven. So for these cookies, it's butter.
The Plastic Bag
Dump the Ingredients Into the Plastic Bag
Squeeze out all the air and Seal the Bag
You will need to rotate the bag, maybe even shake it to get the flour out of the corners of the bag. The squishing could take you ten minutes or so. Every once in a while, push the dough together to see if it will stay in a ball. When you have mixed it enough it will look like the photo below.
The Dough Should Look Like This
What To Bake Your Cookies On
You need a flat surface when you bake these cookies so you can use a pie plate turned upside down, a double thickness of foil or the tray that comes with your toaster oven. You don't need to do anything to prepare your baking surface except to put your cookies on it.
Forming the Cookies
Take a small lump of dough in your hand and squish it together until if forms a rough ball. You don't have to get fancy. Place the ball of dough on the baking surface. You will need to leave about a finger width between each cookie ball until you have filled the pan. You will have some dough left over so just push the air out of the bag and seal the bag. If you don't want to bake the rest of the cookies today, put the bag in the fridge. Just be sure to bring the dough back to room temperature before forming more cookies.
Flatten the Dough With a Fork
With a fork or your fingers flatten the dough ball so that it is half as high as it was. If some of the dough falls off just push it back together with your fingers.
Formed Shortbread Cookies
Put the Cookies in the Fridge
When you have flattened all the dough balls, put the cookies in the fridge for half an hour. Cooling the dough, sets them so they are less likely to spread when you bake them. It also give the ingredients time to meld together and produces a better shortbread. This is not necessarily done with other types of cookies.
Be sure to set a timer so you don't have to wait too much longer for warm out-of-the-oven cookies!
Be Sure to set the Timer
Time to Take the Cookies out of the Fridge
Set your toaster oven to 325 degrees F and pop the cookies in the oven for about 10 minutes. Start watching them about 9 minutes in. You don't want them to brown too much. Shortbread are traditionally light in color and just baked enough to hold together.
Baked Shortbread Looks Like This
If this is the first time you have ever made cookies, congratulations! Don't they look awesome. You can eat them plain like they are, or you can do a few simple things to gussy them up.
If you have a bit of baking experience you can roll the dough out and cut it with cookie cutters for a more polished look. But believe me, which ever way you make them they will still taste delicious!
Plain or Decorated?
A Different Shortbread Cookie Every Day!
- Add any kind of nuts or seeds finely chopped to the dough, sprinkle them on top and press them in or roll the edges in them- poppy seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, pecans, or peanuts for example
- Try all kinds of real extract flavorings to your dough - almond, lemon, orange, rum or coconut for example
- Try scraping the insides of a vanilla bean pod into the dough for an exquisite taste
- Try adding orange, lemon or lime zest to the dough along with the equivalent extract
- Dip the edges of the shortbread in vanilla icing then into coconut, nuts, seeds, sprinkles or tiny decorative heart or tree sprinkles
- Dip half of each cookie into melted white, milk or dark good quality chocolate or ganache for a decadent treat
- Add instant coffee, espresso powder, flavored instant coffee mixes or ground cinnamon or nutmeg for an exotic taste
- Find decadent jams, jellies, curds, butter creams and other fillings to sandwich between two cookies for the ultimate shortbread sandwich!
What do you think of this recipe?
Your Cooking Adventures
© 2010 iamradiantrose
What is your favorite Shortbread recipe?
iamradiantrose (author) on April 06, 2013:
@jc stone: most of us have recipes that we have developed or come from a family member. These are very treasured recipes and are usually really good. They trigger memories of our childhood or a special event. I agree, these types of recipes are the best!
Jordan on April 05, 2013:
Original recipe at the moment. Though your recipes look really good!
TedWritesStuff on December 21, 2012:
Peanut butter and chocolate..yum
iamradiantrose (author) on November 02, 2011:
@quicpost: 2 tbsp of lemon juice to 1 cup of flour is probably too much. If you want just a hint of lemon flavor, you could try 1 tsp fresh lemon juice or 1/2 tsp lemon zest. One of the best ways to tell is to taste the dough and remember that the flavor will intensify after it is baked. You can adjust the taste of the dough before baking.
quicpost on September 20, 2011:
I love to eat cookies. Love the cookies that are not cake like and love shortbread cookies. I would like to make a shortbread cookie with just a flavoring of lemon. I plan to use lemon juice only. The recipes I have read calls for lemon zest and lemon juice. I like it less lemony flavor and only like a hint of lemon flavor. Can you tell me if just 2 tablespoon for 1 cup of flour shortbread cookie is enough? Thanks. Enjoyed your article and learned a lot.
Mistalina on April 22, 2011:
A great lens with many, many wonderful recipes. Thank you!
kimark421 on February 01, 2011:
Wow! If I ever need a shortbread recipe I know where to look! Nice lens!
SofiaMann on December 22, 2010:
I will try some for your recipes. Thanks for sharing.