Sneak Preview: These iced shortbread cookies are simple but irresistible. Check out the clever method for rolling out the dough and cutting it into shapes.
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What if you could make cut-out shortbread cookies that didn’t make a big mess on your kitchen counter? Try this neat-as-a-pin method to roll out the shortbread and cut it into shapes like these butterflies.
Like most people, I reserve cut-out cookies (biscuits) for holiday celebrations. But, unfortunately, they seemed like a lot of trouble until I found this solution.
But first, let’s talk about the ingredients in these cookies.
Ingredients and substitutions:
- BUTTER: Salted or unsalted butter are both excellent choices. Margarine will not give you the same cookie you see here.
- POWDERED SUGAR: Powdered sugar or confectioner’s sugar contributes to the melt-in-your-mouth texture that makes these cookies so popular. If you don’t have access to powdered sugar, try making it with granulated sugar and a blender.
- VANILLA EXTRACT: Instead of vanilla extract, a tiny amount of almond extract could be substituted. Maple extract has its fans, too.
- BAKING POWDER: Baking powder has no substitute. Please don’t use baking soda.
- FLOUR: My favorite flour for this recipe is unbleached all-purpose flour. Next in line is bleached all-purpose flour
- MILK: Whole milk works best in icing for shortbread cookies, but reduced-fat milk is OK, too. Although I love to use heavy cream in icing, it’s not the best for cookies because it doesn’t set up as fast.
- FOOD COLORING: This is totally optional, of course. The paste or the liquid is appropriate. However, start with only a drop or two in the beginning so you don’t ruin an entire batch of icing with too much color.
Check out this shortcut:
Sticky dough, cleaning up the sticky dough, getting the shaped sticky dough unstuck from whatever you’re rolling them on and transferring the cookie to a cookie sheet, etc. Ugh!
On top of that, they need to be frosted. The kids usually want to decorate them, too. Just thinking about the potential mess is a “Calgon” moment.
I ran across a great idea in Dorie Greenspan’s Baking cookbook the other day. It’s so easy!
A simple roll-our secret for Iced Shortbread Cookies:
Place the cookie dough inside a closed zippered plastic bag.
Place the cookie dough inside a closed zippered plastic bag. Use a rolling pin and roll the dough into all the corners to make the dough the same thickness everywhere.
Place the bag in the freezer and chill the dough until stiff.
Remove frozen dough from the freezer.
Uncover the dough by trimming two edges and unzipping the top of the bag. Pull back the plastic.
Open the bag on three sides and let your cookie-cutter go wild. Because the dough has been thoroughly chilled, the cut-out cookies are easy to pick up with your hands or peel off the plastic before transferring to a cookie sheet, ready to bake.
Use cookie cutters of choice to cut out cookies. You may need to use a toothpick or dull point of a knife to extract small pieces, i.e., legs, tails, stems, etc.
Here’s the best part:
Clean-up is as simple as throwing the bag away. No flour to sweep up. No sticky dough to scrape from your counter or cutting board.
Dorie’s technique is adaptable to almost any roll-out-the-dough-and-cut-into-a shape recipe–like these Homemade Oatmeal Pop-Tarts. Give it a try!
I recommend small cookie cutters for this recipe. Not only are small cookies more appealing to eat at parties, but the dough is easier to handle.
FAQ about these shortbread cookies:
If you keep them in an air-tight container, they stay fresh for up to two weeks.
Double wrap them to store in the freezer for up to two months.
Salted butter is the best substitute. Butter is what makes these cookies unique. Margarine or shortening would be a compromise.
A Valentine’s Day Variation:
Try these valentine-shaped shortbread cookies for Valentine’s party or as a special gift. I guarantee the recipient will be thrilled.
Try Irish Shortbread Cookies with green icing next March if you enjoy these.
If you have questions or suggestions, email me privately to Paula at saladinajar.com. Hope to see you again soon! Paula
Iced Shortbread Cookie Recipe
- 1 cup unsalted butter, - (at room temperature) 226 gr
- ¾ cup powdered sugar - 85 gr
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract - 14 gr
- 1 teaspoon baking powder - 2 gr
- 2 cups all-purpose flour - 240 gr
- 2 cups powdered sugar - 227 gr
- 3-4 tablespoon milk - 42-50 gr
- ½ teaspoon vanilla or almond extract - 7 gr
- pink food coloring - 1-2 drops
- Combine butter and sugar in large bowl. Beat on medium-high speed until fluffy. Add vanilla and beat until combined.
- Combine flour and baking powder in a separate bowl. Add mixture slowly to the butter mixture, stirring on low speed. Stop beating as soon as the flour mixture is completely incorporated. Over beating will result in toughness.
- Form the dough into a slightly flattened ball and chill about 30 minutes. Place chilled dough into plastic zipper storage bag. With bag slightly open to allow air to escape, begin to roll out dough until it is evenly distributed in flat shape throughout bag. Place back into refrigerator until firm–at least 30 minutes–up to 2 days. Can also freeze at this point.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper, silicone mats, or grease generously with cooking spray.
- Remove cookie dough from fridge and carefully cut three sides of bag with kitchen shears or scissors leaving one side intact. Open up and use cookie cutters to cut out cookies. Because the dough is cold and firm, they should peel off the plastic easily. Place on prepared cookie sheet. Re-roll scraps after replacing plastic over top of new ball and refrigerate a few minutes until firm again. Repeat as needed until all dough is used.
- Bake cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, until light brown around the edges. Cool the cookies for 10 minutes on the baking sheet. Remove and cool completely before icing.
- Whisk together the powdered sugar, milk, and extract. If too thick, add more milk a few drops at a time. If too thin, add more powdered sugar or let sit for awhile. Use food coloring to tint the icing. Ice cookies and allow to sit until icing is dry. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week or tightly wrapped in aluminum foil or plastic wrap for 1 month in the freezer.