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Family Recipe Friday - The Ancient Shortbread Cookie

With Christmas quickly approaching, our thoughts turn to baking cookies, an integral part of our holiday preparations. The shortbread cookie is very much a part of many households, and with good reason. The shortbread cookie is ancient. It is considered a treat originating in Scotland, but found in homes throughout the British Isles in various forms since the 12th century.

The dessert was the result of a medieval biscuit bread, which was baked twice, and dusted with sugar and spices and hardened into a soft and sweet biscuit called a Rusk.

The refinement of the shortbread cookies was credited to Mary, Queen of Scots, in the 16th century. One of the most traditional forms of shortbread called petticoat tails were named by Queen Mary. These cookies were baked, cut in triangles and seasoned with caraway seeds.

Shortbread was expensive and considered a luxury reserved for special occasions like Christmas. It got its name shortbread from bakers who classified it as a bread in order to avoid paying the tax placed on biscuits. It is probably one of the few cookies that has its own day, yup each January 6th is National Shortbread Day.

Shortbread is traditionally formed into one of three shapes: one large circle divided into segments ("Petticoat Tails"); individual round biscuits ("Shortbread Rounds"); or a thick rectangular slab cut into "fingers."

Shortbread consists of three basic ingredients of flour, sugar and butter. This is where I’m suppose to pull out my long honoured family recipe for shortbread. However, I was not so lucky.

There are many different recipes and regional variations for shortbread. Unfortunately, I do not have any Scottish ancestors who left me their cookie recipe, and my Irish ancestors did not bestow on me their variation as well. So below is a simple recipe I have found and have used for many years.

However, I’m calling out all shortbread lovers, particularly those with old-fashioned, handed down shortbread recipes. I want to hear from you. Post your recipes below or in your own post with a link here, and share your treasured recipe.

 Shortbread Recipe


• 1 cup butter, softened
• 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
• 1/4 cup cornstarch
• 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour


1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

2. Whip butter with an electric mixer until fluffy. Stir in the confectioners' sugar, cornstarch, and flour. Beat on low for one minute, then on high for 3 to 4 minutes. Drop cookies by spoonfuls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

3. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Watch that the edges don't brown too much. Cool on wire racks.

Looking for more old-fashioned recipes by family historians.

Jellied Veal Loaf from Food.Family.Ephemera
Wheat Wine from Anglers Rest
Oyster Dressing from TJLGenes: Preserving Our Family History
Mama's Cranberry Sauce from Mountain Genealogists
My Mom’s Apple Crumble from All Things Quebec - middle school students blog
Beef and Pork Sugo from Mascot Manor Genealogy
Classic Green Bean Casserole from Tangled Trees
Momma Heidi’s Hot Cocoa Mix from barefooted semmie
Stuffed Franks from TJLGenes: Preserving Our Family History
Broccoli and Rice Casserole from Journey to the Past
for more recipes click here.