This easy recipe guarantees perfectly crumbly, buttery, melt-in-the-mouth vanilla shortbread cookies every single time. Requiring less than 45 minutes, it’s ideal for satisfying sneaky cookie cravings, or as a mid-week bake when you want something sweet and delicious, but are short on time.
We’re going really basic today. We’re making quick vanilla shortbread cookies. I’m not being patronising. It’s highly likely you’ve made them before, and yes, they are really simple to make. But perhaps you’ve had problems with them being too crumbly or not crumbly enough or too dry or without the ‘snap’ or, or, or. What I’m getting at is that we shouldn’t underestimate how much can go wrong even with simple recipes. Which is why having a good basic recipe is so important and why you should definitely read on. Because this recipe ensures you get perfectly buttery, crumbly vanilla shortbread cookies that will melt in your mouth and can… also be used as air fresheners. Just put a cookie in each room and your house will smell a-h-mazing. Plus, you won’t have to leave the room when that sneaky cookie craving strikes. It’s a win-win situation, really.
These quick vanilla shortbread cookies come out perfect every time. (I’m not just saying that. They really do.) We start by creaming together butter and sugar – because shortbread cookies have no baking powder or bicarbonate of soda, we need that little bit of airiness. Plus, it’s butter, and sugar, and together they make fluffy magic. We’re also putting in some vanilla extract because we can’t help ourselves and because you can never go wrong with vanilla.
It may be tempting to just dump the flour in and start mixing, but do sift it. Seriously, what did we just say about airiness? And you’ll be making it snow in your kitchen. Your inner child will squee in delight, just wait and see. A pinch of salt (to bring out all the flavours – it’s the abracadabra ingredient), and then mix mix mix until the cookie dough comes together in a ball. Don’t over-mix it: one word – gluten.
I know people are often put off recipes because of the looooooooooong refrigeration periods for cookies. Now, refrigeration is important. But we’re totally OK with only 15 minutes – just enough time to have a nice cuppa (cup of tea, for the uninitiated… a.k.a. anyone non-British), and to ponder whether it’s shortbread cookies or shortbread biscuits. I never know. It’s probably another one of those British-American English conundrums made up only to confuse people. But shortbreads by any other name are just as yummy, so I’ll stick to calling them cookies, and you stick with whatever you like best. There, problem solved (or rather a non-problem not solved, but you know, we like non-problems, there are so terribly entertaining) – just in time to get the cookie dough out of the fridge.
Next… well, you know the drill. We’ll roll out the dough and cut out pretty shapes. Stars, flowers, hearts, anything you want. Or you can be boring like me, and go with circles. And no matter what various conspiracy theories (are there conspiracy theories about cookies?) say, the pricking of the cookies is really is just for decorative purposes.
You can decide how much of a ‘snap’ you want the quick vanilla shortbread cookies to have by varying the baking time slightly – no more than by a minute or two either way. They are finished in 15 minutes, which means you can go from feeling like the cookie monster (Me. Needs. Cookie. Now. An hour ago. Me. Cookie.) to stuffing you face with warm cookies (again, like the cookie monster) in under 45 minutes. See – quick!
Because this is a basic recipe (ahem, a good basic recipe), you can easily dress it up (as I’ve done previously with lemon thyme shortbread cookies). Chocolate chips? Cocoa powder? Lemon zest? Orange zest? Cinnamon? Peanut butter (because you don’t say no to peanut butter)? Yes, please. It may require slight tweaking, but if you use this recipe as your starting point, I’m certain it will turn out out-of-this-world delicious. And this is what good basic recipes are about. It’s about the comfort they give us in knowing that no matter what happened in our day, if we mix together butter, sugar and flour in the right way… all is well.
- 125 g unsalted butter, softened
- 85 g sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 190 g plain flour
- pinch of salt
- Cream together butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
- Add vanilla extract and mix well until uniformly distributed.
- Sift together flour and salt, and add to the butter/sugar mixture.
- Mix with a wooden spoon, or use a stand mixer, until the dough comes together in a ball.
- Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead it briefly together into a smooth but not sticky dough.
- Refrigerate for 15 minutes. (Note 1)
- Preheat the oven to 350F (175C).
- Line a baking tray with baking/greaseproof paper.
- Roll out the cookie dough about ½ cm thick (Note 2), cut out the cookies with a cookie cutter of your choice, and place them onto the baking tray, leaving at least ½" (or about 1.5 cm) space between them.
- Prick the cookies (this is purely for decorative purposes).
- Bake in the preheated oven at 350F (175C) for 15 – 17 minutes, or until the edges are a light golden colour.
- Leave to cool, and enjoy!
- The cookies keep well in a closed container in a dry and cool place for about a week (umm, yeah, good luck with that).
Note 2: If the dough is too cold to be rolled immediately after being taken out of the fridge, leave it to warm at room temperature for about 5 – 10 minutes.
In the mood for more shortbread cookies? Try out my lemon thyme shortbread cookies!