What Are Shortbread Cookies?
Shortbread is a traditional Scottish cookie simply made of butter, sugar, and flour. Different flavors can be added, and for this batch, I have chosen lemon and thyme to counter the rich butter flavor.
Shortbread cookies may have existed in a more rustic form as twice-baked bread rolled in sugar and cinnamon as far back as the 12th century. When butter replaced the yeast, the shortbread as we know it today was created.
It was Mary Queen of Scots who popularized the cookies in the 16th century, as shortbread with caraway was a favorite of hers. The butter-based cookies were a delicacy for the common people and were reserved for holidays and weddings.
Today, shortbread cookies are enjoyed with tea in houses worldwide.
How to Make Lemon Thyme Shortbread Cookies
Shortbread is incredibly easy to make, and a good cookie for beginners with its short ingredient list.
For this cookie, I added fresh thyme leaves and lemon zest to give it its unique flavor. Shortbread is served in three shapes: triangles cut from a large circle, circles, or squares. I chose to bake the shortbread in an 8x8 square pan, cutting the cookies into smaller squares while still warm to prevent cracking.
To make shortbread cookies, you want to cream the sugar and butter together. This means beating butter and sugar until it is combined and light in color and creamy. This takes several minutes using room temperature or slightly warmed butter, so using an electric mixer or stand mixer is best.
Once the butter and sugar have been creamed, you can add in the lemon zest and fresh thyme leaves. The last ingredient is the flour, mixing just until combined.
Next, you want to dump the dough into a parchment paper-lined pan and smooth it out.
Take a fork and pierce the top all over, not going all the way through the cookie dough.
Then, chill the dough in the fridge for at least an hour to let it set up and the flavors meld. After the rest time, bake it in an oven preheated to 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 40 minutes, or until the edges begin to turn golden.
You can bake it a little longer if you like your shortbread a little more golden brown, just keep an eye on it so it doesn’t overcook and burn. Let the pan cool for a few minutes.
You want to cut the cookies while warm to avoid cracking. Gently lift the cookies out using the overlap of parchment paper and use a serrated knife to cut across the square horizontally and vertically to create smaller square cookies.
Try to avoid cutting where the fork indentations are, again to avoid the cookies cracking. If you want the cookies a bit sweeter, you could make a glaze by combining confectioners sugar with lemon juice and drizzle it on the cooled cookies.
Shortbread lasts quite a long time and can be stored in a covered container on the counter for up to a month. Place a piece of parchment between layers to separate the cookies.
What to Pair with Lemon Thyme Shortbread Cookies
Shortbread is traditionally paired with a cup of tea, making it a perfect, simple cookie for your next tea time treat! Plum Deluxe carries several teas with lemon that would pair well with the shortbread.
My favorite is the sturdy Irish breakfast blend with a hint of lemon, Fog Cutter. This tea makes an excellent companion to a plate of buttery shortbread. Kitchen Table Blend, with its blend of black and green teas mixed with citrus, is another good choice for a tea that will pair well with lemon thyme shortbread cookies.
If you are looking for an herbal tea, Evening in the Garden pairs lemon with rose and lavender for a nice, calming cuppa. Of course, there is also the natural pairing of our Buttery Shortbread herbal tea, a wonderfully rich, savory cup of tea.
If you fall in love with baking shortbread and want to give some other recipes a try, check out our blog for more inspiration.
We have recipes for a savory shortbread, a chocolate orange tart with a shortbread crust, rosemary honeyed shortbread, rosewater shortbread cookies, and a delicious trio of shortbread recipes: Ceylon shortbread circles, brown butter cookies, and raspberry lemon cookies.
Lemon Thyme Shortbread Cookies
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup of sugar
- 2 cups of flour
- 3 teaspoons of lemon zest (about 2 lemons)
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- Optional: lemon juice and confectioners sugar for glaze
Line an 8x8 baking dish with parchment paper and leave some overhang.
Cream butter and sugar together, then add lemon zest.
Pull thyme leaves off of the stem to measure and add to the cookie dough. Add flour and mix just until combined.
Dump cookie dough into the prepared pan and spread out. Smooth evenly.
Pierce all over, going about halfway through the dough with the tines of a fork. Place dough in the fridge for at least one hour.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Bake for 40 minutes, or until edges of shortbread turn golden.
Allow to cool for a few minutes, then remove the shortbread from the pan using parchment paper.
Slice horizontally and vertically across the shortbread square with a serrated knife to create smaller cookie squares. Then, allow them to cool.
If you want a topping, mix a bit of confectioners sugar and lemon juice together for the glaze, then top your cookies with glaze.
Store in a sealed container with layers separated by parchment paper. Cookies last up to one month.