These buttery shortbread cookies are from my cookbook, Weeknight Baking, but are glammed up for the holidays with a marbled butter rum glaze and Vermont Creamery’s new cultured butter—jump to the recipe! As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own, and thank you for supporting the sponsors that keep Hummingbird High up and running!
Best Holiday Cookies
A few years ago, I started the holiday tradition of doing a cookie swap with my friends! A cookie swap is exactly what it sounds like. Basically, everybody bakes a bunch of cookies and brings them to a potluck-style party. Then, you “swap” the cookies and everybody gets to take home a box full of homemade cookies! If you’re looking for a fun holiday entertaining idea this season, pro-tip: I highly recommend doing a cookie swap.
I love our holiday cookie swap because, well, traditionally, I’m the baker of my friend group. For parties and celebrations, I’m always the one in charge of making the cake or dessert for us all. While I don’t mind the responsibility, I do feel like I miss the chance to get to know my friends’ favorite recipes (since I always end up making a recipe that I already know and love, lol). The cookie swap is a chance for me to explore my friends’ best holiday cookie recipes, too. We usually set up a long table full of everybody’s cookies to admire and graze on as we hang out.
Often times, we end up with doubles of the same kind of cookie (usually chocolate chip, because people LOVE chocolate chip cookies no matter what) at our grazing table. I used to stress out about this, but let me share with you some advice: it is TOTALLY okay if there are doubles. Because even though they’re the same type of cookie, they’re usually made with different recipes. And there are a ton of chocolate chip cookie recipes out there, so it’s actually really fun to see what the differences between each recipe actually are! (Also, I did a lot of this type of sampling when I was developing recipes for my cookbook, ha.)
Holiday Cookie Recipes
For the cookie swap, I always take the time to research different holiday cookie recipes. But at our cookie swap, the most popular holiday cookie recipes are always the ones that are classic in flavor: buttery shortbread, mint chocolate, classic rollout sugar cookies, and so on. So if you’re looking to bring the most popular cookie of the bunch, here’s another tip: I definitely encourage you to stick with the classics.
That being said, I did bring a non-traditional cookie a few years ago that blew everybody out of the water. The cookie was made with ube, a purple yam popular in the Philippines and frequently used in desserts. People LOVED its vibrant color and unique flavor. So every year, I try and research and develop a “wildcard” recipe that folks will go crazy for.
Shortbread Cookie Recipe
I already had a vague idea of what I wanted my “wildcard” recipe to be. When I was developing recipes for Weeknight Baking, I was convinced that I’d found the best shortbread cookie recipe ever. My recipe testers went wild for it, telling me that it was the most delicious and buttery shortbread recipe they’d ever had.
The secret, I told one of them, lies in the quality of the ingredients. Because my shortbread cookie recipe contains such few ingredients—it literally only has flour, sugar, butter, and salt—each ingredient should be the very best quality available. Especially the butter! Because this recipe uses SO much butter, the butter needs to be the absolute best available. For this recipe, I rely on Vermont Creamery’s cultured butter, which has a rich flavor on its own—it has notes of buttermilk and hazelnut from a tireless fermentation process. And like my cookie recipe, their butter is so good that it only relies on a handful of the best-quality ingredients: just cream and cultures.
This year, I decided to glam up my shortbread cookie recipe with a “hot buttered rum” glaze to really amp up its buttery flavor. The glaze is made with a generous amount of brown butter and rum to give it lots of oomph. I then dipped each cookie in the glaze, after swirling the glaze with gold food coloring to achieve that marbled look. Needless to say, it was a success—these cookies were the first ones gone during our holiday swap! Be sure to check out my baker’s notes on how to bring these cookies together; even though they look super fancy, they’re actually an incredibly easy shortbread cookie recipe!
Best Shortbread Cookie Recipe Tips
- The yield of your recipe will depend on the type of cookie cutter you used. I used a 2 ½-inch fluted round cutter, which yielded around 22 cookies.
- Although I used a fluted cookie cutter for this recipe, I wouldn’t recommend doing so—because there’s so much butter relative to everything else in this cookie, the cookies spread a lot and don’t really hold their shape (no matter how long you chill them). Feel free to go ahead and use a plain round cutter instead! In fact, the original recipe in my book doesn’t even use cookie cutters; instead, I instruct you to roll out the dough into a square and slice them into square cookies. If you’re looking for a dough that will hold its shape well in the oven, I suggest taking a look at one of my rollout sugar cookie recipes on the blog or in my book!
- The way the recipe is written for this blog post, there’s a lot of sitting around waiting for the dough to chill in the recipe. But in Weeknight Baking, I actually instruct you to break the recipe up over a series of 2 days in order to avoid doing so. After rolling out the dough into a slab, place in the fridge to chill overnight. The next day, use cookie cutters to stamp out the cookies and bake as instructed in the recipe.
Get the Recipe: Buttered Rum Shortbread Cookie Recipe
- 1 cup 8 ounces Vermont Creamery Unsalted Cultured Butter
- 2 cups 9 ounces all-purpose flour
- ½ cup 3.5 ounces granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- For the Buttered Rum Glaze
- 4 tablespoons 2 ounces Vermont Creamery Unsalted Cultured Butter
- 1 cup 4 ounces confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 3 tablespoons rum
- 1 ½ teaspoons light corn syrup
- Dark yellow food coloring, I used this one
- Gold star sprinkles, I used these ones
For the Shortbread Cookies
- Cut the Vermont Creamery Unsalted Cultured Butter into 1- to 1½- inch pieces and place them in a small bowl. Freeze while you prep the rest of the ingredients.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Beat on low until just combined, about 15 seconds. Add the butter all at once and beat on low until the dough starts to resemble coarse meal, with pea-sized pieces of butter throughout, about 3 minutes. Increase the mixer to medium and beat until the dough clumps around the paddle and/or the sides of the bowl, 2 to 3 minutes. If necessary, use a mixer cover (or throw a towel over the mixer bowl) while beating to prevent any pieces of dough from shooting out of the bowl.
- Tip the dough out onto a piece of parchment paper around the size of a half sheet pan and use your hands to shape it into a roughly 6-inch square. Place a second sheet of parchment over the dough, creating a parchment sandwich with the dough in the middle. Use a rolling pin to flatten the dough between the parchment sheets, working from left to right. Turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat every so often—doing so will help prevent the dough from cracking as you roll it. If the parchment starts to wrinkle and leave creases in the dough, pull the sheet loose and smooth it before rolling the dough more. Continue rotating and rolling until you have a slab of dough around ¼ inch thick—the shape and the size of the slab doesn’t matter, since you’ll be using a cookie cutter to stamp out shapes.
- Remove the top layer of parchment. Press a bench scraper against the sides of the dough to create straight edges. Transfer the slab of cookie dough, still on the bottom layer of parchment, to a half sheet pan. Cover with the top layer of parchment once more and freeze for 20 minutes.
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Remove the sheet pan of dough from the refrigerator. Use the overhanging parchment as handles to carefully lift the slab of dough off the sheet pan and onto a cutting board. Peel the top layer of parchment from the slab and use it to line the sheet pan once more. Line a second half sheet pan with parchment as well.
- Use a 2 ½-inch round cookie cutter to stamp out cookies, placing the cookies on the lined sheet pans at least 2 inches apart. The dough should still be cool and firm to the touch. If not, chill both sheet pans in the freezer for at least 10 minutes before baking. Gather and reroll the scraps, repeating the process to stamp out cookies as many times as necessary.
- Bake one pan at a time (keeping the other pan in the refrigerator) for 15 to 17 minutes, or until the edges of each cookie are pale golden brown with small hairline cracks visible on their surfaces. Cool the cookies on the pan on a wire rack completely before glazing.
For the Buttered Rum Glaze
- In a light-colored saucepan, melt the Vermont Creamery Unsalted Cultured Butter over medium-low heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until it starts to foam. Use a heatproof rubber spatula to scrape the bottom and sides of the pan occasionally to prevent the milk solids in the butter from burning. Cook for 5 minutes, or until the butter smells nutty and is amber with dark flecks at the bottom of the pan. Remove from the heat and immediately add the confectioners’ sugar, rum, and corn syrup, whisking to combine. Set on a wire rack to cool slightly.
- Prepare a work station by lining two sheet pans with parchment paper for easy clean up. Place two wire racks on top of the parchment paper inside the sheet pans — this will help catch any glaze drippings and make sure you don’t end up with any soggy cookies!
- Return to your slightly cooled glaze and gently stir 1 to 2 drops of yellow food coloring into the mixture. When I mean stir, I mean “half-heartedly stir”—the mixture should still be predominantly white at this point, but streaked with yellow food coloring. This works best if the glaze has cooled. If the glaze is too hot, the food coloring will melt and incorporate throughout the mixture. You want it to be streaky!
- Working quickly, dip the top of each cookie into the glaze and quickly flip it up so that the glazed side is upright. There are two ways to go about this—you can use the bottom of the cookie, which is smooth and flat. This creates a smoother finish. Or you can do what I did, which is dip the top of each cookie into the glaze. Any crags, cracks, or bumps in the cookie’s surface will exaggerate the marble look. And for a streakier glaze, use a swooshing motion to pull the cookie surface along the glaze surface to achieve even more streaks. Let any excess drip off and transfer to a wire rack to dry for 3 to 4 hours. Repeat for remaining cookies and garnish with gold leaf stars if desired.