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Christmas Shortbread Bites

Shortbread Bites Ottawa Food Photographer_0003A few weeks ago, this recipe came across my Facebook page. It looked very festive, and though I’ve never tried to make shortbread before I was sure I could handle it. The problem was that I don’t have a food processor, or the pan size listed in the article. With a few workarounds, though, I made things work – so don’t let that stop you from making a recipe you really want to try! This is the first recipe I’ve posted on this blog that I hadn’t already made successfully several times, so I’ve critiqued it at the end.

I’ve never made shortbread before, so this recipe was a little tricky because I wasn’t sure what the texture was supposed to be like as I was making it. Thankfully, my mother-in-law was around at the time, and she assured me that everything was looking as it should. So, a warning to those who’ve never made shortbread: it’s very easy to make, but you’re going to think you’ve completely screwed it up until you take it out of the oven. My dad is a shortbread junkie, and he swears it was delicious. It also looks very pretty!


1 1/4 cup(s) all-purpose flour
3 tablespoon(s) sugar
1/2 cup(s) (1 stick) butter (no substitutions), cold, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon(s) red and green nonpareils or sprinkles or 1/2 cup mini baking bits


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

In food processor with knife blade attached, pulse flour and sugar until combined (I just used a knife since I don’t have a food processor). Add butter and pulse until dough begins to come together. Place dough in medium bowl. With hand, gently knead in nonpareils or baking bits until evenly blended and dough forms a ball. (Disclaimer: because I don’t have a food processor, I cut in the butter by hand. Maybe because of this, my dough never really “came together” and it certainly didn’t make a ball! My mother-in-law said that was normal for traditional shortbread, though, so I carried on).

On lightly floured waxed paper, pat dough into 8″ by 5″ rectangle; freeze 15 minutes. Cut dough into 1/2-inch squares. Place squares, 1/2 inch apart, on ungreased large cookie sheet. (Disclaimer: this part I completely changed. I didn’t have the correct pan size, so I put wax paper into an 8 x 8 pan and then just sort of wrapped the wax paper upward to make a wall at around the 5″ mark. If I make this again, I’ll do a double batch so that I don’t have to make a fake wall.  I didn’t freeze the dough, either, because I knew there was no way I would be able to cut the squares with my shortbread in its current flaky state. Instead, I put right into the oven.)

Bake cookies 18 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned on bottom. Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool. (Instead, I waited two minutes, and then cut my shortbread into squares while it was still warm. It was very easy to do). Repeat with remaining dough. (I had no remaining dough, so possibly my 3/4″ high shortbread was too high, but it looked exactly like the provided picture. At this point my  faith in the recipe was very suspect). Store cookies in tightly covered container at room temperature up to 1 week, or in freezer up to 3 months.

Maybe not having a food processor really did throw a wrench in things. My shortbread turned out wonderfully — flaky and buttery — but it was in no thanks to the directions in this recipe. If you were a beginner baker, you’d probably have given up halfway through, sure that the recipe was a failure. In terms of instructions and expectations, it pretty much is! But if you follow the notes I added, you’ll end up with great shortbread in party-friendly bite-sized pieces.

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Ottawa, Ontario