The World's Best Shortbread Is No Longer Sold—but We Got the Recipe (2024)

Cookie

And now we can make them at home.

by: Amanda Hesser

May23,2019

67Comments

Photo by Rocky Luten. Food Stylist & Prop Stylist: Sarah Jampel.

67 Comments

Whenever we have guests at the Food52 office for a meeting, we like to give them a warm welcome with freshly made coffee, some flowers, and a (sometimes wobbly) vintage chair to sit on.

For special guests, though, our power move is to pick up baked goods from some of our favorite shops in the city. We get kouign amann from Chanson when we’re in the mood for a single show-stopper, and chocolate chip cookies from Seven Grams, when we’re going for simple and confident.

When it’s time to go all out, we stop at Bien Cuit and order pretty much everything. They make the crispiest, yeastiest, most adorable mini baguettes, which we serve with salted butter and jam. We also love their gluten free chocolate scones and golden-sheathed croissants, and we always—always—get a few of their sugar-crusted shortbread, which are part cookie, part laminated pastry: buttery, salty, and though pebbled with sugar, not too sweet. In truth, we’ve been known to steer our very important guests away from the shortbread—in the direction of the other tasty bits— just so we get to eat them post meeting.

This shortbread scheme had been going on for a few years, until last week, when everything changed. There, on the meeting table sat our VIP pastry spread, sans our beloved shortbread. My heart stopped. Where were they? Had they run out? Had they been forgotten?

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“Thank you for obtaining the recipe and ‘Merci beaucoup!’ To Bien Cuit for sharing their recipe!”

— Sandy

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The news was worse still: Bien Cuit, we learned, had stopped making them.

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There was only one solution: I had to get the recipe. And as a self-serving writer hoping to get others to support her cause, I tweeted at Bien Cuit and begged them to bring the shortbread back. On Twitter, Bien Cuit held firm, but they did offer to share the recipe.

Dear @BienCuitBakery --
We've been told that you stopped making your shortbread -- the shortbread that we'd fight over in our office. That I'd hold onto as an end-of-day treat of crumbly, buttery goodness. You can't do this to us! Please reconsider.
Yours truly,
Amanda

— amandahesser (@amandahesser) April 11, 2019

When I received it, I was skeptical. So much can go awry when scaling down a recipe from a bakery-sized batch. Their recipe called for more than a pound of butter and flour; a calculator was called in. I halved the recipe and made the dough, which has a few odd but necessary twists. First, instead of rolling out the dough, you spread it on a parchment lined baking sheet—just a good, smooth layer. Next you chill it overnight. And last, you bake it at a low temperature—300°F—for an hour and 15 minutes! Sure that I’d have a tray of burned shortbread, I checked it after 30 minutes. It was still the color of butter. As promised, the full baking time was required.

Not only was the long baking time unusual yet effective, but I found that spreading the dough in the pan and cutting the shortbread after baking (techniques clearly geared toward the efficiency of a bakery) speeds up the technique and creates an uber flaky layered dough that’s crisp enough to shatter and delicate inside. My kids, who generally scoff at any cookie lacking chocolate chips, lit up when they ate them.

Hey @BienCuitBakery — how’d I do? Thanks for the recipe! pic.twitter.com/I7The2cm7p

— amandahesser (@amandahesser) April 21, 2019

Bien Cuit shortbread may no longer headline our VIP guest spreads, but it will live on happily in my home. And hopefully yours, too.

Bien Cuit Shortbread View Recipe

Ingredients

302 grams unsalted butter
93 grams confectioners' sugar
3.5 grams kosher salt
302 grams all-purpose flour
1/8 cup regular or raw sugar, for sprinkling
302 grams unsalted butter
93 grams confectioners' sugar
3.5 grams kosher salt
302 grams all-purpose flour
1/8 cup regular or raw sugar, for sprinkling

Tags:

  • What to Cook
  • Butter

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Cbsparta

  • Phyllis

  • Margaret Krainin

  • judy

  • Whitney

Written by: Amanda Hesser

Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.

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67 Comments

Cbsparta March 31, 2023

This recipe looks amazing! Can’t wait to try. Scottish shortbread was my G-ma MacFarlands signature treat. Fond memories of tea shortbread jam and a wee dram. Thanks for the memory trip!:)💙

Phyllis March 13, 2023

I haven't tried these but I make over a thousand shortbread cookies every year at Christmas created from a recipe given to me by my sister-in-law from Scotland! I have created quite a few Shortbread Cookie addicts!

Amanda H. March 14, 2023

Wow! Hope you'll share your recipe with us!

Phyllis April 1, 2023

I can, is there an easy way to send you a document?

Denise April 16, 2023

I would love your recipe. I had my mother's recipe from Scotland, but I have lost it and cannot recreate the origin.

Phyllis May 6, 2023

SCOTTISH SHORTBREAD

8 oz. plain flour
4 oz. cornstarch
4 oz. confectioner’s sugar
Pinch salt
8 oz. butter (½ lb.)
A little water

Mix flour, cornstarch, sugar and salt into bowl and work in butter until all is worked and smooth. Divide mixture into two and roll like 2 Polish sausages and roll in soft brown sugar. Wrap in waxed paper grease proof and put in fridge for 1 or 2 hours. Take out and cut into biscuit shape (slice). Put back in fridge overnight. Cook at 350 degrees electric for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown. Makes about 24 cookies.

(I let the butter soften first and use raw sugar instead of brown sugar. In our oven we bake them for 27 minutes. They do not seem to cook correctly in a gas oven.) PB

[emailprotected] August 25, 2023

Phyllis, I wouldn’t have the courage to try your cookies without knowing the diameter of your rolls AND the width of your slices.
Please?

Margaret K. March 12, 2023

They look delicious -- too bad I'll never make them. Whenever I find an interesting recipe, I run a mental quantity-check to see if I've got the ingredients on hand and what I might need to buy. I don't carry metric conversions in my head, so if the recipe is only written in metrics, it's a pretty good bet I'll never try it.

Sherry W. March 20, 2023

IF you don't have a scale (you should, they are too cheap for any excuse) there is Google for conversions. You sound pretty intelligent, I 100% believe you can do it.

judy December 19, 2022

I made it with regular sugar. I am not a fan of confectioners sugar, and avoid whenever possible. I guess mine were not authentic. b=But they ere delicious and buttery Used Tillamook butter, salted.'

Amanda H. December 24, 2022

Your version is authentic to you -- that's all that matters!

Donna R. March 5, 2023

If you used salted butter, dud you reduce or not use the salt in the recipe?

Whitney December 26, 2021

My absolute favorite shortbread, I was devastated when they stopped making it. Thank you for getting the recipe!

Amanda H. December 24, 2022

Just seeing your comment now -- you're welcome, and hope you've had a chance to try making them!

Elaine T. December 22, 2021

So thoughtful to share this recipe! Good karma…I’ll be making them tomorrow. Thanks for sharing the recipe. Happy, delicious holidays to all involved with making this happen.Don’t forget to save a few for Santa’s cookie plate!

Amanda H. December 25, 2021

Hope you enjoy them!

Pamela L. March 31, 2021

Any thoughts about cutting into shapes rather than traditional batons?

I'm thinking egg-shaped cookie cutters in various sizes for Easter to go along with Lemon Posset. The ovals don't have any fussy corners so I'm hoping would punch through OK? Thx.

Amanda H. March 31, 2021

What a fun idea! And. yes, I think this will work well.

Diane K. May 4, 2020

They taste amazingly delicious but they crumbled when I tried to cut them. What did I do wrong? Please help so I can make them again! Thanks, Diane

Amanda H. May 4, 2020

The only thing I can think of is that perhaps I'd mix the dough a little longer next time. They will crumble on the edges a little when they're cut but they shouldn't fall apart.

Diane K. May 4, 2020

Should I use a smaller pan size? This was a very thin covering in a 13X9. I'll try again because they are delicious if crumbly. Thanks, Amanda.

Amanda H. May 5, 2020

Yes, great idea -- that could help.

Gmak December 24, 2022

You have to cut them IMMEDIATELY, the very second, after removing them from the oven. You’ve probably solved your own dilemma by now but thought I’d comment just in case.

LisaH July 23, 2019

I’m looking forward to baking this, but I wonder what kind of butter to use. I live in a rural area so my choices are Kerrygold and Land o’Lakes. I would appreciate some guidance here.

Amanda H. July 25, 2019

I'd try it with Kerrygold, but honestly, if you prefer Land o'Lakes, it will also work. It's most important to use a butter whose flavor you like.

Cherjh7 March 3, 2023

I would love the recipe!

amazinc June 7, 2019

Chris C. I think the recipe you're looking for is a Cook's Illustrated recipe from 2001. I have the recipe if you'd like me to send it to you via e-mail. It's called "Buttery Shortbread" and is on their web site, if you're a subscribing member.

Chris C. June 6, 2019

Years ago there was an article in Cooks Illustrated about this deliciousness, with accompanying recipe that also resulted in amazing shortbread. I lost the article and the recipe long ago - sure wish I could find it again! I'll have to try this one to see how they compare, but as I recall, the CI recipe also called for just patting the dough into a baking sheet. And there were warnings about keeping the ingredients cool.

Sandy June 3, 2019

Yay!!! I have tried numerous shortbread recipes in a quest to find one as buttery tasting as Walker’s - my search is over. These are delish! Thank you for obtaining the recipe and ‘Merci beaucoup!’ To Bien Cuit for sharing their recipe!

Amanda H. June 3, 2019

Yay, indeed! Thanks for your comment!

BeverlyW May 27, 2019

I just made these amazing delicious cookies - thank you! I followed the recipe, smooshed out the dough into a 9x13 pan lined with parchment paper and refrigerated overnight. Lots of fork pricks before baking for an hour. Did as others and sprinkled Demerara sugar on top immediately after pulling from the oven. After resting five minutes, I cut into 36 bars - yum!

Amanda H. May 31, 2019

Thanks so much for making them, Beverly!

Sugartoast May 27, 2019

Made a batch this weekend, this is the real deal. Used unsalted Kerrygold, measured by weight, rested overnight, and baked low and slow. Thought it might need more salt when I was pulling the ingredients together but it’s perfect. Thank you, thank you!

Amanda H. May 31, 2019

Really glad they turned out well for you, too!

amazinc May 26, 2019

+1 on the Oxo scale. Been using mine now for about 8 years and have never looked back. King Arthur has a download-able weight/measurement conversion on their web site...Free!! Both items are perfect for the home cook.

cocoabrioche May 26, 2019

Really wish you'd share the pound of butter recipe. I generally double every cooking recipe: I'm a pig, with friends! Plus I bake large quantities for fundraisers.

Amanda H. May 31, 2019

I simply halved the recipe to get to the measurements I called for. So if you double the recipe, you'll have the original recipe proportions -- and a nice large batch!

Rosemary May 26, 2019

Recipe sounds great.
Could you give us accurate Measurements in cups and teaspoons?
Thanks

Naina B. May 26, 2019

I don't think accuracy in cups and teaspoons exists. Accuracy in baking has to be by weight. Invest in a good scale, you won't look back!

Smaug May 27, 2019

For the powdered ingredients (flour and conf. sugar) you need to know how the author uses the cups to get an accurate conversion; unfortunately internet recipes rarely say. This recipe isn't that critical on those amounts; you should be able to get good results from the King Arthur's conversions listed in a comment below.

Smaug May 27, 2019

By the way, the necessity for precision in baking is often overstated, particularly for a home baker- bakeries need to be more consistent for marketing and financial reasons; fortunately for them precision is easier with larger quantities and dependable turnover of ingredients. Apart from the potential inaccuracies in using weights- and they do exist- there are other variables. For instance, in this simple recipe, the flour is not specified. AP flour can vary by several percentage points in the protein content, and it does not specify bleached or unbleached. The butter is also not specified, so you don't know the percentages of fat, water and milk solids, all of which will have noticeable effect on the end product. Small quantities, such as salt, are really more accurately measured by volume- scales round things off, and in small quantities can matter. No eggs in this, but they're generally a big variable- bakeries may measure yolks and whites by volume accurately, but this is generally not practical with home-sized quantities. There's variation in confectioners' sugars, too. Despite all of this, a recipe like this will come out just fine anywhere in the normal range of variation on these things.

Carey May 29, 2019

Rosemary. Bakers work with weight. One person's cup of flour will weigh differently than another but a kilo is a kilo. Digital kitchen scales are inexpensive and and invaluable. Most weigh in pounds and. Grams.

Smaug December 22, 2021

Nonsense. People have been baking beautifully with volume measurements, or without measurements, for centuries. It takes some skill, and you need to be consistent with how you make your measurements.

Jason May 24, 2019

Diamond Crystal, or Mortons?

Amanda H. May 24, 2019

Diamond Crystal

Lisa H. May 30, 2019

After not finding Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt anywhere in my city, I called Diamond Crystal’s customer service 800# today. I was told currently this product is only available online through their website, or through Amazon.

Jason May 30, 2019

Use half the amount specified if you substitute Mortons Kosher salt.

Amanda H. May 31, 2019

Thanks, Jason -- good tip. And you can definitely use other salts, but you'll need to experiment.

Lisa H. June 4, 2019

Surprise, surprise! I found & bought Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt at my local Vons supermarket.

Jo March 3, 2023

I’m in Phoenix 2023 & unless I go to Whole Foods I can’t find this in stores near me - so I order it from spice house (they sell spices in “packs” as well as jars bags. The packs ship free great way to expand your spice collection). I prefer this brand of salt for baking cooking.

witloof May 23, 2019

YAHOO!!!! Thank you for weight measurements!!! Going to make this ASAP.

Amanda H. May 24, 2019

Enjoy!

Kehaulani K. May 23, 2019

Aloha. Can you convert to us measurements. Mahalo

witloof May 23, 2019

Once you start using a kitchen scale for baking you will wonder how you lived without one. OXO makes a great one.

Christine C. May 23, 2019

302 gms =1 1/4 C butter
93 gms= 3/4 C powder sugar
3gms= 1/2 t salt
302 gms = 2.2 C flour
1/8 C sugar = same
according to Alexa

Amanda H. May 24, 2019

Thank you for adding this!

Brian May 24, 2019

I looked up the conversation on Google for those amounts and they say different ???? Now I'm scared to do either as I don't want them to be off. It says 302 grams is 1 1/2 cups 93 grams is 1/2 cup 3 grams is 1/2 tsp 302 grams is 1 1/2 cups and 1/8 of a cup is 2 Tbs. That Can be a big difference when Baking

cookbookchick May 24, 2019

Time to invest in a kitchen scale! You won’t be sorry.

Caroline S. May 26, 2019

Try it. It's the technique that makes the difference. The overnight chilling is the baker's secret.

tia May 26, 2019

I went to King Arthur Flour's website. They have a list of ingredient conversion and I trust them, so here's what they say:
302 grams butter = 1 1/3 cup (2 2/3 sticks)
93 grams unsifted confectioner's sugar = .8 cups (a bit more than 3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon)
3.5 grams diamond crystal salt = 1 tsp on my kitchen scale (Canning salt, which has a very similar texture to table salt, comes out to 1/2 tsp)
302 grams flour = 2 1/2 cups (I'm betting this is sifted but I'm not sure)
(I'm not converting the raw sugar since it's just sprinkled on top)

I hope this helps!

tia May 26, 2019

I should also point out that when I made it, I got myself mixed up on how much butter it called for and accidentally only put in 1 cup. It came out fine.

Baking calls for precision, but we're not doing lab-level chemistry here. You have some leeway.

Smaug May 27, 2019

One ounce is (approximately) 28g., 1g. is app. .035 oz. So 203g. would be 7oz., 93 g. would be 3 1/4 oz., 3.5g. would be .12 oz (or 1/8).

Nancie M. May 1, 2020

Thank you SO much @Christine C, so kind of you to put this here.

Elaine T. December 22, 2021

Hi there, you’ve already gotten my own first choice for tag name🙂!. If you have a moment, even if it if it is after Christmas, I would love to know the reasons behind choosing that name, as I am sure that they must all be great fun! Have a wonderful holiday, and I”ll hope to hear back from you! Perhaps we can trade a few? Happy holidays!

The World's Best Shortbread Is No Longer Sold—but We Got the Recipe (2024)
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