It’s Day 10 of my 12 Days of Christmas Cookie Series! I dream of having the royal icing skills to pipe tiny, intricate details on snowflake cookies. Gorgeous snowflake sugar cookies everywhere are inspiring me to practice more, and maybe next Christmas will be the year I’ll finally learn. But until then, I’ll decorate my snowflake shortbread cookies without royal icing, with just a dusting of powdered sugar. These delicate cookies may look simple, but they’re so delicious, with buttery, flaky layers and specks of vanilla bean, and my little boys just love them.
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Tools and Equipment.
- Snowflake Cookie Cutters. This snowflake cookie cutter is similar to the ones I used. They look so delicate and beautiful with the cutouts, but are a bit more challenging to push the dough out of the cutter. I also love these plunger snowflake cutters – I’ve used them for cookie dough, pie dough, and fondant. They make a very delicate snowflake, that’s intended more for decorating cakes and pies.
- Food Processor or Pastry Cutter. This shortbread cookie dough comes together so quickly and easily with a food processor. If you don’t have one, you’ll need a pastry cutter to make the dough by hand.
- Rolling Pin + Bench Scraper.
- Baking Sheets + Parchment Paper.
- All-Purpose Flour. Provides strength and structure to the cookies.
- Powdered Sugar. The fine texture of the powdered sugar makes a soft, delicate cookie.
- Coarse Kosher Salt. Balances the sweetness.
- Unsalted Butter. The butter provides flavor and moisture, and creates all the tiny flaky layers that shortbread is known for.
- Vanilla. The flavor of the vanilla is prominent, so this isn’t the recipe to use an imitation extract. Real vanilla bean is delicious in these snowflake shortbread cookies, or you can use a good-quality pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste.
- Milk or Cream. Moistens the dough, binding it together.
Make the Dough.
This shortbread cookie dough comes together quickly and easily with a food processor. The dough is soft, supple and smooth, and rolls out beautifully. If you don’t have a food processor, you can make the dough in a bowl, using a pastry cutter to cut in the butter, and then working the liquid in with your hands.
Shape the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
Roll Out Dough and Cut the Cookies.
Lightly flour a clean work surface, and dust the dough with flour as well. Roll out to between 1/8 – 1/4 inch thick. Dip a cookie cutter in flour and cut as many cookies as you can. Gather up the scraps, re-roll the dough, and continue cutting cookies until you’ve used up all the dough.
Chill the Cut Cookies.
Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Set the cut cookies on the baking sheets, 1 1/2 inches apart. Chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour. This is a no spread shortbread cookie recipe, and chilling the cut cookies helps to ensure that they won’t spread or lose their shape while baking.
Bake and Cool.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Bake the chilled cookies on the center oven rack for about 7 minutes. They should still be pale in color (no dark browning), flaky edges, and no appearance of raw wet dough in the middle.
If your cookies are larger or thicker, they may need to bake a little longer. Also, if your cut cookies are solid (without the cutouts in the snowflake pattern), they will also take a little longer to bake through.
Cool the cookies on the pan for 5 minutes, then very gently transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely. Shortbread cookies are extremely delicate while they’re warm, so you have to be gentle so as not to break them.
The cookies are now ready to decorate! You can dust the cooled cookies with the remaining 1/4 cup powdered sugar, or decorate with royal icing.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can shortbread cookie dough be made in advance and frozen?
Yes, absolutely! You can make the dough, wrap it in plastic wrap and label it. Refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze for 3-6 months.
Can the snowflake cookies be frozen?
The baked cookies can also be frozen. Either wrap them in several layers of plastic wrap, or store in an airtight container and freeze for 3-6 months before decorating.
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Snowflake Shortbread Cookies
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup powdered sugar, divided
- ¼ tsp coarse Kosher salt
- ½ cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
- ½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped (or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract)
- 2 tbsp heavy whipping cream
- In a food processor, pulse the flour, 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar, and the salt, until combined.
- With the processor running, drop the pieces of butter in, pulsing just until distributed.
- Add the vanilla bean seeds (or vanilla extract/paste) and the cream. Process until the crumbs start to stick together.
- Dump the dough out onto the counter, and knead a few times to bring it together into a smooth, supple ball of dough with your hands.
- If you don't have a food processor, you can make this dough with a bowl and pastry cutter. You'll need to cut the butter in with the pastry cutter, then use your hands to work in the cream until you have a smooth dough. It's much easier and quicker with a food processor, though.
- Shape the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 15 minutes.
- Lightly flour a clean work surface, and dust the dough with flour as well. Roll out to between 1/8 – 1/4 inch thick. Dip a cookie cutter in flour and cut as many cookies as you can. Gather up the scraps, re-roll the dough, and continue cutting cookies until you've used up all the dough. How many cookies you get will depend on the thickness of your dough and the size of your cookie cutters.
- Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Set the cut cookies on the baking sheets, 1 1/2 inches apart. Chill in the refrigerator for about 2 hours. If you have room in your freezer, you can just freeze the pans for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350.
- Bake the chilled cookies on the center oven rack for about 7 minutes. They should still be pale in color, with no dark browning, flaky edges, and no appearance of raw wet dough in the middle. If your cookies are larger/thicker, they may need to bake a little longer.
- Cool the cookies on the pan for 5 minutes, then very gently transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely. Shortbread cookies are extremely delicate while they're warm, so you have to be gentle so as not to break them.
- Dust the cooled cookies with the remaining 1/4 cup powdered sugar.
- This recipe yields about 20-24 cookies, using a 2 1/2 inch cookie cutter.
- Be sure not to skip the step of chilling the cut cookies. This is a no-spread cookie recipe, and the cookies maintain their shape beautifully. Chilling the cut cookies helps this process.
- Store leftover shortbread cookies in an airtight container. They’ll keep at room temperature for up to 2 weeks. They can also be baked in advance and frozen for 3-6 months.