Shortbread 1:2:3

Shortbread is such an easy recipe to remember, without having to leaf through recipe books or search on the internet. Practise now ready to give as Christmas gifts and try adding a Festive 'twist', using the variation suggested. Everyone needs a sweet treat now and then.

Good news for GLUTEN FREE, DAIRY FREE, VEGAN - scroll down to the bottom of the recipe. 

There are three basic ingredients and they are in the ration of 1:2:3. This means that you don't need a recipe - you just choose how much you need and start.


1 part caster sugar (e.g. 50g)

2 parts softened salted butter (e.g.100g)

3 parts plain flour (e.g. 150g)


  1. Preheat oven to 160C/Gas 3
  2. With a wooden spoon, cream together butter and sugar until incorporated.
  3. Add flour and mix together. 
  4. There will be a point at which it will be easier to abandon the wooden spoon and start to bring all together with your hands. DO NOT OVERWORK your dough at this stage as you will activate the gluten in the flour too much and make your shortbread tough.
  5. If you want individual biscuits, roll the dough out on a lightly floured work surface and cut out shapes.
  6. Place the shapes on a lined baking tray and bake in a preheated oven for approximately 10 - 12 minutes (depending on thickness). 
  7. Take out of the oven when they just start to colour round the edges.
  8. Leave for a few minutes then lift off the baking tray and onto a wire cooling rack.
  9. If you want shortbread fingers then press the dough into a lined or greased baking tray until the same thickness all over. This will take longer to cook as it will be thicker than the rolled out biscuits so leave for 15 - 20 minutes. Take out of the oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes before making cuts in the shortbread to the size you want the fingers to be. Leave in the tin until completely cooled before lifting out.

Creating Variations:

  • To make your shortbread 'shorter' try take out some of the flour (in above quantities replace 25 g of flour) with either cornflour or semolina.
  • Brush top of biscuits with egg white and sprinkle with sugar before baking.
  • Drizzle melted chocolate over the biscuits, once they have been baked and have cooled.
  • Add ground spices to your flour e.g. cinnamon, mixed spice, crushed cardamom seeds, ginger etc.
  • Add a favourite ingredient(s) to the dough e.g. roughly chopped glace or sour cherries, pistachios, walnuts, dried fruit, chocolate chips etc. Don't use too many combinations - think about what goes together well.

Vaughan's Cookery School favourite flavour for the Festive season:

To the above amounts add:

1 teaspoon ground ginger to flour

50g chopped crystallised or stem ginger


GLUTEN FREE: Follow the same formula but use Doves Farm Gluten Free Plain flour and ignore the instruction that says DON'T OVERWORK. Work it well, as there is no gluten so it won't make your shortbread hard and tough.

VEGAN & DAIRY FREE: Replace butter with dairy free spread. As it contains a high amount of water, if your shortbread isn't 'short' (crisp) enough, when baked, take out of the oven and switch off the heat. Transfer biscuits to cooling rack, as in Stage 8 and then put back in the oven, on the rack, whilst it cools down. This will take out any extra moisture.