Skip to navigation | Skip to content | Skip to footer

River Cottage shortbread

This is quite different from a traditional thick Scottish shortbread. Rather than rubbing butter into flour then adding sugar in the usual way, we cream the butter with the sugar first as you would for a sponge cake, which makes the mixture really light. We also add egg yolks, and roll the dough out thinly to make rich, delicate biscuits.


In a food mixer fitted with the paddle beater, or using a hand-held electric beater, cream the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed until very pale (almost white) and fluffy, scraping the sides down regularly with a spatula.

Lower the speed to medium, and add the salt, egg yolks and any extra flavourings at this stage. Beat for another half a minute, then switch the machine off. Fold the flour into the mixture, using a spatula. You will have a very soft sticky dough.

With floured hands, scrape the dough out of the bowl on to a floured surface. Pat it into a wide, flat disc, using more flour if you need to, then wrap in cling film and refrigerate for about 1 hour, as the dough needs to firm up before you can roll it out.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4. Unwrap the dough and roll it out on a floured surface to a thickness of about 3mm. Using a 6cm pastry cutter, cut out about 24 rounds. With a palette knife, carefully transfer them to a non-stick baking sheet, or one lined with baking parchment.

Bake for 7-10 minutes, until just golden around the edges, but pale on top, checking every minute after 7 minutes. The shortbread biscuits will still be soft; they firm up on cooling. As you remove them from the oven, sprinkle generously all over with caster sugar. Leave on the baking sheet for a minute or two, then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool.

P.S. These delicate biscuits will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container.


  • 175g butter, softened
  • 90g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • A generous pinch of salt
  • 2 medium free-range egg yolks
  • 200g plain white flour, plus extra for dusting

Flavourings (optional)

One (or more) of the following:

  • 1 tsp natural vanilla extract
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon or orange
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon (ideally freshly ground)

This recipe is taken from...

River Cottage Bread Handbook

Exclusive to members

There are many more recipes which are exclusive to members of River Cottage. Simply login or become a member to access these.

Become a Member of River Cottage and take advantage of the many benefits this has to offer!

Full details