Chocolate Shortbread: the long and short of a great cookie


What do Genghis Khan and Gandhi have in common? How about Danny Devito and Pablo Picasso?

Oooh, ooh, what about me, and the Marquis de Sade? I bet you are just dying to know, right? Well…

It’s all about the short. All of the folks I mentioned are 5’4″ or shorter. Did you have any idea that the leader of the Mongolian Empire was just 5′ 1″? Looks like peace is the way to go, as the Mahatma was an impressive 5’3″. Oddly enough, Ben Kingsley, who played Ghandi in the movie, is a heroic 5′ 8″.

I’m sure by now, many of you are groaning at my short attempt at a joke. Short folks, short bread, get it? *sigh*. Okay, I promise to leave the humor to Mr. Devito, all 4’11” of him. Yes, I’ll be the bigger person. *ouch!* Hey, who threw that!

Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way making fun of those of us who are vertically challenged. I’ve struggled with this my whole life and now I accept that I will never see the top of my fridge without the aid of a step stool. Bonus points for me, I say. If I can’t see it, I don’t dust it.

OK, I hear you. Back to the Chocolate Shortbread. Shortbread doesn’t have anything to do with the height of the cookies. The “short” refers to the short texture, meaning sandy and break-apart as opposed to flaky or chewy. A pie crust uses cold butter to create flakes of dough, while shortbread uses warm, soft butter to coat the flour with fat to prevent long strands of gluten from forming. Thus, short strands = crisp, “short” texture.

Shortbread is so simple, you just need one bowl, a spatula and a little time.

Place in your mixing bowl:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon salt, extra fine if possible
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup Double Dutch Dark Cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 3/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Stir until you have a soft, cohesive dough. It’s rather like making brownies, just a little thicker and a lot more buttery.

Suspense master Alfred Hitchcock was 5’5″, but his movies definitely rate a “10.”

Divide the dough into two equal portions. Press each half  the dough into an 8″ square baking pan. I usually line mine with parchment but forgot this time. The buttery dough doesn’t tend to stick, but insurance is never a bad thing.

You’ll see as you go along that the dough, while quite moist, doesn’t really stick to your fingers. All that butter is a great lubricant.

There, all filled in. You can use a piece of plastic wrap over the top and roll gently with a pastry roller as well to avoid fingermarks.

Monkee Davy Jones stood 5’3″, but his smile was 1000 watts!

But wait! The picture at the top of the blog shows nuts! What about the nuts? Sure, you can add up to 1/2 cup of nuts, chips, bits, etc.

Walnut chocolate chip shortbread, perhaps?

We can call him Al, but by any name, singer Paul Simon rocks the house at 5’2″.

Bake until the shortbread begins to pull away from the edges of the pan, and the center feels firm under your fingers when lightly pressed. As test baker Frank told me, it’s hard to toothpick-test shortbread because it’s so thin, so going by feel is a great option.

Now, here’s a biggie. You MUST turn the shortbread out for cutting while it’s still warm. Crisp cooled shortbread will shatter and break, so warm it must be.

A pizza cutter makes quick work of trimming off the edges and dividing into squares…

Or little triangles. The different shapes also help tasters tell the difference between the flavors.

André René Roussimoff, beloved actor and wrestler André the Giant, stood 7’5″ tall. Pour yourself a giant glass of milk to enjoy with your fresh-baked treats.

Pure buttery goodness. As the shortbread cools, it will develop that perfect sandy crispness that keeps us coming back for bite after bite. That is, of course, if any pieces survive to cool off. This meltingly good piece certainly didn’t!

Hey, while you’re here at the end of the post, why not leave me a short comment? Har, har, har. Thanks folks, I’ll be here til Thursday! Remember to tip your waitress.

Please bake, rate, and review our recipe for Chocolate Shortbread.

Print just the recipe.

Find other shortbread recipes.

MaryJane Robbins

MaryJane Robbins grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont 20 years ago. After teaching young children for 15 years, she changed careers and joined King Arthur Flour in 2005. MaryJane began working on King Arthur Flour's baker’s hotline in 2006, and the blog team ...


  1. mmar69

    I had planned to let my daughters do the Christmas baking this year, but I think I’ll have to try these! (With nuts and chips, of course!)
    Why not bake together, then share tea and cookies? ~ MaryJane

  2. "Paul from Ohio"

    Not surprised – YOU BEAT ME TO IT!!!! I was gonna make some but now, no quess work! I’m about to try peppermint frosted Chocolate Dreams! I love the way you TEACH US – I had NO IDEA that is why Shortbread was called SHORT! You’re very tall in my book of recipe/blogger/baker giants!\
    I bet this shortbread with a little peppermint drizzle on top would be amazing. Thanks for the great idea! And thanks for the compliment. I feel taller already. ;) ~ MaryJane

  3. daphnewoman

    Thanks, Shorty! I thought I was through baking cookies this year but I guess not! This one looks too good to miss!
    These are definitely cookies to try before the New Year. Enjoy! ~ MaryJane

  4. lyna

    In the recipe directions at step 2 it says. “To avoid over-creaming…” I can understand not over mixing once the flour is added, but what is the harm, and how does it look, to “over-cream”?

    Lyna, you don’t want to chance beating so much that the mixture becomes light-colored and fluffy, rather than simply well combined. If you add a lot of air to the batter, you’re more likely to get a shortbread cookie that’s too light-textured; and thus too crumbly. PJH

  5. waikikirie

    Well MJ, the long and the short of it is (teehee), I will be adding this to my Christmas Cookies this year…..Merry Christmas to all at KA..xoxox

    And on behalf of MJ and all the bloggers, a most Merry Christmas to you, too! PJH

  6. JuliaJ

    it looked like you cut it upside-down–does it matter or was it just to avoid a double flip (which might break the big piece)?

    Doesn’t matter which side you cut – your choice, Julia. PJH

  7. Anneripp

    What will you do when you blog about Napoleons?

    Not soon, unfortunately. They’re not on the schedule yet. So far they’ve made it to my list of “things I want to try,” but it’s a long list… PJH

  8. takefive34

    These look dee-licious………..but I’m wondering if they can be baked in a shortbread pan. I purchased a snowflake pan this year from KAF plus I have another dedicated pan from a number of years ago. I’m in the throes of holiday baking, and who doesn’t want a little chocolate – umm, make that a lot!! – during this time of year!!

    Sure, you can bake this shortbread in two shortbread pans. Enjoy – PJH

  9. pcrockett

    These just made it onto my list of cookies to make this year! Do you think they would be good with KAF Vanilla Butternut flavoring instead of (or in addition to) the vanilla?

    I think they would taste great! It is fun to experiment with different flavorings in cookies.-Jon

  10. mumpy

    it’s nice being in good company like ghandi, picasso, devito, and you mary jane, but i prefer to think that i’m not SHORT….i’m fun-sized!

  11. ebenezer94

    Good grief, I saw this and just had to make them even though I had (I thought) finished cookie baking for the year. They were to die for, though I confess that I say this as a shortbread lover who also loves chocolate. I made a double batch and divided it between two 7×11″ pans. One pan came out a bit thinner than the other, and I think I preferred the thinner ones. They were a bit more shortbread-like, whereas the thicker ones leaned a bit toward brownie. A real winner for years to come!

    Great endorsement – glad we could add another cookie to your “must have” holiday list! PJH

  12. Bleecker

    Why is this shortbread recipe so different from the Thousand Dollar Bars recipe? Why not just add cocoa to that recipe?

    1. PJ Hamel

      They’re actually fairly similar, as I look at them – sugar/butter/flour/salt. The chocolate shortbread adds a bit more sweetness by using granulated rather than confectioners’ sugar, which makes sense, given the use of unsweetened cocoa; and it also adds baking powder, for a hint of lightness. You can certainly use the Thousand Dollar Bars base – I’d suggest reducing the flour to 1 2/3 cups, increasing the confectioners’ sugar to 1 1/4 cups, and adding 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder. Good luck – let us know how they come out. PJH

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