I could sense some doubt when I mentioned making a gluten-free shortbread.

I heard, "You can't do that, it just won't work" enough times to almost start believing it myself. I was like the kid who was discouraged from doing something dangerously daring and just wanted to do it anyway to prove everyone wrong.

Armed only with a gluten-free butter cookie that crumbled like a dry sandcastle when touched, I was ready for some structure science. This drop cookie was great for a trifle maybe, but not-so-impressive for solo presentation.

True shortbread should be strong enough to be cut in to wedges or squares, but still tender enough to melt in your mouth.

Unable to settle for a drop cookie, I vowed to play with my ingredients and search for the missing link as if to solve an algebraic equation.

So with a number of changes to the butter cookie formula (and a few choice curse words), I was able to strengthen the outcome and still achieve a sturdy, yet tender cookie.

This shortbread recipe is a perfect blank canvas, plain and simple, or can be made with any variety of flavorings. Let's make a batch!

Preheat your oven to 350°F and lightly grease two 9" x 9" square baking pans.

Start with 1 1/2 cups of softened butter and 3/4 cup granulated sugar in your mixing bowl.

Beat until light and fluffy.

Add to that mixture the grated rind (zest) of 2 oranges; 1 teaspoon of Fiori Di Sicilia or 1/2 teaspoon orange oil...

...and 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste. Stir until blended.

Beat in 3 large egg yolks (medium-low speed) until emulsified. Scrape the bowl thoroughly, and stir again briefly.

In a separate bowl, combine the 3 cups gluten-free multi-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and stir into the butter mixture just until blended.

Scrape the bowl well to be sure all dry ingredients are thoroughly incorporated.

Divide the mixture evenly between the prepared pans.

Bake at 350°F for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the edges are nicely browned. The recipe also works well cut in half, so if you don't have a lot of holiday baskets to fill or just want to keep em' all for yourself, make one pan instead of two. I won't tell!

Wait about 10 minutes before turning the shortbread out of the pan gently. You can line the pans with parchment to ensure a cleaner release, but I liked the imprint from the pan ridges and had no difficulties turning out the shortbread.

I tested this batch with chocolate chips, knowing that if I could get it to stay together with pieces of nuts or chocolate, I had a true winner.

Cut immediately into squares, wedges, octagons – whatever pleases you – while the shortbread is still warm.

Wait too long and you'll have a major cookie-cutting fight on your hands – one that will quickly crush your holiday spirits.

The shortbread passed both the knife AND taste tests. I was happy to finally rest and put this one behind me so it could go in FRONT of you!

Joyful holiday gluten-free cookie baking everyone!

Please read, bake, and review our recipe for Gluten-Free Orange-Vanilla Shortbread Cookies.

Print just the recipe.

Amy Trage
The Author

About Amy Trage

Amy Trage is a native of Vermont where she spent much of her childhood skiing and training for the equestrian event circuit. With a strong desire to pursue food writing, Amy took her English degree from Saint Anselm College to the New England Culinary Institute where she immediately discovered a focused interest in baking and pastry. Both The Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas, and The Inn at Shelburne Farms helped shape her skills in dessert-making. She came to King Arthur Flour in November, 2010, where she found an outlet for both baking and writing. Amy likes to spend time with her three children. Any other free time may find her singing, running or working on her poetry collection.