No Christmas cookie box is complete without a great shortbread cookie, and these two-bite shortbread cookies might even end up being the star. Festive, super-simple to make, and melt-in-your-mouth buttery goodness, they’re perfect for gifting. But, be sure to double the recipe, and freeze a batch for yourself for later.
History of Shortbread
Shortbread originated during medieval times with what was called “biscuit bread.” Leftover dough from bread making was dusted with sugar and spices then dried out in a low oven until it hardened into a hard, dry biscuit or a twice-baked bread. Eventually, the yeast in the bread was replaced by butter, and biscuit bread developed into shortbread.
Because shortbread was expensive and considered a luxury, it was a special treat reserved just for special occasions, particularly Christmas and Hogmanay/New Year. The custom of eating shortbread at New Year has its origins in the ancient pagan Yule Cakes which symbolized the sun. In Scotland, it is still traditionally offered to “first footers” aka the first person to cross a home’s threshold after midnight on New Year’s Eve who determines the homeowner’s fortune for the coming year.
Although shortbread was prepared during much of the 12th century, the refinement of shortbread is credited to Mary, Queen of Scots, who in the mid-16th century was said to be very fond of Petticoat Tails, a thin, crisp, buttery shortbread. This type of shortbread was baked, cut into triangular wedges, and flavored with caraway seeds.
Shortbread is traditionally made from three main ingredients: flour, sugar, and butter and formed into one of three shapes: one large circle divided into segments (“Petticoat Tails”); individual round biscuits (“Shortbread Rounds”); or a thick rectangular slab cut into “fingers.”
Christmas & Hogmanay in Scotland
Did you know that Christmas was banned in Scotland for almost four centuries?
Before the Reformation in 1560, Christmas in Scotland was called Yule and was celebrated in a similar fashion to the rest of Catholic Europe as a religious feasting day. However, the Reformation transformed attitudes towards anything related to Roman Catholicism, including Christmas. The Scottish Church led the fight for the abolition of festival days and other church holidays, and Scottish Parliament passed a law in 1640 that made celebrating ‘Yule vacations’ illegal. It wasn’t until 1958 that December 25 became a Scottish public holiday.
One of the biggest party days in Scotland occurs on Hogmanay aka New Year’s Eve. It is believed that many of the traditional Hogmanay celebrations were brought to Scotland in the early 8th and 9th centuries by the invading Vikings. The Norse paid particular attention to the arrival of the Winter Solstice and celebrate its passing with some serious partying.
Because Christmas was ‘banned’ up until the late 1950s, Scots celebrated their winter solstice holiday at New Year when family and friends would gather for a party and to exchange presents, with many celebrations lasting for days! An integral part of the Hogmanay party that has continued on through the centuries with much gusto is to welcome friends and strangers with warm hospitality and kisses.
To bring good luck to the household for the next year, “first footing” (or the “first foot” in the house after midnight) is still common across Scotland. The first foot should ideally be a dark-haired male (harkening back to the tall, dark, and handsome Nordic men), and bring with him symbolic pieces of coal, shortbread, salt, black bun, and whisky.
Edinburgh now hosts one of the world’s biggest and most famous Hogmanay street parties, with a torch-lit parade, fireworks display, music, and merrymaking.
Two-Bite Shortbread Cookies
These Two-Bite Shortbread Cookies are perhaps our favorite way to holiday. They’re easier to pull together than sugar cookies…and way more addicting. They come together quickly in a stand mixer and are easy to customize for any holiday or celebration, just swap out the red and green sprinkles with the colors of your choice. Just be sure to make extra, they’ll be gone before you know it!Print
No Christmas cookie box is complete without a great shortbread cookie, and these two-bite shortbread cookies might even end up being the star. Super-simple to make and melt-in-your-mouth buttery goodness, they’re perfect for gifting. But, be sure to double the recipe, and freeze a batch for yourself for later.
- 228g (1 cup) Irish butter, room temperature
- 130g (1/2 cup) raw sugar (regular granulated is ok too)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 280g (2 cup) all-purpose flour
- 90g (1/2 cup) mini chocolate chips
- 2 tablespoon sprinkles, plus more for topping
- 114g (4 oz) chocolate of your choice, chopped
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F
- Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, combine butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla extract. Beat on medium until combined and light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
- Slowly add the flour and mix on low until dough comes together, another minute.
- Add the mini chocolate chips and sprinkles and knead by hand until evenly distributed.
- Place the dough on parchment paper and roll until dough is 1/4-1/2 inch in thickness. As you roll keep the dough in a square shape to make cutting easier. Freeze the dough for 15 minutes.
- Cut dough into 1-inch squares and transfer to large baking sheets spaced ¼-½ inch apart (shortbread won’t spread much during baking). Bake 20 minutes until light golden in color. Let the cookies cool on the pan.
- Place chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and heat in the microwave in 30-second increments until melted and fully combined, stirring after each 30-second interval.
- Once cooled, drizzle with melted chocolate and top with remaining sprinkles.
Store in an airtight at room temperature for up to 5 days
TIP: Mix and match your sprinkles and mix-in for a fun treat any time of the year!
white chocolate chips
Pin For Later
This is part of my “Christmas Around the World” series. Check out more foods and traditions around the world:
USA- Pecan Pie Stuffed Cupcakes
Greece- Greek Butter Cookies
Philippines – Bibingka
25 Christmas Desserts Around The World
France – How to Make Buche de Noel