The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Irish Shortbread "Christmas Cookies"

dstroy's picture

Irish Shortbread "Christmas Cookies"

We have added Irish Shortbread cookies to our collection of holiday treats, the other favorite around here being the Magic Squares - although this recipe we've also called "Zoo Cookies", because they used to have these amazing cookies at the zoo, always expertly decorated to look like various zoo animals, which I admit to having gone sometimes with the cookie being the prime attraction. Then they seem to have quit selling them there, so I had to find out what sort of cookies they were to satisfy the occasional craving. Having found out what they're made of, I now know why they tasted so good, so we have to limit how often they get made. ;) I realized we've been making these regularly now and I've never posted the recipe, so I'm correcting that now.

Irish Shortbread

2 cups butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups flour.

Bring butter to room temperature.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
Cream the butter until it is the consistency of whipped cream.
Beat in the sugar. Add salt. Add flour in 4 portions (one cup at a time) mixing well after each addition.
Turn out onto a floured board and pat or roll to 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. (Dough was crumbly so required squashing to make it feel clay-like)
Cut into shape desired with a cookie cutter.
Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for about 20 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Wait till cookies are mostly cooled to ice.

Royal Icing

3 Tablespoons Meringue Powder (I can't find this stuff anywhere so I use some creme of tartar powder instead)
4 cups confectioners' sugar (about 1lb.)
6 Tablespoons warm water*
Add flavoring such as vanilla, almond, lemon, or whatever you like (I use vanilla)
Beat all ingredients until icing forms peaks (7-10 minutes at low speed with a heavy-duty mixer, 10-12 minutes at high speed with a hand-held mixer).
Recipe makes 3 cups.

NOTE: Keep all utensils completely grease-free for proper icing consistency.
* For stiffer icing, use 1 tablespoon less water.

We like to put out small bowls of icing with some food gel coloring and some clean paint brushes and then the kids do our decorating for us.


Marni's picture

Great tradtion!  My kids love the decorating too.  I think you can get meringue powder through Wilton the cake decorating company.  Store around here called Michael's sell the cake decorating stuff.


SylviaH's picture

What a great time the kids must have had decorating the lovely cookies. 

Years and years ago my Uncle who had a resturant told me about meringue powder and how it was used to make the meringue on pies.  Because it basically is just a powdered egg white 'pasterized'.  He gave me a large tin..half full of it.  Michaels does carry it... you can use just a fresh egg white. 

When making your frosting add an egg white to it in place of some of the water and it makes the frosting get hard and sets up nicely for cookies.

Some worry about using egg whites...I always use very fresh eggs, for meringues, frostings, Caesar salads the whole egg..and never had a problem. 


dstroy's picture

It's one of those things where I personally don't worry about eggs, but when it involves the kids, I tend to err on the side of caution... particularly since the icing doesnt get cooked.

I dont know why they dont sell the stuff in normal stores! The bakery gal at our local Safeway said she only sees it in industrial size packages for the bakery, but she couldnt sell me a smaller amount.

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Love the colors! I've never made shortbread with brown sugar, but it sure sounds good  : )

SylviaH's picture

You can usually find the cartons in the refrigerated section of the grocery store..Organic Valley is one brand.

mredwood's picture

sold under the brand name of little Deb. I have seen it on the shelves of the grocery store but can't remember when & where. It is one of those odd things the discount stores that are popping up all over are selling. One time I bought about 7 cans for a dollar each. Keep eyes open in the discount basket at the grocery store. 


dstroy's picture

I found some at the craft chain-store, Michaels! I was actually looking for something completely unrelated and came across the stuff. Couldnt remember what I had needed it for but bought it anyway, and now that I see this I am glad I did because these cookies are fun to make every year!