These one-bowl, no-mixer Thanksgiving Shortbread Cookies are crisp, buttery and super delicious! They're perfect for snacks, gifts and entertaining. Each one is a work of art!
Are you getting in the Thanksgiving frame of mind yet? If you live here in the U.S., you probably realize that the holidays, starting with Thanksgiving, are rapidly approaching. That means all kinds of planning, cooking, traveling (for many) and lots of special times with family and friends. These Thanksgiving Shortbread Cookies are a delicious (and fun) way to celebrate the beginning of the holiday season! In addition to a sweet treat for snacking or dessert, they make wonderful gifts and decorative placeholders at the table.
If you're a follower of The Café you probably know that I'm always on the hunt for new and better recipes. But not in this case. This is a super easy, never fail shortbread recipe that I use over and over. It's one-bowl, no-mixer and the dough can be stirred together in less than 10 minutes. You may recognize that it's the same recipe I use with my Easy Decorated Shortbread Cookies, my Spring Shortbread Cookies and my Christmas Shortbread Cookies.
Shortbread cookies that don't spread in the oven
I was honestly on the hunt for years for a shortbread recipe that wouldn't spread in the oven. I tried recipe after recipe hoping to find "the one" but was disappointed time after time. The cookies would look great before baking but then would spread into ugly, almost unrecognizable shapes when retrieved from the oven.
Several years ago, I was thrilled to finally come up with delicious shortbread that comes out with clean, crisp edges. The secret? Actually, there are several. One is to substitute corn starch for a small portion of the flour. This recipe originally called for 2 cups of flour. I now use 1¾ cups flour and ¼ cup of cornstarch. The second trick is to chill the cut cookies before baking. The combination of these two steps, along with the right proportion of ingredients, yields a dough that's perfect for cutout shortbread cookies.
One other thing I love about this shortbread recipe - it's delicious!! Have you had any of those beautiful cookies that just don't taste very good? What good is a pretty face without good character, right? No problem here, these cookies come out buttery, crisp and so tasty!
An easy decorating technique
You might think that the beautiful marbling on these Thanksgiving Shortbread Cookies would be tricky to achieve, but it really couldn't be much easier.
The cookies are simply dipped in an easy two-ingredient icing (plus flavoring) that has several drops of food coloring swirled through it. I call it my "Dip, Drip and Flip" technique. It's fun, and you'll feel like an artist when you're done! Check out the step-by-step picture tutorial below!
You can also check out a video of how to do this decorating technique on my Red, White and Blue Shortbread Cookies post. I used this same technique with my Glazed Shortbread Cutout Cookies. Hmm... I'm beginning to feel like an old stick in the mud, using the same ideas over and over...
I promise when you serve or give these Thanksgiving Shortbread Cookies to family, friends, neighbors, teachers, hairdressers, etc., you WILL NOT be received like an old stick in the mud. I can't promise, however, that the family, friends, neighbors, teachers, hairdressers, etc. won't beg you to make these pretty treats over and over again!
Café Tips for making these Easy Thanksgiving Shortbread Cookies
- Don’t roll the cookies too thin if you’re going to ice them, as they won’t be sturdy enough for the icing technique. I love this rolling pin which enables me to roll an even thickness and is adjustable to just about any thickness you might want. I roll these cookies ¼-inch thick. You can also use ¼-inch wooden dowels on either side of a regular rolling pin to achieve a nice even dough.
- If you enjoy baking with kids, there’s an adjustable rolling pin available that’s just their size! It would make a wonderful Christmas gift for any little baker that you know!
- Allow enough time for the unbaked cutout cookies to chill in the refrigerator. You want to chill them at least an hour. If it’s longer they’ll be fine. I’ve left my unbaked cookies in the fridge for as long as 24 hours.
- There are lots of wonderful varieties of pure extracts available, so you can switch out the flavor of these Thanksgiving Shortbread Cookies to just about anything flavor you might fancy. I use vanilla and almond but lemon, raspberry, mint or orange would also be delicious.
- If your dough seems to stick to the counter or to the rolling pin, just flour the counter and rolling pin with a little extra flour. Roll the dough ball around in the flour, so it’s coated on all sides and lift up the edges to scoot a little flour under the dough as you roll.
- These cookies will harden nicely so they can be stacked on a platter, but not so hard that they would ship well.
- Since you're not using a mixer, the butter for this recipe needs to be very soft. That can be difficult during the colder months, even if you let the butter sit out for hours. A short stint in the microwave on power level 10 (10%) works like magic to soften butter. You’ll need to experiment a bit with your microwave though, as they’re all different. Start with 20 or 30-second increments at power level 10 until you learn how long your microwave will take to get the butter nice and soft, but not melted.
- A few tips on rolling and cutting out cookies:
- Keep your work surface and rolling pin lightly dusted with flour.
- I also like to rub the cutting edge of my cookie cutter in a little flour in between each cookie.
- Press fairly firmly when cutting out the cookies, but don’t twist or wiggle the cookie-cutter as the shape will get distorted.
- If you don’t have room in your refrigerator to chill the cookies on two sheet pans, just transfer all of them to one pan after cutting. Then later, once they’re chilled, you can divide them between the two pans for baking.
- When re-rolling the scraps, incorporate as little of the flour on the work surface as possible to ensure tender cookies.
- Occasionally, some of the cookies will be slightly puffed on the top when removed from the oven. You can give them a nice flat top by pushing on the top gently with a metal spatula.
- I like to rub a toothpick along the edges of each cookie before dipping to remove any crumbs.
- Use a clean toothpick each time you dip into the food coloring to avoid contamination, as well as cross-color blending.
- I used Wilton gel food colors in Ivory, Brown, Copper and Orange for a pretty autumn look. You can vary the colors to suit your taste/decor.
- I got my turkey cookie cutter from Amazon.
- 8 ounces very soft butter
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 4-5 tablespoons half and half
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract
- 3-4 containers of gel food coloring
Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper. Set aside. Place soft butter in a medium-size mixing bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon or sturdy spatula until nice and smooth. Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Mix together by hand for about 30 seconds until well blended.
Add the flour and cornstarch. Stir until dry ingredients are incorporated. The dough will be a little shaggy. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and gather into a ball. Knead 5-6 times until fairly smooth.
Form into a ball again and flatten with your hand to form a flat disk. Turn the disk to coat both sides with flour.
Roll out the dough to an approximate ¼-inch thickness (see Café Tips above in the post). Keep work surface, dough and rolling pin lightly dusted with flour. Cut out turkeys and transfer to prepared pans with a thin, metal spatula. Re-roll scraps as many times as needed to use up the dough. Place cutouts in the refrigerator for at least one hour or up to 24 hours.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375˚F. Remove 1 pan of cutouts from the refrigerator and bake for 12-14 minutes, or until just beginning to turn golden at the edges. Rotate pans halfway through for even browning. Repeat with the second pan of cutouts. Cool completely before icing.
Combine powdered sugar, 4 tablespoons half and half and extracts in a medium-size bowl. Mix until smooth. The glaze should be fairly thick, but pourable. Add a little more half and half if too thick. Taste the glaze and add more extract, if a more intense flavor is desired. Transfer the glaze to a small shallow bowl (a little bigger than your cookies).
With a toothpick, add a small amount of each desired color of gel food coloring swirl lightly through the icing. Don’t swirl too much or the icing will become a solid color. Use a light hand with the gel food coloring. A little goes a long way!
To glaze the cookies, hold onto the edges of a cookie and dip the top surface into the glaze, being sure all of the top touches the glaze. Pull cookie straight up and out of the glaze. Allow excess glaze to drip back into the bowl for about 15-20 seconds. (see pictures above in post).
When glaze stops dripping, quickly flip the cookie to the right side up and give it a gentle jiggle to allow the glaze to flow evenly over the surface. Repeat with remaining cookies. Place cookies on a cooling rack and allow glaze to dry for 20-30 minutes.
Makes 10-12 cookies, depending on the size of your cookie cutter.
See Café Tips above in post for more detailed instructions and tips.
I got my turkey cookie cutter from Amazon.
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