Holiday Shortbread Squares: A Simple Christmas Recipe | From Overwhelmed to Organized: Holiday Shortbread Squares: A Simple Christmas Recipe

Friday, December 12, 2014

Holiday Shortbread Squares: A Simple Christmas Recipe

A few days ago I shared tips to help organize your holiday baking, so you can enjoy it, and not be overwhelmed during the process.  One of the tips was to choose simple recipes and I shared a bunch of easy recipes from friends of mine, all of which have only a few ingredients and simple steps.

Today, I want to share one of the very simple recipes we make every year for Christmas.  It's a holiday version of shortbread.  And when I say simple... I mean it!

I've been making this recipe since I was a kid.  We used to make it at least once a month.  Back when I lived at home and I used to bake every Saturday.  I just made it plain back then (no coloured sugar on top), and it was delicious.  But I've experimented the last few years with various toppings to make it a little more festive.

As an adult, I started making this recipe at Christmas as part of my homemade baked goods gifts I gave to friends, colleagues, neighbours, etc.  And I'd bring it to family gatherings as part of a tray of baked goods.

My daughter enjoys baking and has helped me bake this shortbread the last few years.  I love that it's such a simple recipe that she can help with all of it.  And neither of us feels like it's a chore that we have to spend hours doing.

Now, I should tell you, this recipe is a bit different flavour and texture than a more traditional shortbread.  It's more buttery, less dry, and a bit sweeter.  All good things in my opinion :)

Making Holiday Shortbread Squares

So did I mention that this is a simple recipe?  It really is.  There are only 4 ingredients!

I forgot to take a picture before we started (can you tell I'm not a food blogger?!).  So the butter isn't in this picture.  But it's kind of the most important ingredient so just use your imagination and picture some butter here!

{Please excuse the photo quality in this post... these pictures were taken on my iphone... I'm hoping Santa brings me a new camera for Christmas because mine is not working very well!}

Back to the recipe.  To recap, this recipe is just butter, sugar, vanilla extract, and flour!  Simple right?!

Oh and it's only a few steps.  That's my kind of baking :)

Ready to get started?  OK, first preheat your oven to 325 F and butter a 12 x 18 inch cookie sheet (or 2 smaller ones if you don't have a large cookie sheet).  Then cream together the butter, sugar, and vanilla.

Add the flour a bit at a time.  

The mixture will become very doughy so I usually knead it by hand at the end.

Spread dough in your pan evenly.  You do not want to have thin little edges going up the side of the pan from where you flattened it or they will turn browner and get crispier than the rest of the pan.

Decorate your shortbread with fork marks and/or coloured sugar (or anything else you'd like).

We usually use red and green coloured sugar.  It looks Christmasy and doesn't change the consistency of the shortbread at all.

Doesn't it look yummy?  Dough is one of the best parts of baking right?!

Ready to bake!  So proud :)

Bake your shortbread for 30 minutes or until barely golden.   It smells and looks SO good when it comes out!

Cut it into squares while the pan is still warm.  It will crumble too much if you do it when it's cool.  Trust me on that one... I've forgotten a few times and it's a big mess.  I do it almost right away out of the oven.  

After you've cut the shortbread into squares, let it cool completely in the pan.

Don't these look delicious?  And so festive!

We usually include these holiday shortbread squares on trays with other baked goods that we serve to guests or bring to holiday gatherings.

These squares freeze well, so you can make them ahead and not have to worry about fitting in time to make them in the middle of holiday busy-ness.  Not that they take long to make anyway... I think we spent more time taking pictures this time than actually baking!  It usually only takes a few minutes of prep time for these.  And they make a lot so it's a great return on the minimal time investment!

Holiday Shortbread Squares Recipe


  • 2 cups butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 cups flour
You can add 2/3 cup of chopped walnuts if you'd like, but we have some family members allergic to nuts so we usually skip them.  And my recipe says if you use unsalted butter you can add 1/2 tsp. salt to the flour but I think we usually get regular butter (at any rate I don't usually add any salt).  


  1. Preheat oven to 325 F
  2. Butter a 12 x 18 inch cookie sheet
  3. Cream together the butter, sugar, and vanilla extract
  4. Add the flour a bit at a time 
  5. Spread dough in your pan evenly 
  6. Decorate your shortbread 
  7. Bake for 30 minutes or until barely golden
  8. Cut into squares while pan is still warm 
Now enjoy your yummy shortbread!  It's just as good warm as it is at room temperature :)

So how's that for a simple holiday baking recipe?!  I hope you enjoy making it and eating it as much as we do!

What simple recipes do you like to bake for Christmas?  Do you ever adapt recipes to make them more festive?  What other tips do you have for making the holiday baking process simpler?

Happy organizing!

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