Snowflake Shortbread: simple, yet stunning

Shortbread cookies are one of the easiest and most delicious desserts to make.

Don’t let the simple ingredient list fool you: shortbread are buttery, sweet, crunchy, and so hard to stop eating! And while they can easily be made in cake pans, baking them in molded shortbread pans turns these cookies into elegant little masterpieces.

Snowflake Shortbread via @kingarthurflour

My favorite? Our Snowflake Shortbread Pan. I love that just like the icy originals, each snowflake square has a different pattern. The sturdy, heavy cast aluminum pan bakes crisp cookies with ease.

I don’t have a lot of room in my kitchen, so this shortbread pan is actually the only one that lives on my shelves. Snowflakes look cute all year long, right?!

Snowflake Shortbread via @kingarthurflour

As holiday cookie baking is finally here, we want to share some tips for making perfect snowflake shortbreads – as well as some tricks from our food stylist on how to get the best patterns from your pan.

1) Use salted butter in your shortbread, if possible.

Although we usually use unsalted butter in our baking here at King Arthur Flour, in this case salted is preferred.

Why? Because, with no liquid in the recipe, it’s difficult for added salt to disperse itself fully through the shortbread dough, and you may end up with unpleasantly gritty bits of salt.

2) Grease – but don’t flour – your pan.
Snowflake Shortbread via @kingarthurflour

The flour will disguise your pattern. Grease well – even non-stick pans should be greased. Be sure all of the nooks and crannies receive some spray, otherwise your pattern may stick in the pan. Spray works better than buttering or using vegetable shortening to get all over your surface.

3) Flattening dough is an art in itself.

For the best imprint from your pan, place the shortbread dough in the center of the pan, working it out towards the edges with your fingers.

If you’re having trouble pressing the shortbread flat in the pan because it’s sticking to your fingers, cover it with a piece of plastic wrap, and push on the wrap. Just be sure to remove the wrap before baking!

Snowflake Shortbread via @kingarthurflour

Even better, using a mini rolling pin or the back of a measuring cup instead of fingers will ensure a smooth and even distribution of dough.

4) Be sure to dock (prick with a fork) your dough.

Snowflake Shortbread via @kingarthurflour

That ensures that steam releases evenly from the dough during baking and will prevent any bubbles and pockets from forming.

If any bubbles do happen to form while baking, use a spatula to pat them down before they bake and set as air pockets.

5) Cut while still warm

Cutting the baked cookies while they are still warm ensures a clean cut and no crumbling. Once you remove the baked cookies from the oven, let them set in the pan for a minute or two (just until they feel firm enough to move), loosen the edges of the pan, and then turn the shortbread out of the pan and slice immediately. A pizza cutter or long knife works well for this.

6) Cool the pan in between multiple batches.

If baking multiple batches of cookies, be sure that your pan cools fully before adding more dough. Otherwise, the butter in the dough will melt and turn your cookies greasy. Warm dough will bake up with more air pockets, turning this already delicate cookie into a crumbly mess.

To cool your shortbread pan quickly, put it in the refrigerator.

7) A little chocolate never hurt.

Snowflake Shortbread via @kingarthurflour

Snowflake shortbread cookies are perfect as is, though they can always be dressed up with the addition of chocolate. But that was a given, right?

Holiday cookie baking season is officially upon us. We hope some elegantly delicious snowflake shortbread make an appearance on your cookie platter.

Tell us – do you have any other tips and tricks for creating perfectly patterned shortbread? Please share in comments, below!

Gwen Adams
About

Gwen Adams grew up in northern New Hampshire, on top of a mountain, surrounded by nature and not much else. After graduating from Lyndon State College in 2010, Gwen sought a career that combined her passion for writing with her love of baking. She found ...

comments

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      If you are looking to make a gluten-free version of this festive treat, try using our recipe for Gluten-Free Shortbread. This version has some orange zest (or orange oil) added to it for an additional layer of flavor, but feel free to leave it out if you prefer a vanilla version. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

    2. Jennifer

      I’ve used the Gluten-free Shortbread recipe on the website in this pan for the past 2 or 3 years. My several friends who are gluten free love this recipe and request each year.

  1. Colleen

    This was very helpful information. I recently bought the snowflake pan and will embark on making the shortbread cookies for the holidays. I always use unsalted butter, but your tutorial has me heading to the market for salted butter. Thank you very much!

    Reply
  2. Sue

    Are there any other uses for the shortbread pan? Can cakes or brownies be baked in it? I hate to invest in another single use pan.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We do have a few variations of shortbread recipes that you could bake in the snowflake pan or a similar shortbread pan. We have a Maple Shortbread recipe, Orange Cream Shortbread Cookies, Pistachio Shortbread, even Chocolate Shortbread! You are more than welcome to experiment using this pan for Springerle cookie recipes or some of our bar recipes. We haven’t tried this so you’d be experimenting, but it’d be a tasty experiment indeed! The possibilities await. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

    2. Linda

      I have used the pan to make paper castings for ornaments. Prepare your paper pulp, drain well, press into molds in a thin layer, let dry in a 250 Degree oven for 20 – 30 minutes. When dry, remove from pan, cut into squares with a sharp knife, paint with sparkling paints. Use glue gun to attach hanger and felt backing.

  3. Stephanie

    Thank you for the recipe and tips. How easy/difficult is it to remove the cookies from the mold? And what if you haven’t purchased a shortbread pan? (tips)

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Stephanie, if you spray the pan well, it shouldn’t be difficult to remove the shortbread. You may find this shortbread blog about baking shortbread in a cake pan helpful. Barb@KAF

  4. sandy

    I love shortbread and am always surprised at the recipe variations you find for such a simple cookie. The recipes in my old cookbooks don’t include vanilla. That is the way I made shortbread for years. The flavor came from the butter and the sugar. Newer recipe versions in the US and those from the UK include cornstarch. I have a friend from Scotland and she says her granny always added the cornstarch to make the cookie extra short (there is a lot of confusion about the term for cornstarch). I really like this KAF recipe, however. These are both beautiful and delicious cookies. What more could you ask for?

    Reply
    1. Valerie

      In the UK we had cornflour. Here we have cornstarch. The texture is not quite the same but I do use it instead of cornflour in my English recipes.

  5. Lucy

    I am wondering if you have any tips about cutting these cookies after they are baked. It appears that one runs a risk of them breaking unevenly.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Lucy, you will want to let the cookies set for a minute or two after you remove them from the oven (just until they feel firm enough to move), loosen the edges of the pan, and then turn the shortbread out of the pan. Cut while they’re still warm, or they’ll crumble when you cut them. A pizza cutter or long knife works well for this. Barb@KAF

  6. ann

    Just placed an order for the pan and can’t wait to make some cookies for Xmas. Is that a special roller in the picture to flatten out the dough?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Ann, this is a mini rolling pin. Unfortunately, this isn’t a product we sell. You could get similar results using a drinking glass or jar with straight sides. Barb@KAF

    2. Cindi

      I am sorry King Arthur, I truly love all,your products, but you can get a roller like that at Pampered Chef.

  7. Betty Ellen Lewis

    I was brought up with shortbread in the house. My mother sent it all over the country at the request of friends who moved away. My dad came here from Dundee in 1912 so shortbread was a christmas Staple. Her recipe and now mine, was very similar to yours but used no flavoring. Flour, confectioners sugar and butter only. The flavor is wonderful.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We have lots of shortbread pans to choose from on our website! We have a snowflake pan, a carousel pan, a star flower pan, and even a holiday shortbread mold that is wonderfully festive! Check those all out on our website here. Happy shortbread baking! Kye@KAF

  8. Jane

    I have been using this pan for a few years and make 2 pans with 1 pound of butter. Which recipe is this? Does it make 4 pans from 1 pound of butter and how long is the baking time and at what temperature? I always use baker’s joy in my pan. I give it 5 min to cool on a rack, put a wide enough cutting board on the top, flip it over (while wearing oven mitts) and lay the board on the counter. Then I give it a few taps and the whole cookie drops out. I use a long carving knife to cut it immediately and slide the cookies onto a cooling rack. The cooling rack sits on a baker’s half sheet which helps collect the crumbs. I use my grandmother’s shortbread recipe. Do you think it would work with gingerbread or speculas spice cookies and do you have any suggestions?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Jane, the recipe used in this blog is simply our shortbread cookie recipe. I will post the link to that recipe for you; http://bit.ly/1OqRXGP. This will answer your questions about temperature, baking time and quantity of cookies made. As for the alternative cookie flavors, we haven’t tried them in a shortbread pan, so it would be a bit of an experiment on your end, but I’m guessing they would be fine. If you decide to give it a try, let us know how they turn out! Happy baking, Bryanna@KAF

  9. L. Mutty

    Both parents are from Scotland. My mother’s receipe for shortbread calls for unsalted butter (as this has the freshest taste), no salt, flour and Superfine sugar. The butter is creamed with the Superfine sugar before adding the flour(s). She will sometimes substitute a small of rice flour for regular, but I prefer it without. There are no flavorings, such as vanilla, added to traditional shortbread. The top is lightly dusted with Superfine sugar or small colored sugar crystals at the Holidays. This is the best shortbread I have ever tasted and receives rave reviews from everyone.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      The recipe used in this blog is simply our shortbread cookie recipe. Here’s a quick link to it, Shortbread, so you aren’t distracted by the other flavors (maple, pistachio, orange cream, or the solstice shortbread with ginger!) you’ll find on our website. Happy Baking! Irene@KAF

  10. Rachel Lindstrom

    I tried pricking the shortbread after I rolled the dough in the pan, but my recipe anyway was so crumbly and not moist at all that the fork actually pulled up the shortbread that I’d just pressed down! So annoying. So I baked the shortbread for 10 minutes, quickly pulled it out of the oven and pricked it then and it went so smoothly! Then I put it back in the oven, and it came out great.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Sounds like you did some shortbread problem solving! We’re glad to hear you were able to figure out a solution that made some tasty results. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  11. Cheryl

    I just ordered the shortbread snowflake mold. Could you just clarify that the recipe for shortbread on your site is just enough dough to bake just one batch.

    Reply
    1. Gwen Adams, post author

      Hi Cheryl – The shortbread recipe that is featured in this blog actually makes 2 batches of shortbread. Be sure to allow your pan to cool between batches! Happy Baking! -Gwen

  12. Brenda from Flatbush

    My pet shortbread recipe is by Laurie Colwin (clipped from an old Gourmet article, I think), and she calls for 3/4 cup regular flour and 1/4 cup rice flour, saying it’s a Scottish trick for crispness. She pats it into a circle on a cookie sheet and scores it; I press the back of an ornate antique spoon into each wedge to pattern it; no need to invert and break the shortbread/one’s heart into little pieces. (Oh and it includes vanilla.) I tried upping my game with a round patterned beautiful shortbread pan (not KAF, I think), have brushed melted shortening in it with a pastry brush so carefully that I can’t believe spray (which I hate, since it lands on every surface in my kitchen) would cover the nooks and crannies any better—but I have yet to unmold it without DISASTER, despite trying a range of cooling times. Oh well…shortbread in irregular pieces pried from the pan still tastes incredibly delicious with coffee!

    Reply
    1. Mary Shaw

      I think it depends on the pan. Many “non-stick” pans turn out just as you describe. The newer Nordic ware special aluminum, lighter-colored grey pans are really the best. Also, spray is a pain but really makes a difference in the little nooks and crannies. Try holding the pan in the sink and spraying- maybe the mess will be better contained?

  13. Sheila

    Hi, I know you replied to a question regarding the pottery version of the pan using the same recipe and method. But it seems like regardless of my prep, for years I’ve always gotten a nice clean result from using a regular cake pan, and kind of a mess from my pottery pans, though I love their designs. Often I’m seeing a sort of pitted final top texture once I’ve turned them out…that is, when they do turn out cleanly. Is there really no separate trick to using the pottery pans? Help :)..

    Reply
  14. Nancy Heck

    Just wondering if all flour should be sifted first for baking cookies or if sifting first is only for cakes and also, should flour be measured before or after sifting?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Nancy, in general flour need not be sifted unless the recipe calls for it. When measuring flour by volume, we recommend fluffing the flour, then spooning it into the cup and then leveling the cup, as outlined in this link. If the recipes says, “3 cups flour, sifted” this means to measure first and then sift. If the recipe says, “3 cups sifted flour” this means to sift first and then measure the flour. Barb@KAF

  15. Carol

    One of the advantages of living in the SF Bay Area is the abundance of Meyer lemons this time of the year. I like to add the zest of one or two lemons plus the juice. It just adds a note of “freshness” to the shortbread. I have a friend who absolutely loves shortbread so I make her a plate whenever she is in town. She loves it!

    Reply
  16. da'Mama

    My darlin’ hubby cut a 1 inch piece of PVC pipe the width of the snowflake pan. Equal, even, firm pressure is obtained; rolling it over the plastic wrap is also a clever tip. Throw the PVC pipe in the dishwasher when all the pans are baked. Oh by the way, He cut the pipe to be used in the stoneware molds as well.

    Reply
  17. Denise Levenick

    Is it possible to make this recipe and use a springerle rolling pin to mark the cookie design? I have two beautiful Christmas springerle pins but we like shortbread cookies better 😉

    Reply
  18. Teri B

    I do have this pan and love it. If using your recipe, do you use 1/2 The recipe is in the pan at a time or the whole recipe ?

    Reply
    1. Gwen Adams, post author

      I split the recipe in half and baked off 2 rounds of shortbread, Teri. Popped the pan in the fridge for a few minutes before the next batch. Easy peasy! –Gwen

  19. Linda K. Turner

    I have a copper (non-stick) “12 Days of Christmas” imprinted pan I’ve never used~ I can’t figure out whether to pour melted chocolate 1/4″ deep first, then put in refrig. or bake a short bread receipt FIRST, cool, then pour melted chocolate over cookies that have been removed from pan. Please help~! There is a commercial cookie that has the chocolate on top, then the 1/4″ short bread on the bottom. How do they do it? RSVP~ Thanks~ Linda

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      How this can be done is bake plain shortbread cookie (no impressions). Then use pretty mold for the tempered chocolate impressions. A couple test runs will be necessary. Attach the tempered chocolate onto the plain cookies with a dab of melted chocolate (as glue). Here is more on tempering! Good luck! Elisabeth@KAF

  20. ginger jenkins

    Where , oh where, did you get that darling pan with all the different snowflake designs in it??? I’d be SO grateful if you could tell me! Thanks!

    Reply
  21. Lucy

    I made shortbread in this pan…almost perfect. The recipe is great. The cookies turned out to be larger than I thought they would be–a visual thing, I guess. I would prefer if they had been about the size of Lorna Doone cookies. Thanks for all of the tips.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      If these cookies are just a bit too bit for your liking, you could try cutting them in half although the design would also be cut in half. You could also consider baking the second half of the dough (half of this recipe fits in the snowflake pan) on a cookie sheet as a square or round of dough. Then you can cut the shortbread cookies to the size you like. Happy shortbread baking! Kye@KAF

  22. Sandra Dobday

    I take the shortbread out of the oven just before they are done, sprinkle on chocolate bits, put it back into the oven for a minute or two and then take it out and spread the chocolate evenly. Some of the time I also sprinkle chopped nuts onto the chocolate when it has been spread. After a couple of minutes, I tip the pan upside down onto aluminum foil on the counter. I cut the squares apart at this time and let them cool completely.

    Reply

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