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The Ultimate Valentine Shortbread Cookies

Updated on February 12, 2017
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Jean—a creative self-taught cook with a passion for helping people develop their cooking skills—has worked as a cooking instructor.

Delicious Valentine shortbread cookies
Delicious Valentine shortbread cookies | Source

The Ultimate Valentine's Day Shortbread Cookies

Shortbread is such a luxurious cookie any time of year. It is typically eaten during the winter holidays but I love it any time of the year. It is a real treasure for Valentines because of its versatility. You can almost taste the passion and the caring in each bite. You can serve these cookies fairly plain or you can totally dress them up to the nines. If you can let your creative juices flow, you can create works of art with some different colored icings and various edible embellishments.

The real taste of shortbread comes from the butter so the kind and quality of the butter you use is really important for all kinds of shortbread. Unsalted butter is made from fresher cream than salted butter. Unsalted butter is also called sweet butter. It is the best butter for shortbread.

To roll and cut heart shaped cookies requires a slightly heavier dough than the whipped types of shortbread and the dough needs enough character to hold together when transferring the cookies to the baking sheets. Any additions to the dough need to be small enough or soft enough not to interfere with the cookie cutter when shaping the hearts. For perfect shortbread cookies do not over mix or over knead the dough.

Do not bake the cookies to a deep golden brown, shortbread cookies are baked until they are just set, with very little color. Now, lets bake and decorate shortbread for Valentines!

Tips and Tricks for Making Shortbread

As you read through the recipes below, you will notice there are several different ways to mix the dough, but the reality is if you put all the ingredients together in a bowl or plastic bag and mix it up, it would still make fabulous shortbread.

Shortbread dough is fairly delicate. It is best if it is not over mixed or over handled but you can bake it different ways:

  • You can flatten it into a square pan, bake it then cut it into fingers
  • You can bake it in a round cake pan, then score it into the classic wedges
  • You can press it into a classic shortbread mold, unmold it, then bake it
  • You can roll it 1/4 inch thick then cut it with cookie cutters then bake it
  • You can roll it into balls or small logs then bake them
  • You can roll it into a log, refrigerate it, then slice it before baking
  • You can use a small scoop and place mounds of cookie dough onto baking sheets before baking

Never use margarine to make shortbread. The taste and texture of classic shortbread comes from the freshest unsalted butter possible. If you can't afford the best unsalted butter, use salted butter. The only difference is that unsalted butter is made from fresher ingredients and it has a shorter shelf life.

Always use real vanilla extracts and flavorings. Imitation extracts will not give you the depth of flavor that these cookies deserve.

If dough is really soft, chill shortbread for an hour or more, wrapped in plastic wrap in the refrigerator. The dough will handle much better to roll and shape

.Bake shortbread cookies in a 300 degree F oven until they are set and just starting to color. For dough rolled ¼ inch thick, it about 8 to 12 minutes.

Shortbread cookies lend themselves very well to all kinds of decorations. Ice them, sprinkle them, drizzle them, sandwich them, the choice is yours. Have fun!

Fondant and Modeling Chocolate Molds for Shortbread

Use silicone molds to make fondant and modeling chocolate toppers for your shortbread cookies for an elegant and delicious presentation, especially since the modeling chocolate tastes so much better than fondant.

Unmold the modeling chocolate and let air dry a little before setting atop your shortbread with a little dab of diluted corn syrup.

The Ever Changing Flavors of Shortbread

  • Add any kind of nuts or seeds finely chopped to the dough, sprinkle them on top and press them in or roll the edges in them- poppy seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, pecans, or peanuts for example
  • Try all kinds of real extract flavorings to your dough – almond, lemon, orange, rum or coconut for example
  • Try scraping the insides of a vanilla bean pod into the dough for an exquisite taste
  • Try adding orange, lemon or lime zest to the dough along with the equivalent extract
  • Dip the edges of the shortbread in vanilla icing then into coconut, nuts, seeds, sprinkles or tiny decorative heart or tree sprinkles
  • Dip half of each cookie into melted white, milk or dark good quality chocolate or ganache for a decadent treat
  • Add instant coffee, espresso powder, flavored instant coffee mixes or ground cinnamon or nutmeg for an exotic taste
  • Find decadent jams, jellies, curds, buttercreams and other fillings to sandwich between two cookies for the ultimate shortbread sandwich!

Big Batch Valentine Shortbread Cookies

If you love cookie decorating then this is the recipe for you. Shortbread cookies are rich and buttery so you can't eat very many of them. If you cut them with a 2 inch cookie cutter you will have lots for decorating to send to school, take to the office or to give away to friends.

Big Batch Shortbread Cookies

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups butter, softened
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla

Blend the flour and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl with a heavy duty mixer beat the butter for 2 minutes until very creamy. Add icing sugar, gradually and beat until combined. Add vanilla and beat until very light and fluffy. Scrape sides of bowl often.

Turn mixer to low and slowly fold in flour mixture. Mix just until blended. Divide dough into 4 and scrape each piece of dough onto a piece of plastic wrap, wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. Take out one piece of wrapped dough from the fridge at a time and use before removing more dough from fridge.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line the bottoms only of 4 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. You now have the option of making 4 types of shortbread cookies or you can make all the same variety. It's up to you to decide which kinds you want to make. Let's look at what you can make:

Jam Thimble or Thumbprint Cookies - Roll the cookie dough into balls, dip them in beaten egg white, roll them in finely chopped nuts, put them on the cookie sheet, push a deep dent in them with your thumb or the end of a wooden spoon, bake them then fill them with jam as soon as they come out of the oven.

Mashed Shortbread - Roll the cookie dough into balls, mash with a fork and bake.

Ganache Shortbread - Roll the cookie dough out to ¼ inch thick. Cut the dough into 2 inch circles. Fold the edges up on three sides to form triangles. Bake, and when cookies are cool, fill holes with White, milk or dark chocolate ganache. You can also substitute jam or fruit curd.

Shortbread logs - Roll the shortbread into one inch logs. Dip one end of the log in beaten egg white, then into finely chopped nuts or coconut, then bake. When cool, dip the other end into melted chocolate or icing sugar.

Snowball Shortbread - Roll the shortbread into balls, then roll in icing sugar and bake.

Shortbread Shapes - Roll the cookie dough about ¼ inch thick, cut with cookie cutters and bake. Decorate with icing or leave plain.

Molded Shortbread - Press shortbread into a shortbread mold. Lay an ungreased cookie sheet upside down over the mold. Flip both over and unmold shortbread onto cookie sheet then bake.

Shortbread bars - Press dough into baking pan, with a bench scraper or sharp knife, score dough into 1" X 3" "fingers". Do not go all the way through, just the top 3rd of the dough. Use a fork and prick the top all over before baking.

Lemon Shortbread Cookie Dough With Egg Yolks

Normally traditional shortbread doesn't contain eggs but this shortbread has two egg yolks in it!

  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 2 cups soft butter
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp pure lemon extract
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • Additional icing sugar or granular sugar

With an electric mixer, cream the butter and the icing sugar until light and creamy. Add lemon zest, lemon flavoring and the egg yolks and beat again.

Turn mixer to low and mix in flour and cornstarch until mixture forms a smooth dough.

If dough is sticky, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper on the bottom only and set aside. Remove plastic wrap, pat the dough or roll it with a rolling pin to ¼ inch thickness on flat lightly floured surface. Using heart shaped cutter, cut as many hearts as you can from the dough. Re-roll the scraps to make the final cookies.

Using a teaspoon and a small sieve, gently dust icing sugar or granulated sugar lightly over the cookies. Bake until set and with very little color.

The baking time and the yield will depend on the size of your cookie cutter.

Peanut Butter Shortbread Hearts

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup very finely chopped roasted or honey-roasted peanuts

Heat oven to 325°F.

Combine the butter, peanut butter, and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl; beat with electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Beat in vanilla. Slowly beat or stir in the flour and cornstarch until mixture holds together. Blend in the very finely chopped peanuts.

Roll out on a lightly floured board to about 1/4-inch thickness and cut with valentine cookie cutters and place on an ungreased baking sheet or baking sheet lined with a silicone mat.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until cookies are set and bottoms just begin to brown. Cool on the pan for 5 minutes then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. If desired, melt 1 cup chocolate chips with 2 teaspoons of shortening and drizzle over the cookies.

Vanilla Whiskers Valentine Shortbread Cookies

Vanilla, chocolate and toasted coconut...Yum!

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted European-style butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup good quality semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips
  • 1 cup sweetened long flake coconut toasted

Sift flour, 3/4 cup powdered sugar, cornstarch, and salt into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Gradually beat in granulated sugar and vanilla. Stir in dry ingredients in 3 additions, mixing until just blended each time. Gather dough into ball; divide in half. Roll each piece of shortbread into a ball and wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least two hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Remove one ball of shortbread dough from the fridge and roll or pat it out to ¼ inch thickness on a slightly floured surface. Using valentine themed cutters, cut as many cookies from each rolled out shortbread portion as possible. Re-roll scraps until all dough is used.

Bake on an ungreased baking sheet until set and just starting to color. Bake time and yield will depend on size of cookie cutters used. Remove cookies from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before removing to racks to cool completely.

When cookies are cold, melt chocolate over hot water until fully melted. Dip one edge of each cookie in the chocolate, then into the toasted coconut. Let set on waxed paper until firm. Store between layers of waxed paper in an airtight container.

Almond Citrus Shortbread Hearts

  • 2/3 cup toasted almonds, ground in food processor
  • 1 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • Grated zest of 1 orange

In a saucepan over low heat, heat the almonds until they are lightly colored. Remove from heat and cool. Grind the almonds in a food processor until very fine.

In mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until smooth and creamy. Add the flour, cornstarch, ground almonds, almond extract, and lemon and orange zest; thoroughly combine. YOU MAY NOT NEED ALL THE FLOUR DEPENDING ON THE HUMIDITY IN YOUR AREA. At the 1 ½ cup point, add flour a tablespoon at a time until you have a firm dough.

Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to ¼ inch thick. Cut out as many of the same Valentine shapes as possible with cookie cutters.

Bake at 300 degrees F until cookies are set and just starting to color. Do not let the cookies brown. Remove from oven and let cool for about 5 minutes before removing cookies to racks to cool.

Sandwich two cookies together with lemon curd, jam or a white chocolate, lemon or orange frosting.

Baking time and yield will depend on size of cookie cutter used.

Iced Shortbread Hearts

  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup berry or white sugar
  • 1 tbsp finely grated orange zest
  • 2 cups butter

Mix flour, salt, sugar, and orange peel. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Work the dough with hands until it holds together; refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll dough 1/2 inch thick between sheets of wax paper; cut out with floured cutters.

Place on ungreased baking sheets and bake at 300 degrees F until cookies are set and just starting to color. Baking time and yield depend on size of cookie cutter used. Let cool on baking sheet for about 5 minutes before removing to racks to cool completely.

When cold, ice cookies with red or pink icing and drizzle contrasting color over cookies if desired..

Making Your Valentine Iced Cookies Look Fabulous

To decorate Valentine cookies so the icing doesn't get squashed or ruined, it is best to use an icing called Royal Icing on top of the cookies. You can use a soft icing in sandwich cookies.

Royal icing is a pure white icing that dries to a smooth hard finish. Because it finishes beautifully and it lends itself to color well, dedicated cooks like its versatility in piping decorations like flowers, borders and lettering onto cakes, cookies and other edible decorated items.

Royal icing is simply a mixture of icing sugar, lemon juice or cream of tartar and raw egg whites. Because of the risk of salmonella in raw egg whites, professional cooks have resorted to meringue powder as a safe substitute. Home cooks still use the egg white combination as there is not the same liability as with professional cooks.

Royal Icing With Egg Whites

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 3 cups icing sugar, sifted after measuring

In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat the egg whites with the lemon juice until they are both combined. Add the sifted icing sugar and beat on low speed until all the icing sugar is incorporated and the mixture is smooth.

The icing needs to be used right away or transferred to an airtight container or the icing will go rock hard fairly quickly.

Royal Icing Using Meringue Powder

  • 4 cups icing sugar
  • 3 tbsp meringue powder
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 -3/4 cup warm water

In the bowl of your electric mixer, mix the icing sugar and the meringue powder together until well mixed. Add the water and the flavoring extract and beat on medium to high speed until very glossy and mixture stands in stiff peaks. You may have to adjust the consistency by adding more water or icing sugar.

Use paste gel colors to color your icing. You can find it in baking, pastry and party supply shops. It is more concentrated and does not dilute the icing by needing to use too much of the liquid color. Once you have the icing separated into bowls and it is the color you need, then take half of it out again to use for a technique called flooding. You will need a thick and a thin color of each icing.

For flooding, you will add a teaspoon of water to the thinner icing at a time until it will flow but you don't want it watery. Here is how flooding works.

Taking the thicker icing, put it into a pastry or resealable bag with a number 3 tip. Pipe around the outside perimeter of the cookie with the thicker icing. Let it set up for about 30 seconds or so. Now you can either pipe the thinner icing of the same color onto the cookie or use a small teaspoon and then a toothpick to get it into any corners. While the flooded color is still wet, you can add a different thinned color to make polka dots or other designs. Doing it quickly will allow the second color to settle into the flooded color and dry flat. Allow the flooded colors to set for several minutes before adding any additional piping or layers to your design.

Once you are satisfied with your design you can let it set up for 4 to 5 minutes, then you can pipe #3 zigzags in any color you like over the top. Let the icing set up for an hour or so, before storing the cookies between layers of waxed paper in an airtight container.

Strawberry Shortbread Hearts

  • 1 1/2 cups soft butter
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1 small package of strawberry jelly powder
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 4 cups all purpose flour

Beat the butter and the icing sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the jelly powder and the egg yolks and beat again. Add the vanilla and mix to combine. Add flour and when you get about 3 cups into the dough, add the fourth cup gradually so you have a stiff pliable dough that is not crumbly. It needs to hold together. Cover the dough and let it rest for about 30 minutes.

On lightly floured surface, roll the dough to 1/4 inch thickness and cut with Valentine themed cookie cutters. Dust with red colored sugar or dragees. Transfer to ungreased cookie sheet and bake 300 degrees F until set but not turning brown. You want as little browning on the cookies as possible.

Bake time and yield depend on the size of the cookie cutter used.

Raspberry Shortbread Pillows

  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup berry or white sugar
  • 1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 cups butter
  • seedless raspberry jam or other flavor

Mix flour, salt, sugar, and orange peel. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Work the dough with hands until it holds together; refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll dough 1/2 inch thick between sheets of wax paper; cut out with floured cutters.

Place half the hearts on ungreased baking sheets and put a dollop of jam on each heart. Lay the other heart on top and seal with a fork or your fingers. Dust with sugar then bake at 300 degrees F until cookies are set and just starting to color. Baking time and yield depend on size of cookie cutter used. Let cool on baking sheet for about 5 minutes before removing to racks to cool completely.

Stencil Your Hearts

The best way to stencil your heart shortbread is to smoothly ice the tops of your cookies. You can do it quite easily by piping an edge around your cookie in the color you want to ice it. Then, used slightly thinned icing to flood the cookie withing the piping lines. Use a toothpick to get the icing to flow into the corners.

When that icing is dry, place the stencil over the cookie and brush the icing over the stencil onto the cookie in the same or a contrasting color.

You can also dust the stencil covered cookie with powdered confectioners sugar, strawberry drink mix or cocoa.

Easy Stenciled Shortbread

Red and white stenciled heart
Red and white stenciled heart | Source

More Stenciled Shortbread

Red and pink stenciled cookies
Red and pink stenciled cookies | Source

Red and White Stenciled Shortbread


Molding Modeling Chocolate for Shortbread

You can use one of the silicone molds to emboss the modeling chocolate or you can use the back of a knife or an embossing tool.

The best way to make these awesome cookies is to roll out the modeling chocolate, cut it with a heart shaped cutter, place it on the cookie then emboss it with the impression pad once it is on the cookie. The chocolate will retain its shape better and it will not stretch or retain fingerprints the same.

Hazelnut Shortbread Hearts

  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups roasted hazelnuts, ground*
  • 4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon butter or vegetable shortening

* To roast hazelnuts: Spread shelled nuts in a shallow pan and roast in a 275 degree F. oven for approximately 20 to 30 minutes or until skins crack. Remove from heat. Remove skins by rubbing warm hazelnuts in a towel. Finely grind hazelnuts (put in food processor); set aside.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

In a large bowl, lightly beat butter; add sugar and beat thoroughly.

In a small bowl, whisk maple syrup and vanilla extract together; add to butter mixture, scraping down sides of bowl. Mix in flour just until blended; add hazelnuts.

Cover bowl and refrigerate until dough is firm. Remove from refrigerator and roll into logs. Roll dough out on a lightly floured board and use cookie cutters to cut heart shapes.

Bake for approximately 12 to 15 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool on wire racks. Place baked cookies on ungreased cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.

While the shortbread cools melt the chocolate and butter or shortening in a stainless steel bowl over a pot of simmering water. Stir until chocolate is smooth and completely melted. Remove from heat.

Dip one side of the cookie into the chocolate; place back on cookie sheet to harden. Store in airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week.

Variation: For a delectable option, change butter measurement to 3/4 cup and add 1/4 cup hazelnut butter. This decreases the amount of saturated fat in the recipe and increases the wonderful flavor of hazelnuts.

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