A bite of shortbread can leave you feeling woozy from the crumbly buttery flavor! However, getting shortbread to taste that good can be a tad hard.
You can use whatever butter and sugar you want to bake it. However, when it comes to flour, you’ll need to ask yourself one thing: what are the best flour options for shortbread?
Is it bread flour? Or is it cake flour? Could it be something else entirely?
To find the answer, get your oven mitts ready and read on because we’re going to give you the lowdown on shortbread!
Despite what the name suggests, shortbread isn’t little pieces of bread. In fact, shortbread is simply a type of cookie or biscuit.
The story begins a couple of decades ago in an unexpected place, Scotland! Back then, when there was any leftover dough from making bread, the Scots took it, shaped it, and cooked it again until it hardened.
The word biscuit actually refers to the fact that they cooked the dough twice!
As their experimentation continued, they switched the yeast for butter, and soon enough, we had the shortbread biscuit.
It wasn’t an everyday snack, though; the Scots reserved it as a luxury for times of celebration such as weddings, Christmas and Hogmanay.
While sugar and butter are undoubtedly crucial in making your shortbread, nothing is as detrimental to the final result as the flour you use. Why, you might be wondering?
Different flour types can affect your baked goods’ flavor, structure, and texture! This is because each flour type contains different amounts of protein, which means different amounts of gluten.
More protein in the flour means more gluten, which means your biscuits will come out chewy and gummy rather than crumply and crisp.
Yet, some people love a chewy texture in their shortbread! So, to pick the suitable flour, you must sort through your needs and preferences first and then look at our handy list:
This time, the name really means what it says! All-purpose flour (AP flour) is every cook’s savior, as it can help with creating many goods such as cakes, cookies, and even pizza dough.
AP flour is made from soft and hard wheat varieties with their bran and germs completely cleared. It has a 10–12% protein content that can vary from brand to brand.
This flour can help you create the traditional shortbread cookie with a nice texture without being too rubber or too dry.
Cake flour is right below AP flour with 7–9% protein content. Cake flour, as you’ve already guessed, isn’t designed to create biscuits!
The low gluten content and the fact that cake flour is chlorinated to help it retain moisture means that your shortbread cookies will come out too soft and rubbery.
Sure, they might be chewy and tender, but they won’t have the crispy cookie texture, and they’ll crumble easily.
If you want to have the best of both worlds, softness mixed with crispiness, you can combine 50% AP flour with 50% cake flour!
Pastry flour isn’t that much different than cake flour, as its protein content is just around 8–10%. However, this small difference created a huge impact.
Instead of leaving you with a rubbery shortbread cookie, pastry flour can offer you a light and flaky texture with a bit of chewiness.
This is because the protein content is a tad higher, which helps in making the cookies sturdier and more crunchy.
Though we saved it for last, bread flour has the highest protein percentage on our list, standing at around 12–14%. This might be okay when you’re making cookies, bread, or muffins, as it’ll give you the much-needed sturdiness.
However, with shortbread, there’s a chance the biscuits will come out too hard, making them downright unpleasant.
Yes, you can certainly use self-raising flour to make shortbread!
Self-raising flour is almost the same as AP flour, but you have the extra leavening component already added to the flour.
Though, you should keep in mind that you don’t need any leavening agents. When it comes to shortbread, all that’s required is butter, flour, and some sugar! So, using this flour won’t cause any trouble.
Self-raising flour has around 9% protein, which is a bit less than plain flour. As a result, it’ll leave you with a soft biscuit that’s not too chewy with a flaky body.
As we mentioned, most people want their shortbread to be tender yet crispy. Sadly, with its high protein content, bread flour usually produces rubbery biscuits that’ll get hard quickly.
However, if you want to use it, there’s no stopping you—maybe you’ll luck out!
Yes, you can use almond flour to make shortbread. In fact, baking shortbread with almond flour is an excellent way to make the biscuits healthier!
Almond flour has fewer carbs than most flour types out there, and it’s packed with more nutrients.
Moreover, it allows your body to absorb all these nutrients because it has less phytic acid than other flours.
To bake shortbread, you don’t need a specific kind of flour, like cornflour or cake flour.
If you have flour (whichever type you prefer), butter, and sugar, then there’s no reason why you can’t make some shortbread!
Actually, the only catch in preparing shortbread is that you need to be careful with your measurements.
For example, too much butter can brown your biscuit, and too much sugar can make it too sweet.
It’s often said that if you want to make an omelet, you’ll have to break a couple of eggs.
And unfortunately, when it comes to making shortbread, there are three main ingredients you can’t get around without breaking: butter, sugar, and flour.
The mouthwatering texture of the shortbread is the result of a delicate balance between these three.
So, losing one of them would lead to changes in the key characteristics of the biscuit, which would make for a very untasty shortbread.
If you’re concerned about making the shortbread gluten-free, though, then you don’t have to use wheat-based flour. Instead, you can aim for almond or coconut flour.
Here’s a tip, you don’t need a specific type of flour to make shortbread. It’s all about preference and taste.
Rice flour is a gluten-free alternative that you can use instead of wheat-based flour to make the biscuits. It’ll leave you with a delicate texture that’s slightly more crispy than the modern version.
If you don’t prefer rice flour, you can try anything else, and it’ll probably still work with some tweaking.
People use rice flour in shortbread for various reasons. First, it seems that the traditional way to make shortbread—like the Scots!—involved a little bit of rice flour.
Moreover, many people are gluten-intolerant, and using rice flour to bake allows them to enjoy their favorite treat.
Lastly, it could just be about preference! The extra crunch rice flour gives to shortbread is a favorite of many.
Sifting your shortbread’s flour isn’t a must.
Nevertheless, giving your flour a good sift isn’t a bad idea, either. It’ll help you eliminate any clumps and leave you with consistent dough.
So, have you decided what are the best flour options for shortbread yet? If you haven’t, it’s alright. There are many options to choose from, which can be confusing.
The trick here is to think about what texture you prefer for the shortbread. If you want something crispy enough to dunk in a cup of tea, then go with rice, self-raising, or AP flour.
If you’re aiming for something chewy and tender, then bread and cake flours aren’t a bad choice.
Pastry flour is the middle ground; it’s not as hard as bread flour, but it has enough protein to keep things tender!
Whichever you choose, we hope you have fun making the shortbread and that it’s tasty!
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.