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Sugar Overload or Butter Bomb: Picking Between Sugar Cookies and Shortbread

Sugar Overload or Butter Bomb: Picking Between Sugar Cookies and Shortbread

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Looking for the perfect cookie to satisfy your sweet tooth?

Sugar cookies and shortbread cookies are equally popular, and preparing them won’t take much time. Both are classic cookies that are so versatile and can be enjoyed alone or incorporated into several desserts.

Yet, many people confuse them together, thinking that they’re same cookie type.

But I’ll explain everything you need to know in my sugar cookies vs. shortbread standoff to help you pick the right one for your next baking project. Ready?

Are Sugar Cookies Shortbread?

The quick answer is: No.

At first glance, sugar cookies can look like shortbread cookies, especially if you’re a newbie baker.

They’re both classic cookie recipes and share the basic ingredients. Yet, these are two different cookie types with different looks, textures, and culinary uses.

Sugar cookies rely on creaming butter and sugar to create a fluffy cookie dough. They’re more sweet as they contain more sugar and and typically contain other ingredients.

Shortbread cookies, on the other hand, have a 1:1 ratio of butter to flour in the batter and contain a smaller amount of sugar. They aren’t as sweet as sugar cookies.

You’d definitely find shortbread sugar cookies that bridge the gap between sugar cookies and shortbread cookies. These cookies contain more sugar than shortbread cookies and more butter than sugar cookies.

They’ll have a rich texture due to the large amount of butter but can be decorated with icing or frosting.

What is the Difference Between Sugar Cookies and Shortbread Cookies?

The combination of sugar, flour, and butter is the foundation of many sweet goodies. But, adding and removing ingredients leads to different results.

Sugar cookies and shortbread cookies are classic sweet treats that might look like each other, but several distinct differences set them apart.

1 – Main Ingredients

Sugar, flour, and high-quality butter are the basic ingredients used in both cookie types.

But sugar cookies call for using eggs, baking soda, baking powder, and vanilla extract. They typically contain more sugar, which gives these delicious cookies their famous name.

On the other hand, shortbread cookies contain more butter and flour, compared to the amount of sugar used.

But that’s it. There are no other ingredients, as they rely more on the natural sweetness and richness of the butter.

Unlike other cookies, when you prepare shortbread cookies, the butter has to be very cold to prevent the dough from spreading and give them their unique look and texture.

2 – Different Tastes

Now, it’s time for the bite test.

When you take the first bite, you’ll notice they’re cakey and slightly chewy on the inside, but they have a lovely crunch on the outside.

The vanilla extract adds more sweetness and richness, and you can flavor them by adding cacao or lemon flavor.

These cookies are overly sweet due to the addition of extra sugar but will taste amazing if you try to dip them in your cold milk. You can also dip them in chocolate.

It only gets better, because you can use any type of frosting or icing and top them with sprinkles. Using one batch of sugar cookies allows me to serve tens of flavors in one go.

Shortbread cookies are different.

They have a rich buttery taste as they lack any flavoring and contain less sugar, compared to other types of cookies.

They’re not overly sweet, so they do well when mixed with other ingredients to make various desserts. As a matter of fact, the butter adds a slight saltiness, which perfectly balances the sugar to make these delicious cookies the perfect foundation for sweet pies and cheesecakes.

3 – Unique Texture

Adding several ingredients and their quantity gives these two cookies distinctive textures.

Creaming the butter and sugar keeps your sugar cookies soft and chewy with crispy edges. The eggs in the batter make them moist and fluffy, while the leavening agents will make the batter rise.

The rather firm structure of these cookies makes them a good choice for decoration. You can dip them in chocolate or drizzle frosting on top of them, and they won’t break.

Shortbread cookies are rich and dense, thanks to using cold butter. They don’t contain a leavening agent or eggs, so they are crumbly and delicate.

These cookies won’t be chewy but will literally crumble if you hold them with a firm grip.

4 – Culinary Uses

Thanks to the different textures and tastes, sugar and shortbread cookies can be used for various purposes in the kitchen.

Sugar cookie dough can be rolled and cut into different shapes. This is why I always consider them the number one choice for creating designs at birthday parties.

Just apply frosting, icing, and sprinkles and give these cookies a distinctive look that suits your party theme.

But that’s not all. They are the perfect cookies to fill with jam for extra sweetness and a new flavor.

The cookies are a bit crunchy around the edges, so they hold their shape while decorating and shipping.

Shortbread cookies are more dense and can be enjoyed alone without any decoration. But in most cases, they’re incorporated into other desserts, giving them a rich foundation.

You can crumble shortbread cookies on top of your ice cream, layer them in a trifle, or press them to make a cheesecake crust. When they absorb a liquid, they will quickly break to make your desserts richer.

5 – How They’re Shaped

The first thing you’ll notice about sugar cookies and shortbread cookies is that the latter look a bit whiter. This is probably due to the high percentage of butter used in the dough.

Sugar cookies are usually rolled into balls, flattened, and cut into various shapes. They can also be flattened and pressed with a fork, or you can create a depression to add some jam in the middle for a burst of flavor in every bite.

Shortbread cookies are too crumbly to be rolled and cut into various shapes.

This is why they’re usually pressed directly into a pan and pressed to be baked. Once done, you can cut them using a knife into logs or sticks.

But that’s not the only option you have. You can also roll them into balls and slightly flatten them, or shape them into wedges.

If you attempt to use the cookie cutter on your shortbread cookie dough, the dough will stick to the cutter’s edges, and your cookies won’t turn out how you want them.

Why Do My Sugar Cookies Taste Like Shortbread?

Sugar cookies should taste sweeter than shortbread cookies, while shortbread cookies should be denser and richer.

If sugar cookies taste like shortbread cookies, there might be a few reasons.

You might be using too much butter in the recipe, which changes the taste and texture of your sugar cookies.

Ideally, the amount of butter should be half the amount of flour. Some recipes call for using more butter, so sugar cookies take on the qualities of shortbread cookies.

This might happen also if you’ve used cold butter or chilled the dough too long.

But what if you’ve used the right amount of butter and flour? This usually happens when you overmix the dough.

By vigorously beating the flour into the dough, it becomes overloaded with gluten, which makes the dough dense and crumbly. This is why you should gently mix the dough until the flour disappears, and then stop.

The texture can also be similar if you pack the cookie dough into tight balls, as this will prevent the creation of air pockets that make your sugar cookies fluffy and chewy.

Final Thoughts

Sugar cookies and shortbread cookies are similar yet very different.

They contain the main basic ingredients used in almost every cookie recipe; butter, flour, and sugar. But sugar cookies are packed with more ingredients and are typically sweeter thanks to the addition of a high amount of sugar.

These are the right cookies to use if you want to create decorative shapes or play with frosting, dips, and icing.

Shortbread cookies contain a 1:1 ratio of butter to flour, and this extra butter makes them rich, buttery, and not overly sweet.

You can’t really use these cookies for decorative purposes because they’re too crumbly. But their rich texture and taste make them an excellent base for various desserts like pies.

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