winter shortbread

winter shortbread |

I heard sweet laughter coming from the other room.

Giggles. Belly laughs.

It was music to my ears. Winter has been really rough this year, especially for the boys. It’s brutally cold. And because of the frigid temperatures we’ve been cooped up in the house for what seems like an eternity. The day-to-day struggles have become routine; digging out the cars, salting the ice and shoveling snow. Hearing them play, completely unaware of the seasonal stress made me smile.

Then it stopped.

No more laughter.

I quietly approached their room to investigate… but they were gone.

Both boys were up to their elbows in toilet water!

I caught them drowning a stuffed animal in the toilet, OK? They had ripped it open, exposing all of its polyester stuffing which clogged the bowl. Yes, that puffy white stuff that looks like cotton balls.


I quickly disappeared to grab rubber gloves and a garbage bag while threatening them to stand still.

When I came back, I wanted to scream. I found them both peeing in the toilet!


Who are these creatures?!

winter shortbread |

But it was partially my fault.

Thirty minutes prior to the stuffed animal incident, we were baking cookies.

Cookies + sugar = crazy.

It was a natural progression, I guess.

winter shortbread | theclevercarrot.comwinter shortbread |

About those cookies…

I’m a traditionalist when it comes to baking. Call me boring but I like the classics; buttery shortbread, chocolate chip cookies, and oatmeal raisin to name a few. I’ll bake them over and over again.

As a result of repetition, these recipes usually evolve into something slightly different than the original.

This time I experimented with shortbread. My grandmother used to make a cherry crumble dessert with the most delicious crumb topping. Everyone went crazy for that crust! It was light, buttery, crispy, crumbly…

Instead of using her recipe to make a crumble, I was inspired to morph the dough into cookies.

Her secret?

It was made by hand with salted butter and egg yolks.

winter shortbread | theclevercarrot.comwinter shortbread | theclevercarrot.comwinter shortbread |

Old vs. New

Now, if you are an avid shortbread maker you’ll recognize that a traditional recipe includes none of the above.

There are no eggs and salted butter is a big faux-pas in baking (you’re supposed to use unsalted butter so that you can control the sodium content). But I beg to differ- I’m using more and more salted butter in my baking these days because I like the flavor.

Did you know that salt makes cookie dough easier to roll? Who needs rules!

The final result rivals any good shortbread cookie. I’ve included a couple of variations if you’d like to play around.

To the dough:

  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract 0r 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • 1/4 tsp. Fiori di Sicilia extract- notes of lemon, orange, and vanilla

From a health stand point, the only way to reduce a significant amount of calories is to decrease the butter. However, this will drastically change the texture. And to be honest, shortbread is known for its melt-in-your-mouth texture. I’m not messing with it. Did I mention they’re mini?

You could always swap a portion of all purpose flour for whole grain or almond flour if you prefer.

winter shortbread | theclevercarrot.combutter (1 of 1)

We baked mittens and hearts…

winter shortbread | theclevercarrot.comwinter shortbread |

And so…

This is winter my friends.

And in the next couple of days, we’ll be trading in stir-crazy snow days for sun and sand… we’re going on vacation! It was quite the spontaneous decision. But so worth it. It will be the boys’ first time on an airplane (yes, I’m crazy) but a much needed break from the cold weather (I’ve got iPads!).

Stay warm where ever you are.

Talk soon, xo Emilie

winter shortbread |

Tips for Shortbread Success

  • Roll the dough between two sheets of parchment paper to prevent sticking. This is fool poof.
  • Bake low and slow. Set your oven to about 325 F for best results. Any higher and the cookies will brown around the edges. A low oven will ensure even browning or ‘blonding’ I should say.
  • Cold dough bakes up the best. If it becomes too soft to handle, pop it in the fridge to firm up. It’s much easier to cut and shape this way.
  • Swap granulated sugar for vanilla sugar. I used homemade and it was not overpowering at all.
  • Also, freeze half of the dough for future cravings. This recipe makes a lot of cookies!

• • • • • • •

winter shortbread
Serves: 50-60 mini cookies
  • 3 c. sifted flour
  • 2 sticks of salted butter, cubed
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 c. sugar
  • powdered sugar for decoration
  1. Preheat your oven to 325 F. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Sift the flour into a large bowl. Add the cubed butter and rub together using your fingertips. The heat from your hands will incorporate the butter into the mix.
  3. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar, and add to the flour.
  4. Gently mix the dough with your hands until it comes together into a ball. Do not over mix.
  5. Flatten into a disk and cover in plastic wrap. Chill for 30 minutes- overnight.
  6. When you are ready to bake, roll the dough to about ¼ inch thick. Do this between 2 pieces of parchment paper or plastic wrap to prevent sticking.
  7. Press your cookies cutters into the dough and transfer the shapes to a baking sheet. If the dough starts to soften, place it back into the fridge to chill and then start again.
  8. Bake for about 15-18 minutes or until lightly golden.
  9. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes on the tray. Transfer to a wire rack.
  10. When the cookies are completely cool, dust with powdered sugar.


  1. says

    I was laughing so hard about your boys and their antics… oh my goodness! It reminded me of my brothers when I was little. They’d do the craziest things! And there your boys are, after mixing up a batch of these delicious cookies, you’re in the kitchen baking and cleaning and they’re in the bathroom reeking havoc on the plumbing and the general tidiness of the bathroom! Oh my goodness! The drama!!

    Love this version of shortbread! A few weeks ago I made a hazelnut pate sucree. With the left over dough, I cut out some cookies and was pleasantly surprised with how delicious they were plain and simple, thinking this is how I should make sugar cookies in the future.. they’re just a bit richer and oh so melt in your mouth! Your Grandmother was on to something! Have a fantastic trip Emilie! xo

    • Emilie says

      Little boys are definitely crazy, especially mine. I don’t even write about half the stuff they do ;)

      Love the idea of a hazelnut pate sucree. I think it’s all about the egg yolks that really elevates a traditional shortbread cookie. They do melt in your mouth, don’t they? I love a good 2-for-1 recipe!

      Enjoy the weekend! xo

  2. says

    Hahah OH NO!!! Oh man, it sounds like you have your hands full, Emilie. So glad you guys are headed for some Vitamin D and recharging! And these cookies look so good that they might just be worth any stuffed animal toilet-torture that follows. I love that you used salted butter! They look wonderful.

  3. says

    yeah, i think the peeing on top of the stuffie might have put me over the edge ;-) — the coup de grâce. Thank goodness for rubber gloves. Love the Christmas pjs on the boys and their gusto in these shots! (and we all know what they’re capable of off camera :d) Such warm photos. Enjoy your sunshine holiday!! The best :D.

    • Emilie says

      You should’ve seen my face… they thought it was the funniest thing in the world. Oh, the joys of motherhood.

      I love Christmas PJ’s. My kids will wear them until spring- they’re too cute to keep stuffed in the drawers! xo

  4. Marne Holstein says

    First of all I absolutely love your blog ! We live in Wy. half of the year and I recognized those jammies as ones my grandchildren have.(only they’re girls:) Loved the pictures, and the memories you will laugh about for years to come. Can’t wait to try these!!!

    • Emilie says

      Hi there! Thank you so much! Christmas PJ’s are a must in the winter. Is it possible that little kids are cuter when they where them? I think so. Enjoy the recipe! :)

  5. says

    Oh my, but that story about your boys is just too funny. Boys will be boys, I guess.

    It seems that you and I are on the same wavelength. I have used salted butter in much of my baking (especially for various “blonde” cookies, such a shortbread) for about 30 years now – ever since I read Lindsey Shere’s Chez Panisse baking book in the early 80’s. My mom used salted butter exclusively. When I went to cooking school and got into using unsalted butter, she saw no sense in it. She firmly believed that somehow all the bit about “controlling the amount of salt you use by using unsalted butter and adding salt” was wrong. She felt, as I do, that somehow the salted butter imparted a better flavor. Over the last few years I have seen more and more baking recipes that call for salted butter. Mother knows best.

    As for the vanilla sugar, you know I love it too and I use it all the time. I have taken to grind in citrus zest too. The addition of citrus zest (especially lemon or orange) makes a lovely sugar. I like rolling cookies and baked goods in it. It is so fine and has a very full flavor. And brava to you for using Fiori di Sicilia. God knows a little goes a long way, but it really is a nice jasmine and citrus essence and adds so much to baked goods.

    I think we should be neighbors. We would have a ball.

    • Emilie says

      Hi Adri!

      I’m so glad you brought this up. I prefer cooking with salted butter, always have. While at culinary school, I made the switch to unsalted butter because this was the ‘correct’ way. I understand that different brands vary interns of sodium content but I’ve never had a problem with something tasting too salty. When you reduce something with salted butter then you have to be careful.

      And funny thing about the vanilla sugar- I’ve been thinking about doing meyer lemon version.

      We are on the same wavelength for sure! I do wish you lived closer. Espresso and biscotti for days… xo

    • Emilie says

      Hi Pam! If you like hints of citrus and vanilla you might like Fiori di Sicilia extract. It smells wonderful. Keep in mind, it is very, very strong so about 1/4 tsp will do! ;)

  6. says

    I am going to make these, Emilie. Tonight, in fact! I have Meyer lemon curd that will pair perfectly with these adorable shortbread cookies. AND I have a cute little cutter that will work well. I, too, agree that rolling your dough between two sheets of parchment paper makes baking cookies/pies SO much easier. Do the citrus sugar! I have a new rule in our kitchen – any time we juice an orange or a lemon, we zest the skin first and add it to either sugar or salt. It is a great way to get extra “mileage” out of your produce!
    Man, have fun on your vacay! I am super jealous!! I need me some sunshine and warmth like nothing else! Good luck taking the boys! :-)

    • Emilie says

      Jayme, I saw your cookie pics on IG! LOVE!!!! I hope you enjoyed them. Now, give me all that lemon curd- sounds SO good with shortbread. Have a wonderful, relaxing weekend :) xo

  7. says

    This is such a heart warming post Emilie. Your cookies look gorgeous. Too pretty to eat. And your little ones are so cheeky. I have a four year old daughter and I do sometimes think ‘ who is this creature’ and i do hear that boys are challenging in a different way. By the way its interesting what u say about salted butter- i agree with you.

    • Emilie says

      Welcome Lara! Thank you so much. My little ones are definitely cheeky (and that’s putting in lightly!) but so much fun to be around. Even if there’s cooking dough smushed all over the kitchen floor and under my feet. I’ve heard that little girls are exceptionally different to raise than boys, but you know, it is what it is. Things change, personalities change… it’s all good!

      And yes, salted butter all the way. Isn’t it much better?

  8. says

    I’m with you, the simpler the better. Especially in an old-fashioned cookie like these shortbread, it’s all about the pure flavor of butter. And sugar ))

    I feel for you with the toilet drowning – you can try but maybe never be one step ahead of little boys!

  9. Emilie says

    Hello Karen! Thanks for stopping over! Pure and simple- it’s my preferred way to eat both sweet and savory.

    Little boys on the other hand? Not so simple ;)

  10. Anita laban says

    Hi there, can you tell me did you use granulated sugar, caster sugar or powdered sugar for these biscuits. Thanks

  11. Karen says

    Hi! I tried the recipe and I don’t know what I did wrong! It was too dry and wouldn’t come together, any ideas? I would love to get this right! I love your website!


    • Emilie says

      Hi Karen! Hmmm… it’s hard to say without seeing the dough myself. But if the dough was too dry, perhaps the size of your egg yolks were too small? My recipe doesn’t specify the size (and to be honest, I just use whatever eggs are in the fridge!), but since the yolks count as moisture you might want to take note of what you’re using and make adjustments from there. Also, the resting step after the dough is made (even if it’s crumbly) is crucial. During this time the flour will absorb most of the moisture and the texture will eventually change making the dough easier to roll out. Do you remember how long you let it rest initially? Hope this info helps! x

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