Shortbread: Petticoat Tails

Shortbread Petticoat Tails l 4 Ingredient Shortbread l Homestead Lady (.com)Shortbread is my absolute favorite cookie, with its rich, buttery goodness. This Petticoat Tails Shortbread is like a  traditional, Scottish festival food at its finest. With only four ingredients, it’s also super easy to make!

This shortbread is hands down my favorite Christmas cookie! For more simple holiday inspiration from my homestead to yours, please sign up to learn about the release date of our next book, Homestead Holidays! With traditions from around the world, crafts for every age, recipes for every level of cook and homestead wisdom from families and friends, Homestead Holidays is sure to have something for everyone. Special discounts, coupons and offers will be available to those who sign up to learn about the release date. FYI, we’ll ONLY send you book information – no other newsletter of any kind. Homestead Holidays Newsletter Sign Up l Homestead  

Traditional Shortbread

I’m not into sweet, sweet stuff which is why I’ve always loved shortbread when I want a really good cookie.

This recipe for Petticoat Tails shortbread has four ingredients, so its simple to make and so incredibly delicious. My inspiration for this recipe comes from a fine British recipe book called The Festive Table, by Jane Pettigrew. This book comes in mighty handy for a Waldorfy, traditional foods, Christian, homeschooling mamma as its full of feast day foods and treats.

Petticoat Tail Shortbread Recipe

Shortbread is perfect for those who want a little something sweet, without gagging on too much sweetness. It is, as the British would say, a simply scrummy biscuit.

Petticoat Shortbread Recipe
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time-ish
25 mins
Resting Time
10 mins
Total Time-ish
45 mins

A traditional shortbread recipe for your holiday enjoyment.  Simple, whole foods ingredients with a special surprise spice that you're sure to love!

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: British
Keyword: Christmas Cookie, shortbread
Serving Suggestion: 8
  • 1 3/4 Cups  Flour
  • 1/2 Cup Organic Powdered Sugar*
  • 8 Tbsp Butter
  • 1 tsp Caraway Seeds, optional
  • More Powdered Sugar for sprinkling, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 350F/177C.

  2. Mix flour, powdered sugar and caraway seeds together. Cut in butter until the dough looks like pebbles.
  3. Mush together into a loose ball and place on a lightly floured board or silicone mat. Knead the dough until it firms up but is still workable. Have faith - the dough will be dry at first but the warmth of your hands will melt the butter a bit and blend everything together. Pretend its playdough.
  4. Roll out the dough to about a 1/4" thick circle. Crimp the edges like you would a pie crust with your finger and thumb. Prick surface with a fork all over.
  5. At this point you can score it by cutting the circle into equal wedges with a pizza cutter; if you're using a silicone mat, be careful not to cut it.
  6. Cut out a small circle in the middle- details on why below.**

  7. Bake for 20-30 minutes until golden.   

  8. Take out and sprinkle with powdered sugar while still hot. You can also cut and dredge each wedge entirely in the powdered sugar, but that makes it a bit sweet for my taste.
  9. Allow to rest for about ten minutes.  Unless you just can't wait another second!

Recipe Notes

To learn to make your own powdered sugar*, please visit the post How to Make Your Own Powdered Sugar here at Homestead Lady.


**Jane Pettigrew, the author of The Festive Table, explains that Petticoat Tails are the best known version of Scottish Shortbread.  This shortbread was traditionally made every new year celebration (Hogmanay) with only the best ingredients. A small circle was cut out of the center of the shortbread dough so that the points of each piece wouldn't crumble and be wasted when the segments were divided. 

Caraway Seed, Really?

I usually take my shortbread plain, or perhaps with some lemon extract. I was leery of putting caraway seeds into anything so sacred as shortbread.

I did NOT need to worry because that 1 tsp of caraway seeds make the flavor of this shortbread simply pop! The caraway lent an earthy, spicy flavor to this wonderfully rich cookie. You could also try fennel seed, I’m guessing. I’m sticking with the caraway, though.

Shortbread - Cutting the wedges of Petticoat Tails l Cookie Month 14 l Homestead Lady

Dipped Shortbread and Other Christmas Cookie Ideas

Another fun idea is to dip these scones-like cookies about halfway into some melted chocolate. I  need to make another batch and do just that. My ravenous hordes (five kids and a deserving husband) descended on these original batches so fast I had to beat them back just to take these few photos. Great personal peril, that’s what I’m willing to risk to bring you Petticoat Tail shortbread.

If you need a gluten free Christmas cookie, try these Almond Flour Sugar Cookies from Fit as a Mama Bear. Sugar cookies are similar to shortbread in many ways and the almond flour gives them a special texture.

Also, you have to check out my friend Susan’s Pine Needle Cookies! She has all kinds of fun Christmas stuff on her blog, Learning and Yearning.

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20 thoughts on “Shortbread: Petticoat Tails

  1. I love shortbread, too! A few years ago, I learned that my mother’s family descended from a sept of the McClean clan and as such I am also an heir to the Duart Castle in Scotland (along with a million other people, I ‘m sure!). I love your petticoat cookies and am intrigued by the caraway seeds–will give this recipe a try!

    1. Only the best people are Scottish, of course, Sheila! Let me visit your castle and I’ll bake you some shortbread! 😉

  2. I’ve been making shortbread for many years, and I can tell you, You did good! These look lovely! Like you, I don’t care for overly sweet things, so shortbread is just the thing. Love it with a nice strong cup of tea with just a splash of milk.

  3. Oh, I love shortbread. For some reason though, it seems like something I associate with the holidays – a view that needs changing, I think. Going to try these!

    1. Repeat after me, Russ – “Shortbread starts with an “S”. So do Saturday and Sunday. Ergo, I should eat shortbread at least twice a week.”
      Makes perfect sense to me.

  4. Sounds like a fairly simple recipe and looks quite tasty. I always loved shortcake bread of any type when I used to eat bread. Thanks for sharing on Real Food Fridays. Pinned & twitted.

    1. You’re so sweet – thank you!

      If you want, you could try fennel seeds, instead – is that safer? The original recipe called for, I think, a tablespoon of caraway seeds – ack! The Scotts have hearty palates but I took it down a bit. Let me know if you like them… I want to see if I can make some kind of raw sugar or honey caramel sauce to drizzle over them – just a touch – not too sweet!

  5. I love shortbread.. I’ll have to try this recipe too, what a great blog you have. I’m from England and my dad is Scottish, so shortbread is a must in our family. Did you know Mary Queen of Scots is known to have named the triangular wedges ‘petticoat tails’ ? Anyway, I came over from Simple Life Mom – check out #33.

    1. I did know that actually but only because the book I mentioned, Festive Table, taught me so! How wonderful to be both English and Scottish and I can only imagine the shortbread that must appear in your house every holiday. In fact, my mouth is watering. Will go check out your post…

  6. My Grandmother used to make these when I was a child but she dropped them by teaspoon. Wused to fill our pockets with them that she kept in the fridge.

    1. Thank you for sharing that sweet memory, Treva! I love shortbread of every kind but these are a lovely holiday tradition. Happy Christmas!

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