Nana’s Brown Sugar Shortbread Cookies

I never really got to know my Nana very well. But from what I know about her, I think we would have had a lot in common.

Nana's old fashioned brown sugar shortbread cookies. My favourite holiday cookie made with just 6 ingredients!

She was a science professor, so I’m sure she would have loved the fact that I went the science route in university and we could have had nerdy science discussions at all of our family gatherings.

She was also an artist. We have a number of paintings of hers, and one of them is even hanging on the wall at our favourite restaurant Blacktree! While I definitely didn’t inherit her skills for the fine arts, I think maybe my interest in photography and food styling came from her artistic gene.

And she loved making fun of my dad – I know we definitely would have gotten along well on that topic!

Nana's old fashioned brown sugar shortbread cookies. My favourite holiday cookie made with just 6 ingredients!

But the thing I can relate to my Nana the most about is cooking. I’m sure my love of cooking must come from her. She was in no way a 5 star chef, but she knew how to make good, home cooked food using fresh ingredients… and canned beets occasionally, as my dad not-so-fondly remembers.

One of my favourite recipes of hers is these brown sugar shortbread cookies. It’s a tradition to make them every Christmas, and this year I wanted to share our tradition with you. These buttery cookies seriously melt in your mouth, and the brown sugar gives them a richer flavour than conventional shortbread cookies. They’re the perfect treat to have with your coffee after a big turkey dinner!

Nana's old fashioned brown sugar shortbread cookies. My favourite holiday cookie made with just 6 ingredients!

Nana's shortbread cookies
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Nana's old fashioned brown sugar shortbread cookies. My favourite holiday cookie made with just 6 ingredients!
Yield: 40-50 cookies
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup cold salted butter
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • ¾ tsp vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with a pastry blender. When it is completely mixed, stir in the vanilla, then add the flour mixture and use the pastry blender to combine.
  4. Once it looks crumbly, use your hands to form it into two balls of dough. **It is important to handle the dough as little as possible to prevent too much gluten formation, which will toughen the cookies.
  5. Roll out the dough one ball at a time into a rectangle with about ½ cm thickness. Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into rectangles and prick the tops a few times with a fork.
  6. Place on a Silpat or parchment paper lined cookie sheet and bake for about 9-11 minutes, or until the cookies are a light golden brown.
  7. Remove from the oven and let cool on the cookie sheet for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Nana's old fashioned brown sugar shortbread cookies. My favourite holiday cookie made with just 6 ingredients!

This makes the sixth batch of baked goods I’ve made in the past week, and I’m not even done my holiday baking yet. I guess I’d better get cracking seeing as Christmas Eve is tomorrow – eek! It crept up so quickly on me this year. Who else isn’t ready for it yet?

What holiday recipes do you make every year?


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17 Responses to Nana’s Brown Sugar Shortbread Cookies

  1. Mmm, I adore shortbread cookies. How can something so simple be so…. life changing?

    Shortbreads are MUST for Christmas baking. And fudge. I am so behind on baking, I don’t know if I’m going to have time to do much more. I’m making Christmas dinner for my family, and those preparations have taken priority. *NEED ATIVAN*

    • Chelsea

      I know! They’re so simple, but so good. I guess you don’t need much else when you’ve got butter and sugar though haha.

      I’ve actually never made fudge before! That’s something I need to try.

  2. aw what a sweet post!! and these cookies look mighty delicious and pretty easy to make – win win!!

  3. Not ready at all! I think I am going to make these when I am in Buffalo for my Grandma, they look like something she would really enjoy! I am honestly the spitting image of my grandma, and I love it :)

    • Chelsea

      I hope she liked them if you ended up making them! Aw, it’s such a nice feeling to know we’re so similar to our grandma’s, isn’t it? :)

  4. I love the story about your Nana <3 I also love how simple this recipe is! I have never made shortbread cookies before and I think I need to change that this Christmas!

  5. Your nana was a scientist and an artist? Already, she sounds pretty badass to me ;-) I love that you have one of her recipes to make every year. My grandma used to make these almond roll cookies that were amazing. I’ve made them once or twice, but i gave up because they were never as good as hers. Maybe I’ll give them another shot next year!

  6. Mmm I LOVE shortbread cookies but never thought to use brown sugar before! That would bring a nice kick of flavor :) I think it’s awesome that you see that you have a lot in common with your nana. I’m sorry that you never had the chance to know her well, but I have no doubt that she is incredibly proud of her beautiful granddaughter :) thank you for sharing this bit of her with us

  7. Love that you make your Nana’s cookies every year- what a great way to keep her memory alive! They sound SO GOOD! Decadent and perfect for the holidays.

    Merry Christmas girl!

  8. You know how I feel about shortbread :) I’ve decided to make it a Christmas tradition for Curt’s family haha

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