Homemade Shortbread Cookies

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Homemade Gurabii Shortbread Cookies are a traditional Macedonian treat! Crumbly, buttery cookies made with a few simple ingredients and a splash of whisky. These easy shortbread cookies are perfect for a Christmas cookie platter, I just know they’ll make your holidays the merriest ever!

A stack of baked Gurabii shortbread cookies, with a bite missing from the top cookie.

Must-Make Christmas Shortbread Cookies

I know, I know. ‘Tis the season when literally everyone is saying, “If there’s ONE cookie you must make this Christmas, THIS is it!” Still, I’ll go ahead and say it: these are the shortbread cookies you NEED to make this year! I may be a little biased, but I’ll let these crumbly, melt-in-your-mouth shortbread cookies speak for themselves.

Gurabii (“Goo-rah-bee”) cookies are a shortbread type kolache, or cookie, made with a nice amount of butter, powdered sugar, and a splash of warming whisky. They’re easy to make, yet undeniably delicious! I’m so excited to share this special family recipe with you all. 

I’m not saying these Gurabii cookies will make your Christmas the brightest and merriest it’s ever been… but I’m not not saying it, either, if you know what I mean.

A stack of baked Gurabii shortbread cookies surrounded by an assortment of shortbreads.

What’s So Special About This Recipe?

For my family, Gurabii butter cookies hold so many cherished memories. This recipe is an authentic Old Macedonia treat, making an appearance on special occasions like Saint Patron days, Name days, and holidays. 

They take me back to memories of my Mom sternly telling us that we couldn’t have any cookies until they cooled down (what she really meant was that we couldn’t have any until the guests arrived).

As soon as Mom would take them out of the oven, my sister and I would sneak behind her, grab a cookie each and run, giggling and tossing the piping hot cookies between our hands so we wouldn’t burn our fingers! Anything for these delicious Christmas cookies.

The ingredients for traditional Gurabii shortbread cookies.

Ingredients You’ll Need

You likely have most of the ingredients for this shortbread recipe in your kitchen already! Here’s what you’ll need.

  • Sweet Butter: Also known as Unsalted Butter, this is my go-to for baking!
  • Egg Yolks: Just the yolks, separated from the whites. (Use leftover egg whites in other holiday recipes like these Black and White Meringue Cookies!)
  • Powdered Sugar: For the shortbread cookie dough, plus extra for dusting on top after baking.
  • Whisky: Just a splash. The choice of whisky is up to you! Scotch is always a good bet for these traditional Macedonian cookies.
  • Vanilla Extract: Pure vanilla extract is the best, in terms of natural flavor.
  • All-Purpose Flour
  • Baking Powder
A cup is used to press balls of cookie dough into flat half-inch rounds.

How to Make Macedonian Shortbread Cookies

My Mom always made this cookie recipe look so easy. Little did I know then, it’s because it is!

  • To get started, you’ll set your oven to preheat and get all your ingredients at room temperature. Then follow these steps to make these special homemade shortbread cookies:
  • Make the Cookie Dough: Before adding the other ingredients, beat the butter with an electric mixer for ten (yes, ten!) minutes at high speed. Beat in the yolks, powdered sugar, baking powder, whisky and vanilla. Finally, you’ll sift the flour into the butter mixture and mix just until it becomes a soft dough.
  • Rest: Leave the shortbread dough to rest for 15 minutes.
  • Roll Out the Cookie Dough: Roll the dough into small balls and place them on a baking sheet, pressing the balls with the bottom of a glass to flatten them a bit.
  • Bake: Pop the cookies into the preheated oven to bake until they’re barely browned.
A stack of baked Gurabii shortbread cookies.

When the cookies are ready, grab one out of the oven… and make a run for it! Just kidding (with age comes wisdom, amiright?). When your Gurabii shortbreads are completely cooled, give them a nice dusting of powdered sugar and then store or serve! 

You can also decorate these cookies however you’d like, see below for some ideas!

Can I Make These in Advance?

  • You can definitely make the shortbread cookie dough in advance and freeze it for up to 2 months.
  • Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap or store it fully airtight in a freezer bag, then thaw it when you’re ready to roll out the dough and bake it.

Tips for Success

  • Don’t Over-Mix the Dough: Over-mixing is the number one culprit for cookies that are tough and/or too dry. Make sure you mix in the flour until just combined, and then leave the cookie dough alone to rest. 
  • Don’t Let the Shortbread Brown: Remove the cookies from the oven the moment they begin to become golden around the edges.
  • These Cookies Won’t Expand: The powdered sugar in these cookies means they’ll keep their shape while baking, with little expansion. So press them to about a half inch thick, as they’ll bake at the thickness they’re pressed to.

Decorating Ideas

Like any proper holiday cookie, these easy shortbread cookies are the perfect blank canvases for decorating! Here are some of my favorite ideas for decorating Christmas cookies:

  • Coated in sprinkles
  • Piped with icing
  • Drizzled with melted chocolate
  • Dusted with sanding sugar (in all the colors!)
  • Topped with red and green candied cherries
  • Dipped in glaze or frosted
  • Topped with fruit preserves (orange marmalade, apricot jam, raspberry jam, etc.)
A stack of baked Gurabii shortbread cookies surrounded by an assortment of shortbreads.

How to Store Homemade Shortbread Cookies

  • Store your finished cookies airtight and at room temperature for up to one week.
  • You can also keep them in the fridge to extend their shelf life by a couple of days.
  • I also love storing these traditional shortbreads in individual jars for easy gifting!

Can I Freeze These?

  • You can freeze the shortbread dough as well as the baked cookies for a month or two, making this an easy make-ahead cookie idea. As mentioned earlier in this post, the dough can be frozen tightly wrapped or airtight in a freezer bag. Just thaw, roll, and bake!
  • To freeze baked shortbread cookies, I’d recommend freezing the cookies on a baking sheet, and then transferring the solid cookies to a freezer bag or freezer-safe container.
  • Thaw the cookies outside of their containers at room temperature.

More Easy Christmas Desserts to Try

Homemade Shortbread Cookies (Gurabii)

2 2 2
WW Freestyle: 5
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time45 mins
These easy homemade Shortbread Cookies are a traditional Macedonian treat! Crumbly, buttery "Gurabii" holiday cookies made with a few simple ingredients and a splash of whisky. Perfect for a Christmas cookie platter, or for serving with coffee and tea!
Course: Cookies
Cuisine: Macedonian
Servings: 24
Calories: 125
Author: Katerina | Diethood

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ ounce whisky
  • powdered sugar, for dusting on top

Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Have all ingredients at room temperature.
  • Place the butter in a large bowl and beat for 5 to 10 minutes at high speed with electric mixer, until creamy and smooth.
  • Add the egg yolks, 3 tablespoons powdered sugar, baking powder, whisky and vanilla.
  • Continue beating until well blended.
  • Sift the flour and mix it in with the butter mixture.
  • Mix enough to make a soft, pliable dough.
  • Let the dough stand for 15 minutes.
  • Shape the dough into small balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.
  • With a glass flatten the dough balls to 1/2 inch thickness.
  • Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the shortbreads are lightly browned.
  • When they are completely cooled, sprinkle generously with powdered sugar.
  • Serve.

Notes

Store cookies airtight at room temperature for up to one week.
Nutrition Facts
Homemade Shortbread Cookies (Gurabii)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 125 Calories from Fat 72
% Daily Value*
Fat 8g12%
Saturated Fat 5g25%
Trans Fat 1g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 2g
Cholesterol 36mg12%
Sodium 2mg0%
Potassium 69mg2%
Carbohydrates 11g4%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 1g1%
Protein 2g4%
Vitamin A 255IU5%
Calcium 28mg3%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Nutritional info is an estimate and provided as courtesy. Values may vary according to the ingredients and tools used. Please use your preferred nutritional calculator for more detailed info.

Keywords: christmas cookies, easy cookie recipe, homemade cookies

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50 Responses
  1. MARY

    Is it 1 stick of butter or 2?? i read a reply from someone who tried this recipe and they said it was too crumbly. You responded with making an error in the butter quantity??

  2. Gisel

    Love the idea but I can’t see where I went wrong. Made recipe twice. Once with one stick and once with two sticks of butter. With one stick dough was waaaay to dry. With two.sticks the dough worked better however the finished product was like dust in my mouth. I don’t think I’ll try this again. I followed directions verbatim and it just didn’t come out right :/

  3. Mags

    I think I must have done something wrong…just made these, and when I used the amounts in the recipe, the dough was really dry – not so much ‘soft and pliable’ as ‘really powdery’, so I added more butter a little bit at a time, and by the time I got ‘soft and pliable’, I’d doubled the butter to 8oz. I baked them up, and they’re unbelievably dry, like ‘crumbles to sand in your mouth’ dry…what did I do wrong?

    1. Kate @ Diethood.com

      Hi Mags!
      Oh I wish I could tell you exactly what could have gone wrong, but I’ll try my best! Using another stick of butter sounds like a lot… I’m thinking maybe you put more flour than needed, but that’s just a guess. Also, keep this in mind; always know that depending on where you live, you may need more or less flour/more or less liquid due to the humidity in the air. Did you use the whiskey and the vanilla extract? A bit more of those two could have made a difference … but, again, that’s just a guess. And to add, these cookies are supposed to crumble once you’ve put them in your mouth. So I think you got the results, somewhat, but it took a different route to get there. 🙂
      I hope I helped in some way… please get back to me if you have any more questions/suggestions/etc…

      1. Ish

        Kate –
        Thanks for the recipe – these look great! However, you might want to take a quick run using the posted measurements. The ratio of dry to liquid seems really high, as does the amount of leavening (baking powder). I ran through it as written and got the same result as Mags – the dough was too dry to hold together at all. Would love to give these a try again if there’s an update!

  4. zerrin

    These are heavenly! We call such cookies as kurabiye in Turkish. The sound is very similar to gurabii, isn’t it? Would love to have one in my mouth now!

    1. Kate @ Diethood.com

      They sound exactly alike! 🙂 I’m sure it’s the same cookie with minor adjustments here and there. I’d love to see your recipe!

  5. Maris (In Good Taste)

    Well you had me with the first picture, but then when I saw them dusted in sugar, Oh my! Gorgeous!

  6. Claudie

    Alright… I don’t know what to say. That first post picture just totally got me.
    I really like cookies. But, out of all cookies, I adore shortbread ones. The really crumbly ones which somehow hold magically together. The ones which look exactly like yours.
    And now, I’m divided between the urge to bake some immediately and my sense of survival which tells me I might go to heaven from eating too many of those cookies 😀 They sure look delicious!

  7. Evan @swEEts

    Whiskey in a cookie? I like it! These sound delicious.. I’m a big fan of cookies too 🙂 I forgot you changed sites- I went to the wrong one first!

  8. Sandra

    Gotta love that splash of whiskey! Before the Mr. retired he used to buy shortbread cookies from the vending machine. He would adore these Kate, thanks for this recipe.

  9. Susan

    These cookies look so cozy and delish … they may have whiskey in them, but I can imagine sitting with my daughter, the cookie jar, and two glasses of milk … yum!

  10. briarrose

    What a beautiful stack of cookies. These look just wonderful. The splash of whiskey is a wonderful touch of flavor.

  11. Mary

    What simple yet wonderfully flavored cookies. I am new to your site and have spent some time browsing through your earlier entries. I’m glad I did that. I love the food and recipes you feature here. You’ve created a lovely spot for your readers to visit and I’ll definitely be back. Have a great day. Blessings…Mary

  12. Becky

    I love the stories behind the cookies and childhood memories. Your cookies are simple and beautiful, with the addition of whiskey.

  13. the constant hunger

    I love, love, love shortbread cookies. You’ve made your nice and thick. A couple of these and a nice hot cup of coffee make a nice mid-morning snack.

  14. fooddreamer

    Shortbread cookies are amzing, made up of such simple ingredients and yet perhaps the best cookies around! These look perfect, just crumbly and delicious.

  15. Lindsey@Lindselicious

    How funny these look super similar to the cookies I’m baking now! great minds! 🙂 PS- I’m passing the Sisterhood of World Bloggers Award on to you on my blog tomorrow!

  16. Kankana

    Do you know i never made cookies before ? really i find it tough 🙁 But of late the cookie spread in your site is making me crave for one .. 🙂

  17. Sophia @ Raven Waves

    Seriously, these look so amazing! I’m a sucker for anything Greek or Bulgarian…and the fact that these are Macedonian make them 10 million times better! 🙂

  18. Happy When Not Hungry

    These Gurabii look amazing! I love shortbread and will definitely have to try your version. Yum!

  19. A little bit of everything

    Finally I can read you again 🙂
    These cookies sounds great. They look so crumby and I’m sure they melt in your mouth. OK, I’m already drooling

  20. Charlie

    Yum! These look so good! I love simple buttery cookies! The whisky is a nice change from regular shortbread cookies :).

  21. Vicki @ WITK

    Cookies are awesome, they bring back such great childhood memories! These look especially good, love the extra powdered sugar coating!

  22. Lauren

    Oh…my….gosh…… I think I have died. I absolutely love shortbread cookies (my favorite ever) then you add some booze……(drool). Genius…once again 🙂

  23. Sandra's Easy Cooking

    This is interesting recipe and I can’t say that I don’t love it!! Beautiful photos Kate..you made me crave some cookies now!!!:))

  24. kitchenarian

    I love simple, buttery cookies and these look so delicious. I love it when you share your Macedonian recipes – it’s such a wonderful peek into your beloved heritage. I can’t wait to make these!

  25. Jill@MadAboutMacarons

    When I saw shortbread, I thought it would be the Scottish kind. Think again. This is Kate here! Macedonian Gurabii look incredible: with whisky in there, too. As usual, your photos are incredible. I’d love to try one right NOW! Amazing, my friend. xo

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Katerina of Diethood
Hey There!
I'm Katerina, a cookie-maker & picture-taker! For me, eating is a moment to share, an enjoyment, a passion. I hope you enjoy my recipes!

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