I’ve been on a baking kick lately, which is rather surprising since I consider myself a cook, not a baker.  But I’ve had the flavors of vanilla and orange kicking around in the back of my mind for weeks, and decided that the best way to play with that was to start with the simple buttery goodness of shortbread cookies.  Eric said these were “kinda dainty” (which led to him making his own oatmeal cranberry cookies!), but I thought that made them perfect to pair with tea or coffee!

I love shortbread because it’s basically sugar, butter, and flour.  That makes it so simple to whip up a basic batch of cookies whenever you need some.  It also makes them simple to play with.  You can use basic shortbread cookies as a base for something (like blackberry coulis) or you can add your own flavor combination into the dough to snazz it up.

I found the intoxicating scent and flavor of fresh vanilla bean and the brightness of orange to be a perfect combination in a melt in your mouth buttery sugar cookie.  Even as I was mixing the dough my taste buds were begging for a bite as I began recalling childhood memories of eating an orange creamsicle.  It’s also visually appealing with the tiny black specks of concentrated vanilla and bright orange finely grated zest.

I find this is easiest to make with a stand mixer, but I’ve totally mixed it by hand just letting the butter get completely soft first.  Make sure you cream the butter and sugar together nice and fluffy before adding everything else.  Otherwise your liquid ingredients can melt the sugar and change the consistency of the dough.  As far as vanilla beans go, I get them as Christmas and birthday gifts, but you can usually find them in your local market.  It’s often more affordable to order vanilla beans from the internet if you don’t have a spice market near you.  You can also just use the extract as a last resort!

The amount of cookies this makes depends on the size of your cutter.  I used a small glass with a 2 inch diameter and that gave me 21 three inch cookies (they spread out as they bake).  If you use a shot glass you’ll get smaller cookies and have more, or a full sized glass will give you fewer.  Adjust your baking time accordingly.  Check them sooner if they’re smaller, you want to bake them until the edges are golden brown.

Vanilla Orange Shortbread Cookies Recipe

makes 18-24 cookies


1 cup butter (room temperature)
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp orange juice (fresh squeezed is best)
zest of one orange
seeds of 1/2 a vanilla bean


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl mix together butter,  and sugar until fluffy.  Add flour and mix, then add vanilla extract, orange juice, orange zest, and vanilla bean seeds.  (To get the seeds, cut the bean in half and use the tip of a sharp knife to split it vertically down the center, then use the tip to scrape the seeds out of the pod and into your dough)

Mix well and add a little flour if needed to make it a stiff dough.  Roll it into a ball and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Place the dough between two sheets of parchment paper and use a rolling pin to roll it out to 1/4 inch thick.  Cut out circles with a glass and transfer to a cookie sheet.

Bake 15-20 minutes, until edges are slightly golden brown.  Use a metal spatula to transfer cookies to rack to cool.

Approximate cost/serving: Shortbread is pretty cheap to make, these only cost me about $2.10 to make so about 10 cents a cookie.

Vegetarian: This does have butter, but is totally meatless :)

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Nutritional and cost information is for estimating purposes only, and subject to variations due to region, seasonality, and product availability.