One Dough, Many Cookies: Viennese Shortdough

Viennese shortdough or Mürbteig is my new favorite Christmas cookie. I've only just discovered the recipe and I'm already on my third batch this week. I'm usually not so enthusiastic about making Christmas cookies because I tire easily of the repetition it requires, but this cookie dough changes everything!

First of all, it's delicious. Like a cross between a sugar cookie and shortbread, it has a melt-in-your-mouth tenderness. Secondly, the baked cookies improve upon standing. How perfect for busy holiday bakers! The cookies can be made several days ahead, and they mellow and become more flavorful over time. The unfilled cookies keep for two weeks and the dough can be frozen for up to six months!

L to R: Blackberry jelly sandwich cookies, pistachio red currant hussars,
sugar dusted wing cut-outs, cherries-in-the-snow tassies
I especially appreciated being able to make several types of cookies from one batch. The diversity of tasks kept my mind active and free of cookie fatigue.

The citron slices were my favorite. I just love how sparkly and jeweled they look.

Somehow, little dusty wings seemed appropriate on the cookie tray, though not entirely Christmasy. 
I used a hand-drawn template to make them.

Right: pistachio-rolled dough, Left: baked, unfilled cookies ready to be filled or stored.
This dough is made in the food processor, but if you don't have one you can cut the butter into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter, then gently blend in the egg yolks. Try not to overwork the dough, or the baked cookies will be too crumbly. Knead for only a short time.

Isn't it great to find a recipe you can hang your hat on? I can't wait to bring my cookie tray to our family's Christmas eve party.

Viennese Shortdough (Basic Mürbteig Pastry) 
Yield: About 4 dozen cookies                                                                               [click for printable recipe]

Adapted from my favorite vintage cookbook The New Pastry Cook by Helen S. Fletcher

This all-in-one cookie dough is easily made with a food processor. The unfilled baked cookies will keep well for 10-14 days in an airtight tin. In fact, they improve with age. Doubling this recipe is not recommended, even in a large machine. Successive batches may be made without cleaning the bowl and blade. Over-processing the dough will make it too crumbly and the cookies will fall apart, so do be careful to not overwork the dough. I've listed all my variations under the basic recipe, but I'm sure you could think up some of your own!

Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 lb. (2 US sticks) unsalted butter
3 egg yolks
  1. Place lemon zest and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process for 1-2 minutes. Sugar should be pale yellow and fragrant with lemon.  Add the flour and salt, process for 5 seconds to mix. Cut  butter into pieces and place in a circle on top of the flour mixture in the food processor. Process for about 20 seconds, or until the butter is cut into the flour very finely. Mixture should be light and powdery. Add yolks in a circle on top of the mixture and process for 20-30 seconds until a ball forms. Process again 10 seconds longer. Roll dough between sheets of wax paper or parchment paper to 1/4-inch thickness.
  2. Preheat oven to 350F. Reduce temperature to 325F just before putting the cookies in the oven.

Cut out cookies:
  1. Remove top sheet of wax paper and cut out shapes with cookie cutters. Dough is very buttery, so I did not have to flour my cookie cutters.  If dough wants to stick, dip cookie cutters in flour. Transfer cut outs to a parchment-lined cookie sheet using a spatula. 
  2. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, or place cut-outs in the freezer for 15-20 minutes (preferred). Bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on size. Let cool completely and dust with confectioners' sugar or frost as desired. Scraps can be re-rolled between wax paper and cut again.

Hussars (thumbprints):
Jam, melted (seedless is normally used. I used red currant.)
Chopped nuts such as almonds, pecans or pistachios
  1. Between the palms of your hands roll pieces of Mürbteig  into balls about the size of walnuts (I rolled mine slightly smaller). Roll balls into chopped nuts and place on an ungreased baking sheet. With your index finger, make a deep indentation to the bottom of each ball but do not go through it. 
  2. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, or place in the freezer for 15-20 minutes (preferred).  Bake for 20-22 minutes; do not overbake. Cool on the baking sheet 5 minutes. Fill the indentations with jam before serving.

Citron Slices:
Candied citron, candied orange peel
Egg white, beaten
  1. Use a square or round 3-inch cookie cutter to cut shapes from the dough. Brush surface of cut-outs with egg white and top with candied citron and orange peel. Place on an ungreased or parchment lined baking sheet. 
  2. Chill for 30 minutes, or place in freezer for 15-20 minutes. Bake for 15-20 minutes.
Note: You can replace the citron and orange peel with nuts to make "Nut Slices". Brush only the surface of the cookie with egg white, brushing the sides of the cookies will glue them to the baking sheet.

Cherries-in-the-Snow Tassies:
Prepared white chocolate ganache (click for recipe)
Maraschino cherries with stems, drained and patted dry
Confectioners' sugar
  1. Press pieces of Murbteig dough into the cavities and up the sides of an ungreased mini muffin pan.  Chill for 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Bake for 12-15 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool completely (very important!). When pan is completely cold and dough cups have hardened, remove them from the cavities by lifting them out of the pan with a finger. 
  2. Fill cooled cups with ganache and sprinkle with confectioners' sugar. Top with a maraschino cherry.

Jelly Window Sandwiches:
Seedless jam, melted
  1. Cut dough with Linzer-type cookie cutters.  Transfer cut outs to a parchment-lined cookie sheet using a spatula. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, or place cut-outs in the freezer for 15-20 minutes (preferred). Bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on size. Let cool completely. 
  2. Brush surface of windowless cookie with jam and top with the window cookie. Fill center with more melted jam.

Linzer Cookie Cutter Set
20 Inch Maple Wood Rolling Pin
6-Piece Double Sided Square Cutter Set

link One Dough, Many Cookies: Viennese Shortdough By Published: One Dough, Many Cookies: Viennese Shortdough Recipe


  1. Mmmhh, delicious! I love thumprint cookies.



  2. Lovely cookies! I was so pleased to see you mention Helen Fletcher, she's from St. Louis and a friend. I just bought a used copy of her first cookbook in the last weeks. Did you know she just released another, one of a series? I wrote about her Cranberry Linzer Tart, so special!

  3. These are amazing and would make the most beautiful gifts.
    Thanks for the inspiration. :•)

  4. I love those wing cookies! They have a super cool, greek god, winged messenger thing going on. I'm totes getting that cutter!

  5. It just so happens I have Ms. Fletcher's book. Now all I have to do is find it! Thanks for the inspiration.

  6. you know what I love about this time of year?
    going through my swedish and/or scandinavian cookbooks and searching through the various cookie recipes.
    i don't know why but i love these this time of year

  7. @Alanna Kellog - how wonderful! I did not know that she has another cookbook out. I'll have to find it. My used copy of New Pastry Cook is missing the page on the Cherry St. Honoree. Would you (or @The Devil's Food Advocate)be able to scan and send that page to me? I'm dying to make it!

  8. I cannot wait to try this recipe! Love that it's multi-purpose.

    NOTE: I believe step 1 of the dough recipe omitted the addition of sugar to the lemon zest?

  9. Hi Kavi,
    Thank you for letting me know! Fixed!

  10. Heather you're a savior!!! Just in time when I was about to give up my Christmas baking project for this year so much I'm busy. Thank you! You'll make many friends happy for Christmas, all while saving my reputation!

  11. Oh and, do you think that half a recipe for the white chocolate ganache would be enough for a dozen Tassies?

  12. So many cookies from one batch of dough! I love this idea too. The angel wings are my fav! They are so cute!

  13. So simple and yet so inventive. I love coming here to be surprised by all the creativity and energy. Love them!

  14. Well, I will definitely be making this! Love that it's so adaptable...will make my holiday baking way easier :)

  15. I love a multi-tasker cookie dough! Those citron ones look delicious! I'll have to try these out!

    Also: Heather! I had my boyfriend order your book for me as a Christmas gift - I just have to keep from reading it till I get it as a gift! It's KILLING me! Hahaha~ Good thing is that he's claimed that I must "make everything in this book", a good sign, yes? ♥]

  16. The angel wings are divine! Love this recipe.



  17. I've seen several recipes for mürbeteig in my vintage German baking book collection but never tried them. I love your interpretations.

  18. those citron slices and wings are so pretty! I love a versatile dough.

  19. This looks fantastic--simple, elegant, and a real crowd-pleaser. Do you have a preferred brand or flavor of seedless jam?

  20. I made these this weekend as window sandwiches with poppyseed filling and strawberry rhubarb filling. Some with sprinkles, some with powdered sugar on top. They turned out great! Thanks!

  21. Heather, I just made Martha Stewart's Walnut shortbread and it turned out all crumbly... sigh... I really want something more traditional (you know the round pan cut into wedges)- do you think that this dough would work for that too?


  22. Angela, I think it would work. It's definitely not crumbly because the egg yolks hold it all together well. I have not tried cutting it into wedges, but I don't see why you couldn't.

    I know it's awful when a recipe doesn't turn out the way you hoped it would. Best of luck!


  23. This recipe is so close to one my mom has been making forever for her thumbprint cookies, and the dough is my favorite cookie dough by far. I had no idea it was Viennese Shortdough...my mom got it from her mom, who copied it down from a radio broadcast ages ago. Our recipe uses one less egg yolk, vanilla instead of lemon zest, and just 2 cups of flour, but is otherwise the same. So buttery and delicious :).

  24. Pinning for next year--this looks awesome!


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