I designed these shortbread cookies to combine three of my favorite things: brown butter, brown sugar, and sea salt. They are so lovely and delicious that I am contemplating getting up from my chair and making a batch right now. Just because. They take about 10 minutes to prepare and although you have to wait a while before baking them- you couldn’t ask for easier prep. These also keep really well and so they would be good to send to a friend for the holidays.
I decided to use a shortbread technique I learned from Alice Medrich. She makes several varieties of shortbread all of which involve melted butter and leaving the uncooked pan of shortbread on the counter overnight before baking. It is a pretty fool-proof technique and makes for some especially flavorful cookies. The cookies are also baked twice so they develop a nice toasty flavor. Have I mentioned how much I love Alice Medrich?
Brown Butter Shortbread
- 1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (I used fleur de sel)
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- Granulated, Demerara, or Turbinado sugar for sprinkling
Lightly grease a 9 1/2-inch round fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. If you don’t have a pan with a removable bottom you could line a 8-inch square cake pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang of foil on two opposite sides so you can easily lift the shortbread out of the pan.
In a small saucepan over medium melt the butter and continue to cook until it caramelizes and emits a nutty, butterscotch aroma. You will notice brown flecks in the bottom of the pan as the butter deepens in color. Be careful not to burn the butter. Remove from the heat.
In a medium bowl, combine the melted butter with the sugar, vanilla and salt. Add the flour and mix until incorporated. Spread the dough evenly in the prepared pan. Let stand for at least 2 hours or preferably overnight. (Do not refrigerate)
Preheat oven to 300° F.
Bake the shortbread for 45 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven but leave the oven on. Lightly sprinkle the surface of the shortbread with the sugar. Let cool for 10 minutes.
Very carefully remove the sides of the tart pan. (Or carefully remove the shortbread from the pan using the aluminum foil as a sling.) Use a very sharp and thin knife to cut it into 12 wedges. Carefully place the slices slightly apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment and return them to the oven for 15 minutes to toast lightly. Cool on a wire rack.