Brown Butter Shortbread

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.

26 comments to “Brown Butter Shortbread”

  1. Enough said. I’m making them right now.

  2. i’m in the middle of a baking bonanza. i think i’ve got to make these immediately!

  3. Came here from Tastespotting, and all I can say is, how did you know? I DO want to make these tonight!

  4. These look incredible! I have yet to make a shortbread cookie, and I’m almost positive these will be on my recipe list for my annual Christmas Eve party…Thanks!

  5. I love brown butter flavoring!

  6. Melt-in-the-mouth or what? They sound and look fantastic!

  7. I think this just added itself to my Christmas cookie list – they look beyond fantastic.

  8. Those look good. I am going to have to try using brown sugar in my next batch of short bread.

  9. Just wanted to pop in and tell you I made these and loved them. They tasted just like—well, you know those blue tins of Danish butter cookies stores sell this time of year? I always loved the pretzel-shaped, sugar-topped ones best. These taste just like them.

  10. This is the recipe (and photos) that initially drew me to your blog, and I finally got around to making these last night. Wow- Dee-licious! The combination of salt and buttery sweetness reminds me of salted caramels! Will be a permanent part of my recipe box!

  11. That’s so funny – those are some of my favorite ingredients too! Just add caramel to that. Have you ever made the Brown Sugar Cookies from Cooks Illustrated? Those are my favorite cookies of all time – i like to add a little Fleur de Sel on top of them after they come out of the oven. Sooooo good.

  12. I have made those brown sugar cookies! They are really good.

  13. Dreary rainy day…this is just what I need…dough is already prepped but I don’t think I can wait overnight. Am going to pop it in the oven early evening for a post-dinner treat. Thanks, Tim!!!

  14. These look absolutely delish…I’m adding them to the family Christmas cookie roster! One question, though – do you know how long they will last (I mean if they don’t get gobbled up)? Most shortbread cookies will last for a couple of weeks on the counter if they’re well wrapped…most times they’re even better after a couple of days. Do you know if these will hang in there that long? Do you think I could freeze them after baking? I just need to get a jump on our family cookie day and want to know how far in advance I can make them. Thanks very much!

  15. Yes, Bon- These will last at least a week. Maybe two. Maybe longer. They have never lasted that long around here. Happy baking!

  16. I made this today and they were really delicious! I made them in a 4″X14″ rectangular pan with a removable bottom and a 4″ round tart pan. I cut the ones in the rectangular pan into triangles and the one in the small tart pan into 4 wedges. They were just so tasty and pretty. I think the resting overnight does something important to the consistency. I will definitely make them again!

  17. I made these yesterday to bring to a staff meeting today. When the staff meeting was cancelled, there was almost a mutiny because no one wanted to miss the treats. I carried the tray around and was met with “ooohs,” “aaaahs,” and a variety of “scrumptious,” “oh my GOD!” and “holy cow, this is GOOD.” Thanks for sharing the fabulous recipe. It’s now part of my repertoire.

  18. Debren,
    I am so glad you liked the cookies! I haven’t made these in a while and you inspired me to make them again.

  19. Holy YUM. My second batch of these are in the oven as we speak. They melt in my mouth, they are so ridiculously good. Thank you thank you thank you for this recipe. I absolutely adore it. I will be making these again and again, I’m considering drizzling this batch with some chocolate – yum!

  20. I’m going to make these in two versions for homemade “twix-ish” bars. One version just as published with no turbinado sugar and cut into sticks, with lavender caramel and milk chocolate. The other one, no T. sugar, with smashed espresso beans, almost burned caramel and dipped in dark chocolate. Will post about the results. Thanks for the recipe!

  21. Love, love, love. Made as a gift and gone in an instant! As good as the burnt butter cookies in Cayucos.

  22. I have just finished laying the cookies to rest overnight – they smell unbelievably good. Can you tell me though – if I can’t bake them until tomorrow night – is it ok to leave them out all day tomorrow as well, or should they go in the fridge in the morning. Thanks so much for this recipe!

  23. Hi Renee- To be honest, I haven’t tried leaving them longer. Should not be a problem. I would probably put them in the fridge and they may just need an extra couple of minutes of baking time.

  24. I’ve made these several times before, and just made them again the other day at my boyfriend’s insistence. I so often get distracted by more “fancy” baking that it’s easy to forget just how fantastic something this simple can be. These really are special cookies. Thank you so much for the recipe.

  25. oh my. these were delectable and have been well-received by my co-workers. the flavor reminds me a lot of british flapjacks. in fact, I couldn’t resist tossing in 1/4 cup oats, and they still turned out great. thanks for sharing the recipe! I ended up getting Pure Dessert over the weekend :)

  26. Hi Tim–curious, why the note to “not refrigerate” here?

What do you think?