The buttery crunch of shortbread is unmistakable, and the nutty flavor of brown sugar mixed with vanilla will make it impossible for you to resist them. A simple recipe with few ingredients but a deep vanilla flavor and crunchier texture.
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Originally published in 2012, the text and images in this post have been updated to serve you better. The recipe remains the same.
We love shortbread and don't have enough recipes in this blog, let me tell you. But the ones we do, like the lemon shortbread, are super popular.
Don't be fooled by the rustic appearance of these brown butter shortbread squares.
Or, come to think of it, it'll be better if you are fooled and expect nothing. You're in for a surprise.
They are an explosion of buttery vanilla goodness and take the much-loved shortbread to another level.
There is something about brown butter. It might have a place of its own in the food pyramid.
Is it possible to use brown butter from now on in every single recipe that calls for melted butter?
If you try this simple brown butter pound cake, you'll understand what the hype is all about.
What is brown butter?
The short version is what the name implies: butter that is browned.
Also known as the French beurre noisette (translates as hazelnut butter), it's butter (salted or unsalted) that is heated or cooked long enough for the water (yes, butter has water in it, sometimes a lot) to evaporate.
This leaves behind the solids that start to brown, turning golden or amber in color, and with a beautiful nutty aroma (hence the hazelnut reference).
Truly worth making, even though it's an extra step.
We have a whole post dedicated to it: how to make brown butter.
Tips to make brown butter shortbread
- Shortcuts: make the brown butter ahead. It keeps for a month (at least) in an airtight container in the fridge and longer in the freezer.
- Don't overwork the dough: for a tender shortbread, make sure the mixture is not kneaded or overmixed. This is not a pie crust that needs to come completely together. The mixture will be crumbly and come together as you pat it in the pan. A light touch is needed.
Brown butter goes from clear to brown in a second.
Much like caramel suddenly turns a very deep amber. So after melting the butter, it will bubble a lot and suddenly, the bubbles will subside. That's when it turns nutty and darker. It takes about 10 minutes.
So don't answer the phone, check your e-mail, or stuff like that. Stay by the stove. Please.
- Organization: read the recipe first and ensure you have ingredients at the correct temperature, equipment, and enough workspace. This will make the process so much easier.
- Baking time: keep in mind that all ovens and pans are different, even if they look the same or very similar. The baking time in my recipes is as accurate as it can be, but it might take you more or less time. You can use a thermometer(like the OXO oven thermometer) to check that your oven is at the right temperature. I recommend you keep track of how your oven works and what tiny details you might need to adjust.
- Make ahead: shortbread can be kept in tins for a few weeks.
- Toppings: you can drizzle them with melted semisweet chocolate or a citrus glaze.
Related recipes you might like:
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- 8 oz. (1 cup) unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
- 1 tablespoon milk
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- In a medium bowl, put ice cubes and fill with cold water, so you have an ice water bath to stop the browning of the butter.
- In a medium saucepan, melt butter. Stir often and let it boil. The mixture will be yellow and the bubbles will be large. After 8 to 10 minutes, it will start to darken and smell nutty. Dark flecks will appear at the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and add lemon juice. Stand back, since it will bubble up furiously. Put the saucepan on top of the icy water and let the butter firm up.
- Transfer the cold browned butter to a large bowl.
- Add, sifting, the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt. Mix well with a wooden spoon or spatula.
- Add vanilla, milk, and sugar. Mix until everything is well combined. It may appear a bit dry. If you need to, put everything on a working surface and knead it into a ball. Don't overwork the dough.
- Make a log and wrap it in plastic. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until it is firm enough to cut without cracking or losing shape.
- About 15 minutes before cutting the cookies, preheat the oven to 300º F / 150º C.
- Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
- Pat the dough and even it out. It will be uneven, and that's fine.
- Bake for about 30 minutes, until it's dry on top and starting to brown.
- With a smooth-bladed knife, without cutting it all the way through, mark the block in half and then into sticks while the shortbread is hot and in the pan. This will help you cut them more easily after you remove them.
- Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.
- Store in a covered tin.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Category: Cookies
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: International
Keywords: brown butter shortbread
From Best Dessert Book Ever, by Maida Heatter