Holiday baking season has arrived, and there has been a seemingly unending flow of cookie recipes around here these days.
There is a certain comfort in familiarity, which is probably why I’ve been craving tried and true holiday cookies so much lately.
When you’ve fought the world, so to speak – whether at your office, with your kids, or on the highway – it’s nice to come home, take a warm bite of something sweet and homemade in your hands, close your eyes, and eat.
This recipe offers a crumbly, nubbly texture with flecks of sea salt on top. Its sweet and nutty flavor is the kind that has you reaching for one after another after another. And believe me, I did.
Plus, while I wouldn’t say good looks are a requirement for comfort food, they’re certainly not a drawback – and these cookies are pretty.
You might want to make them for someone you really like. Otherwise, you’ll have a hard time letting them go. Please trust me on this.Print
Chewy, nutty, and sweet, this is the shortbread cookie to beat all others. Why? Because it’s made with delicious brown butter.
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
- 1/2 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons flaky sea salt
- Line a baking pan with aluminum foil that hangs over the sides to create a sling. You may use either a fluted 8 or 9-inch round tart pan with a removable bottom, or an 8-inch square pan. Grease lightly.
- Melt butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat until it turns a darker, caramel color and emits a warm, nutty smell. This will take approximately 5-7 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer to a heat-proof mixing bowl.
- Add the brown sugar, vanilla, and salt, and stir to combine. Add the flour and stir until combined. Spread dough in prepared pan, and let sit for 2 hours.
- Preheat oven to 300°F.
- Bake for 45 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, but leave the oven on. Lightly sprinkle the surface with flaky sea salt, and place the pan on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.
- Carefully remove the sides of the tart pan, or lift the shortbread out with the aluminum foil sling that you created. Using a very sharp knife, slice into 12 triangular wedges. Place these on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat pan liner.
- Return to the oven and toast for 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 1 hour, 5 minutes
- Category: Cookies
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: Dessert
Keywords: shortbread, brown butter, cookie, holiday baking, Christmas
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Measure Out Ingredients and Prep Tart
Measure out the butter, dark brown sugar, vanilla extract, table salt, all-purpose flour, and flaky sea salt as listed on the ingredients list. Personally, I love fleur de sel, and I think it’s ideal for baking!
Line an 8 or 9-inch round tart pan with a removable bottom, or an 8-inch square pan, with aluminum foil that hangs over the sides. This will create a sling for easy removal. As you can see below, I used a tart pan.
Lightly grease with butter or cooking spray. Set aside.
Step 2 – Brown the Butter
In a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter until it turns a darker caramel color and begins to emit a nutty smell.
It will take approximately 5-7 minutes to reach this point, but make sure to keep an eye on it throughout so it doesn’t burn.
It should not go from brown to blackish or have a burned smell – this means you’ve cooked it for too long, and should probably start over.
Step 3 – Make the Dough
Add the butter to a medium-sized bowl with the brown sugar, vanilla, and table salt.
Stir to combine.
Add the flour and stir again until combined.
Step 4 – Let the Dough Rest
Spread the dough into the prepared pan with a spatula, and smooth the top. If you’re using a square pan, make sure it fills the corners.
Let the dough rest for 2 hours at room temperature.
Step 5 – Bake
When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 300˚F.
Bake for 45 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, but be sure to leave the oven on.
Sprinkle the surface evenly with your flaky salt, and set the pan aside on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.
Step 6 – Slice and Toast
Carefully remove from the pan by lifting the edges of the aluminum foil.
Transfer to a sturdy cutting board, and use a sharp knife to slice into 12 wedges.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat, and arrange the wedges on top.
Place in the oven and toast the cookies for 15 minutes. Be sure to keep an eye on them so they don’t burn.
Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in airtight containers for up to 5 days.
Why Use Brown Butter?
I promise that browning the butter is not an extra step in the process that I am putting you through unnecessarily.
Browned butter is the secret ingredient that brings extra life to so many different baked goods, including these cookies. And it’s delicious in a variety of savory dishes as well.
When you use brown butter, it provides added depth and richness to every single bite. And the nuttiness really comes to life in this cookie that is so reliant on butter to come together.
Fair warning: once you start using this delicious ingredient in your cooking, you will never want to go back. It feels like an extra indulgence, and you will want to start using it in everything.
Will this be your first time browning butter, or have you used this delicious ingredient in your cooking before? Tell us in the comments below, and be sure to come back to rate the recipe once you’ve tried it.
Love the crumbly, buttery texture of shortbread? We have so many more cookie recipes for you try! Try a few of our favorite shortbread options this baking season:
Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on May 1, 2009. Last updated: December 13, 2022 at 13:21 pm. With additional writing and editing by Meghan Yager and Allison Sidhu.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.