I solemnly swear I am up to no good …
This weekend I was supposed to make some healthy snacks for the coming week. Except a voice kept popping up in my head whispering salted caramel … browned butter … cookieeeees. Well, that was never going to end up in me making healthy snacks, was it? Nope. I was all too swiftly led astray by a Marauder’s Map of sugary buttery delights.
I honestly didn’t want to make salted caramel but desperately wanted something that evoked that aroma and flavour. These shortbreads did that in spades. O. M. G. The aroma! These guarantee a full on sensory experience. The whole house smelled of brown butter and a lot like salty caramel, even though there’s no actual caramel in these shortbreads. It’s all due to using dark brown sugar, which has a lovely toffee caramel flavour and aroma.
I actually found myself eating scraps of cookie dough. I never do that. Seriously, never. Until now.
The family’s verdict? Are they for us? Yay! Why didn’t you make a bigger batch?
Ummm … I did eat a bit of the dough …
The dough is quite soft but not too hard to handle. If you find it difficult to roll out, just press the dough into a loose-bottomed tart tin or individual sized tart tins. A good trick is to roll the dough out between two sheets of silicon baking paper. It is then guaranteed not to stick and you don’t need extra flour for rolling. This is important as too much flour will make the shortbread more tough and not as flaky … crumbly … buttery … you know. It won’t be as delicious and texturally delightful. Just make sure you refrigerate the dough so it is cold before rolling. This will make it easier to cut the dough into rounds, or shapes, and lift them on to the baking sheet.
I rolled these out into thin discs to make dainty rounds. They’d be just as great if you leave them somewhat thicker … more melt-in-your-mouth shortbread goodness per square centimetre.
Serve these with an espresso for a totally wild coffee experience. They may not look fancy but just try stopping at one … or two … or three …
They are very easy and quick to make. Enjoy!
Makes about 48 cookies or 1 x 20cm – 22cm shortbread round
250 grams unsalted butter
130 grams dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla bean paste
350 grams plain flour
2 teaspoons Fleur de Sel de Guérande or Murray River Salt
Preheat the oven to 180℃. Line 2 large baking sheets with silicon baking paper or Silpat sheets. Alternatively, you can use a loose-bottomed tart tin to make one large shortbread round or use smaller ones for individual sized shortbreads. Line the base.
Cut the butter into pieces and place in a saucepan over a low heat. Melt the butter and cook until it starts to brown and gives off a warm, nutty aroma. Stir from time to time to make sure the butter browns evenly. Take care not to let it burn. Remove from the heat and pour into a large bowl. Set aside to cool slightly and then refrigerate until it starts to set again but is not too firm. It should be the consistency of softened butter.
Add the sugar and vanilla to the browned butter and whisk or beat until very light and fluffy and the sugar is dissolved.
Finally, add the flour and salt and mix to form a soft dough.
If making one large shortbread round, press the dough into the tin (or individual molds) and flatten the surface. Refrigerate for 30 mins before baking.
If making cookies, as I did, flatten the dough into a disc, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm up. Roll out the pastry to about 4mm thickness and cut into cookies using your favourite cookie cutter. I used a simple round cookie cutter of 5 cm diameter. Place the cookies on the baking sheets and refrigerate for 30 minutes. This will make sure the cookies keep their shape as they bake.
Prior to baking, lightly sprinkle a little extra Fleur de Sel de Guérande or other salt on each cookie. You can lightly press the salt into the cookie to make sure it adheres to the dough properly but do this gently. Bake the cookies for about 10 – 12 minutes. You may need to rotate the sheets half way through baking to make sure they brown evenly. They will be a golden colour when cooked.
For the large shortbread round, prick the surface lightly with a fork. Sprinkle a little extra Fleur de Sel de Guérande or other salt over the surface of the shortbread and again, you can very gently press the salt on to the dough. Bake for about 20 – 30 minutes.
Remove from the oven and leave the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. If baking a large round, let cool completely in the tart tin and remove when cooled. Store in an airtight container.