September 6, 2011
Wow, we really like brown butter. Of course, I already knew this, but it became readily apparent when I started typing the title of this post and Google helpfully predicted for me: was I about to type "brown butter gnocchi?" or "brown butter ricotta muffins?" or maybe I meant "brown butter apple tart"?
No, Google. We've already made those things. And, in fact, a number of other things that we didn't tell you about - though to be honest, not all of them were resounding successes. The thing is, brown butter is never going to be bad. So when I put it in my granola, nothing bad happened - but I realized that there were already too many flavors in there for the brown butter to really stand out. Brown butter is a brilliant ingredient, but it's most successful when it can stand out. I'm not sure what got me thinking about shortbread this weekend, but as soon as I did I knew that it would be the perfect vehicle for that caramel-y, nutty brown butter flavor. Shortbread, after all, is all about butter. So these cookies are all about brown butter. I adapted the recipe from Smitten Kitchen's twice-baked shortbread, since the recipe starts with melted butter; I also used mostly brown sugar for a little more flavor.
Brown Butter Shortbread Cookies (makes 16)
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted from Alice Medrich's Pure Desserts
- 12 tbsp (one and a half sticks) butter
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 and 1/2 cups flour
- Pinch of flaky sea salt, if you wish
- Additional granulated sugar, or turbinado or demarara sugar, if you wish
Butter a 9 inch tart pan or other pan with a removable bottom (like a springform).
Brown the butter by putting it in a medium sized saucepan (if you have one with a light colored bottom, this will help you see when the butter is browned). Turn on the heat to medium and let the butter melt, then start foaming; stir occasionally. After about five minutes, you'll see that the butter has separated into solids and mainly clear liquid. Let the butter cook until the solids (which will look like little particles at the bottom of the pan) have turned golden brown and the butter smells nutty. Pour the butter into a medium bowl.
Whisk the brown and granulated sugar into the warm butter, stirring until the sugar has mostly dissolved. Add in the salt and vanilla extract, then gently fold in the flour until just combined.
Press the dough into your buttered pan, spreading it out evenly and making the top as level as possible. Let the dough sit for at least two hours (or overnight); you do not need to refrigerate it.
When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 300 degrees and move the oven rack to the bottom third of the oven. When the oven is hot, put the tart pan with the dough in the oven and bake for 45 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven (but leave the oven on) and carefully lift out the bottom. Sprinkle the top of the shortbread with sugar and sea salt, if desired, then let it cool for ten minutes. Prepare a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.
After ten minutes, use a sharp knife to cut the cookies into 16 wedges, cut like cake slices. Lay the cookies on the parchment paper, working carefully (the cookies are still fairly fragile). Put the cookies back in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Let them cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes, then remove them to a cooling rack until they finish cooling.