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Last Updated on April 5, 2021 by Chenée Lewis
Today’s recipe is a simple 4-ingredient cookie recipe that is SO GOOD! You’d never guess how easy it is to make. If you’re a fan of classic shortbread cookies or fun variations like my chocolate orange shortbread cookies or my slice and bake Christmas cookies, you’ll definitely want to give these easy brown sugar shortbread cookies a try! Chances are you already have all the ingredients on hand!
Which sugar is best for shortbread?
We’re using brown sugar in these shortbread cookies, not only because I personally love the flavor it adds to everything, but also because it’s such a simple and delicious twist on the classic shortbread recipe. Traditional Scottish shortbread is made from butter, white sugar, and flour. That combination results in a deliciously buttery, crumbly cookie that is as simple as it is tasty. The brown sugar and vanilla blend together to create a deeply complex flavor that is almost caramel-like. Absolutely irresistible!
Brown sugar is a small change that makes a big difference. Because brown sugar contains molasses, it adds a depth of flavor that is mission from regular white granulated sugar. Also, the molasses in brown sugar adds moisture, which makes these cookies a bit softer and more chewy than traditional shortbread cookies. Finally, brown sugar tastes a bit less sweet than white sugar, so we’re adjusting our ratios accordingly to find the right balance of buttery sweetness.
- dark brown sugar – I prefer dark brown sugar in these shortbread cookies. It amps up the molasses flavor and gives them a deeper color that I love! If you only have light brown sugar that works, too.
- salted butter – I bake almost exclusively with salted butter, and these brown sugar shortbread cookies are no exception! And salted butter has the added bonus of bringing out the flavors in these cookies without the need to add salt. I do recommend using a high-quality butter if you can, since the butter is such a large proportion of this recipe. If you don’t have salted butter, feel free to use unsalted — just add 1/4 tsp of salt in with your flour.
- all-purpose flour – I recommend picking up a kitchen scale and measuring out 128 grams of flour by weight to make sure that the amount you’re using is accurate. Otherwise, try the spoon-and-level method to ensure that you’re using the correct amount of flour.
- pure vanilla extract – many shortbread cookies omit vanilla, but I felt that it would be the perfect complement to the richness of the brown sugar in these shortbread cookies. Just make sure you’re using a good-quality pure vanilla extract, since it’s a major flavor in this brown sugar shortbread cookies recipe. Or better yet, check out my post on how to make vanilla extract at home with just 2 ingredients!
This is a pretty simple recipe, so you won’t need too many elaborate tools. However, you will need a few important tools make sure these brown sugar shortbread cookies taste amazing! First, you’ll want to get a 2 or 2.5-inch round cookie cutter or biscuit cutter. Also, I’d recommend using a stand mixer to mix up the dough, or a hand mixer if you don’t have a stand mixer. Here are all the tools you’ll need:
Tips and F.A.Q.
Sugar cookies like these Peppermint White Chocolate Cookies are usually made with eggs, and different ratios of ingredients than shortbread cookies. The resulting cookie is not as crumbly or buttery as these brown sugar shortbread cookies.
Yes it does! Brown sugar is made with molasses, which adds moisture to the final result and gives you a softer, chewier cookie. It also affects the texture and consistency of the dough, meaning it can make cookies spread a bit more in the oven. That’s why for these brown sugar shortbread cookies, we’re adding a bit more flour to accommodate the brown sugar.
Traditionally, shortbread is made with caster sugar, known as superfine sugar in the U.S. Many recipes just use regular granulated white sugar. But for a softer, richer sweetness like what you get with these brown sugar shortbread cookies, you can’t beat dark brown sugar!
Absolutely! They freeze very well — just let them cool completely, then place them in an airtight container to freeze for up to two months. Let them thaw, still in the container, at room temperature before serving.
No worries! You can roll your dough out and shape it into a rectangle (make sure it’s about 1/4-inch thick) and use a sharp knife to cut the dough into rectangular pieces. Then just poke holes in the dough and you’re ready to bake!
I wanted this brown sugar shortbread recipe to be a somewhat small batch recipe, so that it can be made as an easy afternoon treat or for one or two people. So unlike most cookie recipes, this one yields about 12 cookies. If you would like to make more, just double, triple, or quadruple the recipe!
It’s so easy — in the recipe card below, you can select 2x or 3x double or triple the recipe, or hover over the “12” in the servings yield section and move the slider to adjust the ingredients to the exact amount of cookies you’d like to bake!
These brown sugar shortbread cookies would be a great addition to a dessert charcuterie board! They’re so easy to make, and their simple flavor will make them a crowd favorite!
Or if you love this brown sugar shortbread recipe but you want more chocolate, definitely try my chocolate orange shortbread cookies! They’re packed with dark chocolate chunks and bright orange zest, truly one of the best flavor combinations!
Or for another delicious treat that only takes a few ingredients, try my Confetti Popcorn — It’s just 3 ingredients and it’s always a hit!
Equipment you may need
- In a large bowl using a hand mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter and brown sugar until fluffy and well combined.
- Add vanilla and beat until combined.
- Gradually mix in flour until just combined.
- Turn mixture out onto a floured surface and knead a few times with your hands to bring the dough into a ball.
- Roll the dough out to ¼-inch thick and cut out cookies with a 2-inch round cookie cutter. Prick cookie rounds with a fork or toothpick.
- Place cookie rounds on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking liner. Preheat oven to 375°F and place baking sheet in freezer for about 10 minutes to chill while oven preheats.
- Bake in preheated oven 10-12 minutes, or until cookies are lightly brown on the bottom.
- Let cookies cool on pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
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