Brown Sugar Shortbread, as seen on Food Network Kitchen Live.
Recipe courtesy of Erin Jeanne McDowell

Brown Sugar Shortbread

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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 1 hr (includes cooling time)
  • Active: 20 min
  • Yield: 16 cookies
If there's one cookie recipe to have in your back pocket, this is it. This shortbread is so easy and so good, and it only has five ingredients. You can make the dough into various shapes rolling and cutting it, but I prefer classic (and super-simple) rounds cut into wedges. Feel free to add different flavorings to the dough, like grated lemon zest or cinnamon (2 grams or 1 teaspoon), or dunk the finished cookies in 6 grams (2 tablespoons) melted chocolate.



  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. If you want to make yourself a guide, use a 6-inch round cake pan or bowl to trace two circles onto the parchment, then turn the parchment over (so the ink won't touch the dough). Or just wing it.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl, using a hand mixer), cream the butter and brown sugar on medium-low speed until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes.  
  3. Add the vanilla and mix on low speed to combine. Scrape the bowl well. Add the flour and salt and mix on low speed just until incorporated, 1 to 2 minutes.  
  4. Divide the dough into 2 equal portions (about 306 grams each) and shape into disks. Place one disk on one half of the prepared baking sheet and use your hands to flatten the dough into a 6-inch round. Repeat with the second disk, leaving 1/2 inch of space between the rounds. If using, brush a coat of egg wash onto the surface of each round.  
  5. Use a sharp knife to score each round gently into 8 wedges--press down just enough to barely cut into the dough, to a depth of about 1/4 inch. Bake until the edges of the shortbread are just beginning to turn golden and the surface appears set, 12 to 14 minutes.  
  6. Cool the shortbread completely on the baking sheet, then cut along the score lines into wedges.  

Cook’s Note

Make Ahead and Storage: The cookies can be stored airtight for up to 1 week. Why It Works: This recipe is all about ratios. The right amount of butter for flavor, flour for structure, and sugar for moisture and tenderness, as well as for sweetness, yield a perfectly crumbly cookie. I like to brush the shortbread with egg wash to five it a lightly golden, crackly look. If you leave it plain, the cookies will have a pale, smooth surface. Both versions are pretty and delicious, so do as you please! Pro Tip: Now is the time to use the fancy butter if you can--with so few ingredients, the rich flavor of higher-fat Irish or European butter makes for truly extraordinary shortbread. How to Keep Your Brown Butter Soft: Until I discovered this trick, when I dug into the brown sugar jar, I often encountered a hard, unscoopable mass. But guess what: Throw one or two marshmallows into the container, and they'll prevent the sugar from drying out. And since marshmallows are shelf stable, you don't have to worry about replacing them.