These brown sugar shortbread are classic shortbread cookies with a twist. Using only 3 ingredients, these shortbread cookies can be rolled and cut into any shape and make great cookies for gifting and holiday cookie tray treats too!
I love this brown sugar shortbread. It is a simple variation to my all butter shortbread bars and is absolutely quick and easy to make.
Making this brown sugar shortbread is exactly the same as making my all butter shortbread. The recipe requires only 3 basic ingredients, and those are flour, butter and brown sugar.
In the classic shortbread recipe, the ratio of flour, butter, and sugar is 3:2:1. For these brown sugar version of the shortbread, however, the same ratio cannot be applied. Sugar needs to be increased slightly as brown sugar tends to be less sweet than white sugar.
Other than that, this brown sugar shortbread dough is mixed in the same way as my classic version. For these brown sugar cookies, however, I choose to roll and cut them into circles instead of cutting them into bars.
These eggless cookies are absolutely rich and buttery and have a lovely crumbly, melt in your mouth texture, just like how the shortbread is meant to be. Try them!
Table of contents
- How to Make
- Can you use unsalted butter?
- Can the brown sugar be replaced with white sugar?
- How to avoid the dough from sticking to the rolling pin when rolling?
- Do you need to space the cookies out on the baking tray?
- Why are the cookies sometimes not crumbly?
- Why are the cookies not crispy?
- How to store the brown sugar shortbread?
- Like these shortbread cookies? Here are my other posts you might want to check out
- Recipe (Printable)
How to Make
- All purpose flour
- Butter (salted)
- Dark brown sugar
- Vanilla Essence
Mixing the dough
- Measure flour into a large bowl. Add in the butter.
- Mix both until they become crumbly. You can mix them with a cake mixer (at medium speed) or rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until the butter is all mixed into the flour and the mixture is crumbly. Add in the brown sugar and vanilla essence.
- Mix until well combined. You can do with with the mixer or a wooden spoon. Make sure it’s well distributed with the butter and flour.
- Turn it out onto a clean work surface and press mixture together to form a dough. Do not knead the dough, suffice if you press it together into a ball.
Rolling and shaping the cookies
- Divide the dough into smaller sections (for easy rolling and cutting). Place the brown sugar cookie dough in between 2 sheets of parchment paper. And roll dough to the desired thickness. For even layer, I always place 2 dowel rods on either side of my dough, making sure they are positioned within the width of my rolling pin.
- And I literally roll on the dowel rods. That way, my shortbread dough does not get any flatter than the diameter of the dowel rods, which is the thickness I want for these brown sugar cookies. You can also use rolling pin guide rings to help in rolling the dough to a consistent thickness.
- Use a round cookie cutter to cut the dough.
- Use a spatula to lift them off the parchment paper onto a lined baking tray or baking sheets.
Decorating the shortbread cookies
- I decorated my shortbread circles with simple dots around the edges using the end of a cake decorating brush.
- For consistently spaced holes, start with 4 holes in each quarter of the circle.
- Next, add one hole in between each of the 4 holes. You should have 8 holes.
- And finally, add one hole in between all the 8 holes.
- That should give you 16, equally spaced out holes on each of the brown sugar cookies. If your cookies are smaller, you can reduce the number of holes, it's entirely up to you. The cookies don’t rise during baking, so it is ok to put them close to one another (so long as they are not touching one another).
- Bake the brown sugar shortbread for about 10 minutes (in a preheated oven) until the sides start turning golden brown. Remove them from the oven and let them cool completely to room temperature on a wire rack before serving. Store leftovers in an airtight container.
Can you use unsalted butter?
- The butter I used in this shortbread recipe is salted. You can use unsalted butter too, but remember to add about ¼ teaspoon fine salt when rubbing in the flour and the butter.
Can the brown sugar be replaced with white sugar?
- These shortbread are called brown sugar shortbread for a reason - for the use of brown sugar. Brown sugar gives these cookies a depth of flavor. I use dark brown sugar in the recipe but it can also be easily substituted with light brown sugar.
- If you wish to make these buttery treat with white sugar, the amount of sugar used must be adjusted as brown sugar tends to be less sweet than white sugar. You can use my all butter shortbread bars recipe if you want to use white sugar.
How to avoid the dough from sticking to the rolling pin when rolling?
- The best way to avoid the dough from sticking to the rolling pin is to roll it between 2 sheets of parchment paper. You can also try working on lightly floured surface.
- And when lifting the cut shortbread onto baking trays, use a spatula or an icing scraper to move the cut out cookies. This is really helpful in retaining the cookie sizes as you move them.
Do you need to space the cookies out on the baking tray?
- This brown sugar cookie recipe does not call for the use of any leavening agents. Hence the cookies do not rise during baking. They do puff up a little, but it’s almost negligible. Hence, when placing them in a baking tray for baking, you can place them near to one another. A mere gap of about 1cm to 2 cm is sufficient, for easy handling.
Why are the cookies sometimes not crumbly?
- To ensure the brown sugar shortbread turns out soft, crispy and crumbly, do not overmix the dough after adding in the sugar. Suffice if you press it together to form a ball.
- Working the dough for too long causes the gluten in the flour to become stretchy, and there is a tendency for your shortbread to lose its crumbly texture. The cookies will still be crispy, but not crumbly.
Why are the cookies not crispy?
- If your shortbread is not crispy, it could be due to them being underbaked.
- The baking time indicated in the recipe card below is for round shortbread cookies measuring approximately 4cm. The thickness is about ½ cm. If your cookies are larger or thicker than this, the baking time would need to be increased accordingly. And if they are smaller, then the time needs to be reduced as such.
How to store the brown sugar shortbread?
- This brown sugar shortbread recipe yields cookies that last well. I have tried keeping them for 3 weeks, and they were fine. Just remember to store them in an airtight container to retain their crispiness.
Like these shortbread cookies? Here are my other posts you might want to check out
- All Butter Shortbread Bars - A Classic Quick & Easy Recipe
- Jam Filled Shortbread with Homemade Mango Jam
- Sugared Shortbread Cookies
- Matcha Shortbread with White Chocolate Centers and Sugar Glaze
- Lemon Chocolate Chip Cookies
Here is the full printable version of my brown sugar shortbread cookies recipe.
Brown Sugar Shortbread - Quick and Easy Cut Out Cookies
- 130 g brown sugar
- 200 g butter salted
- 300 g plain flour
- Preheat oven to 170°Celsius. Line baking trays with parchment paper.
- Place butter in a medium-sized bowl. Add flour and mix on low speed until the mixture turns crumbly. If mixing by hand, rub in the flour and butter with your fingertips until both ingredients are well incorporated and the mixture turns crumbly.
- Add the brown sugar and mix until it is well incorporated into the flour and butter.
- Turn the mixture onto your workspace and press it together to form a ball.
- Divide the dough into sections. Roll each section and cut it into circles with a round cutter.
- Place the cut shortbread cookies onto prepared baking trays.
- Press holes into the edges of each cookie with a skewer or the back of a small cake decorating brush.
- Bake for 10 minutes, until the sides of the shortbread start to turn light golden.
- Remove the cookies from the oven and let them rest on the baking tray for a few minutes before transferring them onto wire racks to cool completely.
- Store the shortbread in an airtight container.
And that's that. My super easy and quick recipe for brown sugar shortbread.
Happy Baking 🙂
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