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February 16, 2013

Brown Butter Shortbread



I have come to the conclusion that people are inherently lazy.  Unless it is absolutely necessary to do something, people won't do it.  Especially if there's a chance that someone else might do it instead. Let's not let that be us. Let's be better than everyone else and not settle for the bare minimum.  Let's brown some butter!  And let's make some cookies so that we can eat them with some hot tea and forget about our problems with people.  


Browning butter is one of my favorite things.  It turns regular butter (which we know I still love) into a nutty, rich deliciousness.  Put it on pasta, spread it on bread, eat it with a spoon.  In this case, I put it into Scottish shortbread. You should too!


In the making of this recipe, I learned an important fact.  Brown butter is more potent than regular butter.  This is because you've essentially boiled all the water out of it.  If you brown 100g of regular butter, you will get about 75g of brown butter.  This is important (did I say that already?).  If you brown a lot of butter and want to replace regular butter in a recipe, only use about 3/4 of what they say to.  Otherwise, brown the exact amount of regular butter the recipe calls for, then use all of what you made.  If you do not do this you will end up with a greasy mess (of shortbread crumbs... ahem).  

 
So let's eat these rich, deeply flavoured, yet simple cookies, and let's not give up on people.  They have hidden potential, just like butter.  

Brown butter Shortbread
Adapted from Joy of Baking 

2 cups (188g) all purpose flour
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp (75g) granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup (170g) unsalted butter, frozen**
 
** Brown the butter!  Take 3/4 cup of regular butter and heat in saucepan until it is browned and nutty-smelling.  It will foam quite a bit as the water boils off.  Just keep stirring/swirling the pan so you can see how it's doing.  It's best to use a light coloured saucepan to really be able to see the colour.  If you're particular, you can strain out the browned milk solids at the bottom.  I think they add character... You've just made brown butter!  Resist the urge to put this melty pot of goodness on everything.  Let it cool, then refrigerate until firm.  Proceed with the recipe:

Freeze your butter, this will ensure that it doesn't melt in your hands when you make the shortbread. 

Heat oven to 300F.  Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl.  Grate in the frozen butter.  Rub the butter into the dry ingredients using your fingers.  Gently and quickly, so that the butter doesn't melt.  Feel free to put it in the fridge for a while if you think it's getting too melty.  You want the finished product to be like fairly fine crumbs.  It will NOT look like a dough.  You'll think to yourself "this can't possibly become a cookie, it's just flour!"  That's perfect.  Trust. 

Pour your crumbs into an 8 inch tart pan with removable bottom and compress with your hands (quite aggresively) to fill the pan; you want it pretty compact in there.  Poke some holes with a fork and score with a knife into 8 large or 16 smaller pieces.  This will make it easier to cut without crumbling later and also allow any steam to escape.

Put your tart pan onto a baking sheet (to make it easier to move and also in case of leakage).  Bake in preheated oven for 55 minutes.  Let cool in pan for 5 minutes.  Cut the warm cookies along your score lines and cool completely on a rack.  Wait until they are cool to move, they will be very crumbly and break otherwise!

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