Don´t be fooled by the rustic appearance of these cookies. Or come to think of it, it´ll be better if you are fooled and expect nothing. You´re in for a surprise. The buttery crunch of shortbread is unmistakable, and the nutty flavor of brown sugar mixed with vanilla will make it impossible for you to resist them.
This is the second week of our 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats, the group that Brenda put together. Want different and fabulous sweet treats for December? Then visit every Thursday and there will be one waiting for you. And then you can go check the rest of the group, and the list will be amazing. And there´s a Pinterest board too. Isn´t that super nice of us?
Can this be the best tasting, most addictive shortbread ever? I think so and you might agree. There is something about brown butter. It might have a place of it´s own in the food pyramid, unlike any other thing. Is it possible to use brown butter from now on in every single recipe that calls for melted butter? Or am I exaggerating a bit? If I am it´s just a bit. Must be the butter overdose after eating these. It´s the brown butter-fueled brain talking.
Now, if you´re frowning your forehead or just sighing resigned, unable to understand such a blunt advocacy of butter, I will tell you that, you still haven´t seen a picture of these in tiny bites filled with dulce de leche. And worse, you haven´t seen me eat many of them in a few minutes. They were just a few bites. And they were worth every single greasy, artery-clogging calorie.
Now, about the actual recipe. Brown butter goes from clear to browned in a second. Much like caramel suddenly turns a very deep amber. So after melting the butter it will bubble a lot and suddenly the bubbles will subside. That´s when it turns nutty and darker. It takes about 10 minutes. So don´t go answer the phone, check your e-mail or stuff like that. Stay by the stove. Please.
BROWN BUTTER SHORTBREAD CRISPS
from Best Dessert Book Ever, by Maida Heatter
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 cup unsifted all purpose flour
1 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
1 Tbs milk
¾ cup granulated sugar
In a medium bowl, put ice cubes and fill with cold water, so you have an ice cold water bath to stop the browning of the butter.
In a medium saucepan melt butter. Stir often and let it boil. The mixture will be yellow and the bubbles will be large. After 8 to 10 minutes it will start to darken and smell nutty. Dark flecks will appear in the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and add lemon juice. Stand back, since it will bubble up furiously. Put the saucepan on top of the icy water and let the butter firm up.
Transfer the cold browned butter to a large bowl. Add, sifting, the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. Mix well with a wooden spoon or spatula. Add vanilla, milk and sugar. Mix until everything is well combined. It may appear a bit dry. If you need to, put everything on a working surface and knead it into a ball. Don´t over work the dough.
Make a cilinder and wrap it in plastic. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until it is firm enough to cut without cracking or loosing it´s shape.
About 15 minutes before cutting the cookies, preheat oven to 300º F / 150º C.
Line a baking tray with parchment paper. With a sharp knife, cut ½ inch rounds and put side by side on the paper, leaving an inch in between them.
Bake for about 30 minutes, until they are a bit golden.
Transfer to wire rack and cool completely. Store in a covered tin.