These cookies make me want to sit down with a cup of hot tea and savor the moment. Actually, they make me want to stand at the counter and chomp them up like Cookie Monster!
Fall leaf colors are one of the highlights of the season, which are few in my opinion. Fall is my least favorite season but these browned-butter shortbread leaves might have me revising that opinion. This shortbread is made with fully browned butter, and the aroma of the dough is heavenly!
Shortbread is very easy to make — 3 ingredients — and contains no eggs: no risks if you sample the dough. Not that I tried it. No. Uh-uh. But you might.
A collection of colored sugars comes in handy for all kinds of food decorating, and it was my go-to for the fall leaves. I also used brown sugar and Wilton Toffee Crunch. I have also developed a collection of the 6-compartment sprinkles that are available for seasonal baking. They are good for years and add lots of options to your cake and cookie toppings. Maybe even your hot cereal. Just a thought. I haven’t tried that either. But you might.
The cookies are 1 1/2″ to 3″ in size, giving you permission to have multiple cookies instead of limiting yourself to “just one.” I love little cookies! I especially love the flavor of these Browned-Butter Shortbread Leaves!
Here’s the recipe and instructions — they’re actually quite easy, but I write detailed instructions!
Browned-Butter Shortbread Leaves
10 Tbsp browned butter (1 stick plus 2 Tbsp.)
2/3 c. powdered sugar (aka confectioner’s sugar or icing sugar)
1 1/3 c. flour
1 Tbsp. cold water
A variety of colored sugars and sprinkles. I used red, yellow, 2 different greens, and lots of orange sugars, plus some brown sugar (which turns into a rich brown) and Wilton Toffee Crunch.
Make the browned butter ahead, chill until solid, then set out until it arrives at room temp. Using an electric hand mixer, beat the powdered sugar and butter together very well until fluffy and smooth. Beat in the flour, scraping sides of bowl to incorporate all the sugar/butter. The dough will not come together onto one mass yet; it will look like sand.
Make sure all ingredients are completely combined, then drizzle the water over the dough and toss it with a fork to distribute. Smash the dough into one mass with your hands — it will now come together!
Form the dough into a thick disk and place on a piece of plastic wrap. Cover with another piece and pat or roll the dough into 1/4″ thickness. If the edges begin to tear more than just a little bit, stop and press them inward toward the center to close the tear. When done, remove the top layer of plastic.
Completely cover the top surface of the dough with a layer of colored sanding sugar and bake-able sprinkles in random blobs and streaks. Replace top layer of plastic wrap, pat or roll to press the sugars into the dough firmly. Remove top layer of plastic and repeat if more sugar coverage is needed.
Cut with cookie cutters or desired shape (squares, diamonds) with a sharp knife.
Place cookies on foil lined baking sheet and chill for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Bake cookies for 15-30 minutes, depending on your oven and how big/thick your cookies actually are. After 15 minutes, check every 2-3 minutes and remove when edges are done to your wishes. (Mine baked in 23 minutes, 1/4″ thick, 1.5″ x 3″ in size, in an accurate oven, unchilled.)
Let cool about 5 minutes before removing from foil. Store airtight to preserve freshness.
Shortbread is such a rich cookie, but usually very mild. This one has a distinct flavor of the browned butter, offset by the sweetness of sanding sugar covering the top.
They will toast nicely around the edges when they bake, but they aren’t in any way over-baked! Most shortbread is baked in wedges, as I did my scraps below and are intentionally baked to avoid any browning. I bake these cookies a bit differently to add to the fall leaf effect!
Scraps: Once you have the leaves in the oven, gather up the scraps with the bottom layer of plastic wrap, capturing all the loose sugar crystals. Squeeze it tight, then pat it out into a disk about 1/4″ thick.
Sandwich some Toffee Crunch or other yumminess betweek two halves. Cover with the wrap and make a couple passes with the rolling pin to seal it together and thin it out just a bit. Cut however you wish, and bake as above.
I made my scraps to look like traditional petticoat tails shortbread: wedges with the fork marks around the edges. Transfer to baking sheet and cut into wedges but don’t separate them before baking. The colored sugars included in the dough give it a crunchy texture that I really enjoy.
Don’t be intimidated by shortbread! Jump in and give these Browned-Butter Shortbread cookies a try! Even if you don’t think you like shortbread, you’ll love these! If you are an experienced shortbread maker, change it up and try these out!