Food

Three-Ingredient Brown Sugar Shortbread

What quick desserts do you swear by? Food52 co-founder Merrill Stubbs adapted this shortbread recipe from her grandmother and calls it “the easiest, most foolproof recipe in the world.” And wouldn’t it make a great holiday gift? Here’s how to make it (with just three ingredients!)…

Brown Sugar Shortbread
By Merrill Stubbs, from Food52 Baking

You’ll need:

1/2 cup (110g) salted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup (50g) light brown sugar
1 1/3 cups (160g) all-purpose flour

Using an electric mixer or creaming vigorously with a wooden spoon, beat the butter and brown sugar until fluffy and pale. Add the flour and stir just until incorporated. Transfer the dough to an 8-inch cake pan (square or round) and press it into an even layer with your fingers. Prick the dough evenly across the surface with a fork. If you’re using a square pan, score the dough into 6 rows and 4 columns (for 24 cookies) or into 8 rows by 4 columns (for 32 cookies) using a very sharp knife. If you’re using a circular pan, score the dough into 16 or 24 triangles.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes before baking. Preheat the oven to 325F.

Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, until the dough is a very light golden brown and the surface looks dry; watch carefully so it doesn’t get too dark. (The shortbread will get darker as it cools in the pan, so you’ll want to pull it out just before it has reached the desired color.) Remove from the oven and immediately cut it using the scored lines as guides. Let cool in the pan before separating the pieces. The shortbread will keep in an airtight container for several days.

Thank you so much, Food52! Delicious, as always.

P.S. More recipes, including pumpkin chocolate chip pancakes and chocolate blackberry pudding.

(Reprinted with permission from Food52 Baking: 60 Sensational Treats You Can Pull Off in a Snap, by the Editors of Food52, copyright © 2015, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Photographs copyright © 2015 by James Ransom. Thanks to Franny Eremin for helping with this series.)

  1. Zoe N says...

    My English dad went crazy for this shortbread! He said this is the closest to classic Walkers shortbread he’s ever had in a homemade batch. I made it for him twice in one week, and I’m planning to a few batches for the holidays. So easy, with simple ingredients that I always have on hand. Looking forward to adding rosemary.

    A couple notes: I did have to add a tad more butter to get it to come together. This has a bit more flour than the typical 1 stick to 1 cup ration in shortbread, but I think this is key to the light, crumbly texture that English dads everywhere will love.

  2. Maria Nolan says...

    Made this for my partner and his housemate yesterday and it went down a storm great easy dessert will definitely be making this more often!!

  3. Karen says...

    Do you put anything on the pan before adding the dough to keep from sticking?

  4. Neens says...

    Does anyone know what the european equivalent of all-purpose flour is? I live in Belgium and there are at least 30 different types of flour but i cant for the life of me figure out which one to use for recipes like this.

    • Rosa says...

      You can look up the percentage of protein in the composition table in the package. All purpose flour should have around 9% and 11% of protein.
      Hope It helps!

    • Neena says...

      Hi Belgium here. I use ‘tarwebloem’ or in french ‘farine de blé’ for all purpose flour. I just tried this recipe with ‘patisseriebloem’ and they turned out really nice. Good luck!

  5. megs283 says...

    Does anyone know why you prick the dough before scoring?

    • Aideen says...

      Probably so the air can escape and the dough doesn’t rise?

    • Diane Giansante says...

      I make shortbread often, and once i forgot to prick the surface before palcing in the oven. It tastes fine, but with all the shortening, the cookie gets very flaky, so it is messier to cut – just flakes away, so the presentation kind of suffers.

  6. Cheryl says...

    I love shortbread! This recipe could be dangerous. :-)

    My go to winter dessert is an easy showstopper that is relatively healthy and a delicious treat: brandy roasted pears with honey, cinnamon, and cloves, served over ice cream. When we have dinner guests, I will put the pears in the over before we sit down to eat. Any leftovers are great for breakfast the next morning!

    4 ripe but firm pears, halved, cored
    1/4 cup brandy
    3 tablespoons honey
    3 tablespoons water
    2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
    1 (3-inch) piece cinnamon
    4 whole cloves

    Place pears cut side down in a 3-quart baking dish. Drizzle pears with honey, water, dot with butter, and add brandy, cinnamon stick and cloves.
    Roast pears, basting every 10 minutes or so , until pears are knife tender in the thickest part and sauce is slightly syrupy, about 35 to 45 minutes. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream and spoon roasting juices over the top. NOTE: Often I increase the syrup ingredients by half, as we like a bit more to spoon over the ice cream. HEAVENLY!

    • Talia says...

      Sounds amazing! Do you peel the pears? Thanks!

    • Cheryl says...

      Yes, I do peel the pears.

  7. Eva says...

    I love recipes with short ingredient lists :D

    Think I could get away with using a pie pan instead of a cake pan? Will it bake differently?

  8. This looks delicious! I never have any luck with shortbread (always turn out too sugar-cookie-ish?) so I will def give this a try!

    My normal fall-back easy desert (especially in autumn/winter) is a super easy fruit crumble based on Raymond Blanc’s Apple&Blackcurrant crumble, although it works really well with any fruits and is always a treat at the end of a cold day! I wrote about it here:

    https://themumandthemom.com/2018/02/03/the-definitive-fruit-crumble-how-to-improve-a-grey-february/

    Xx

  9. Christine says...

    oh, I cannot wait to try this one! A dusting of cocoa or powdered sugar and maybe a berry topping could be nice!

  10. Darcy says...

    Anyone tried something like this with Earth Balance? (or similar non-dairy butter) ~thx

    • Claire says...

      I haven’t tried it, but just wanted to say that allergy awesomeness blog has alot of really great dessert recipes that are free of the top eight. You could always substitue regular flour for the gluten free etc if that isn’t an issue for you.

    • C says...

      It will work just fine! Myokos dairy free butter will work as well and is free of palm oil. xo

  11. Karen says...

    Here’s the best shortbread, and soup, and oakcakes, and cakes – https://www.anta.co.uk/cookbook. And their crockery is pretty amazing too! X

  12. Mullica says...

    Oh I have the Food52 Baking book that has this recipe! They also recommended putting jam on top half way through the cooking process and baking it until the jam sets. Extra deliciousness.

  13. Nathalie says...

    Can’t wait to try out this recipe and loving the other easy recipes in the comments! My mouth is watering!

  14. Danielle says...

    I adore that book! I used to make the butterscotch brownie recipe all of the time because we always had the ingredients. Along with the Junior Cookbook it was my introduction to cooking. The thumbprint and snowball recipes are still a holiday go-to in my family.

  15. Hayley says...

    I highly recommend The Forest Feast’s rosemary shortbread, which uses the same ingredients with the addition chopped fresh rosemary! So delicious and always a hit!

  16. Sarah says...

    I made just about this same shortbread (except with regular sugar) practically every month as a little kid, from the Betty Crocker “Cookie Book”. I felt so proud to execute an entire recipe on my own (baking *still* feels like magic sometimes). Eating long, thin, pie-shaped slices with a glass of milk takes me back!

  17. agnes says...

    I discovered this recipe last sunday and we’ve already made it every day since sunday! so good, so quick, so easy. 150 gr coconut powder, 75g sugar: mix coconut and sugar, gently add three whipped egg white, then, with the help of a spoon, make litlle bowls o pyramids, put them on a baking sheet. 15 minutes in the oven (180 c. degrees). they’re called rocher coco (coconut rocks). I really want to make another batch tomorrow.

  18. Cynthia says...

    This would be wonderful with a cup of coffee.

  19. Katie Larissa says...

    Question: do you think any shortbread cookie recipe could be made in a round pan like this recipe? I have a BELOVED ginger shortbread recipe from Queen Ina, but the process of cutting all the tiny cookies out is laborious. I would love to know if y’all think I could use this as a shortcut.

    • Karyn says...

      Danielle, awesome! Reminds me of the Pepperidge Farm Chessmen cookies :)

  20. Lauren E. says...

    I have to make a gluten-free dessert this weekend for a friend gathering and I bet this would be HEAVENLY would almond flour, too.

  21. And just when I think I’m going to “get back on track” with my eating…I come across this recipe. (insert face slap emoji here)

    • Sasha L says...

      Same Hannah. I’ve gone exactly 5 days without dessert, if I count today, which I really shouldn’t because all I’m thinking about is shortbread and I’M WEAK.

  22. Whitney says...

    Each year my mom bakes pans of shortbread to giveaway as Christmas gifts. A simple, Scottish recipe, it was a nod to our ancestors and cheap to bake. Throughout my childhood she would wrap them in cellophane and tie a bow around each one. My sister, brother, and I would dutifully bring them to teachers, neighbors, and friends houses as a token of gratitude. Despite this tradition, we never once tasted it ourselves. Instead, giving it all away. Years went by until I brought a round of shortbread to my best friend’s house as a teenager. Immediately she broke into it for a taste and I took a bite. It was warm and sweet, soft and crisp. Why had I never tasted it before? I went home that evening and scolded my mother. Now, every Christmas my mom saves a batch for my siblings and me to enjoy. It’s the most humble of Christmas treats and the one I look forward to each year.

    • What a lovely gift idea! I also really enjoyed your story, Whitney!

  23. Laura C. says...

    Why, oh why did I have to move and now we don’t have an oven (insert crying emoji)

  24. A says...

    I bet this would be good with a chocolate drizzle too- I wonder when in the process you would do that?

    • Ludo says...

      When it is fully baked and cooled would probably be best!

    • Erin says...

      I would do it at the end after they’re completely cool, so the chocolate isn’t too melty and messy!

    • A says...

      Thank you!! :)

  25. Emily says...

    Ugh YUM. I wonder how this would taste with brown butter?! Too much brown going on with brown sugar? Or the greatest flavor combo in our history?

    • Jeanne says...

      I say that sounds incredible! Brown sugar has a deeper more molasses flavor and brown butter has that toasty, nuttier flavor. Yummy partnership!

    • Molly Strong says...

      UM that sounds amazing! But melting butter would change the consistency here. For cookies, you typically need room temperature butter to get the right bake. If you’re a brown butter fan, HIGHLY recommend the salted rice krispy treats that were featured on here a couple weeks ago. – From one passionate baker to another :)

    • Kate says...

      To Molly’s comment, I think you could brown the butter and then re-chill and then soften to room temp!

    • Victoria says...

      I found a recipe using browned butter! Your genius idea was in good company! Would be interesting to see the difference between cooling the butter and not. My America’s Test Kitchen chocolate chip cookies uses hot browned melted butter and they are divine
      https://cookiesandcups.com/brown-butter-shortbread/

  26. Heather says...

    Is anyone else singing Waitress in their head reading this? “sugar, butter, flour….”

    • Kait says...

      YEP!

  27. Taylor says...

    Mmm shortbread and biscotti are my favorite dessert-I-eat-as-breakfast treats

    My favorite quick dessert:

    Ripe banana sliced in half, sprinkle sliced half with some brown sugar, grill on hot, buttered pan (creates crispy sugared crunch almost like a brulee). Mix up some sour cream, brown sugar and vanilla extract as a topping. Heaven.

    • Get outta here! That sounds amazing!