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Brown butter shortbread brownies

Updated: Dec 25, 2023

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A fudgy chocolate filled brownie bakes on top of a brown buttery shortbread base, and I don't think it can get any better than this! This recipe brings together a mix of flavor and texture into one delicious brownie that is sure to please any crowd - though take it from me, you probably won't want to share these ones.

There are a few steps for this recipe, but in the end it could not be more worth it. It's the perfect weekend activity, and they stay fresh for a long time (especially if stored in the fridge) so if they last, they won't go to waste.

  • Step one is browning your butter and bringing it to room temperature.

  • Step two is making and partially baking your brown butter shortbread layer

  • Step three is bringing together your brownie batter, baking and not so patiently waiting to slice in!

The layers offer a buttery flavor and soft crunch from the shortbread and a smooth fudgy bite from the brownie making this a recipe you just can't skip.


For your shortbread, first you'll need to brown your butter. To do this, you'll melt it in a pot or pan on low to medium heat. After it melts, it will begin to crackle. Continue to stir and watch your butter carefully. You'll start to smell a nutty aroma (you'll know it when it happens). Once you see the color turn to a light brown or amber, remove your pan from the heat and transfer your butter into a heat proof bowl (make sure to get all of the brown bits at the bottom!). To let it come to room temperature you have two options. Personally, I like to brown my butter about a day ahead, pop it into the fridge once browned (wait to do this until it's no longer hot), and then remove your solidified butter from the fridge about an hour or two before you plan to get started so it can soften. Your other option is to allow it to solidify at room temperature but this can still take quite a while.


Once your browned butter is at room temperature, it's time to make your shortbread layer. The mixture will be crumbly and that is totally okay. Once your ingredients are completely mixed together, you'll press it down into your square pan and smooth it out. I like to use a combination of a flat tool like an offset spatula or measuring cup, and my hands to smooth the dough down smoothly. It will come together as you shape it I promise. Once smooth, use a fork to poke some holes in the top of your shortbread dough and then it's time to bake.

Once your shortbread base bakes a bit, it's time to make your brownies. There is a higher amount of chocolate melted into this recipe as compared to my other recipes, and the biggest reason for this is the texture. It gives us an incredibly fudgy and deeply chocolate brownie on top of your buttery, crunchy shortbread. I find it's easiest to melt my chocolate and butter together on the stovetop, but this can absolutely be done in the microwave too. When your batter is ready, you'll smooth it on top of your shortbread and bake it.


The hardest part about this recipe? Waiting to slice in. It's always important to wait until brownies have cooled completely until you slice in, but with this recipe in particular it's really important if you want to get a clean slice. Allowing the brownies to chill in the fridge is a great option, or I've even done an overnight freeze prior to slicing at room temperature. An extra sharp knife is also key for cutting cleanly through the brownie and shortbread layers.


I used a hand mixer both for my shortbread and the brownie batter. You can swap in a stand mixer. I highly recommend using a mixer for both layers, but with patience and a strong hand you can absolutely make this recipe without. I would use a spatula and very softened butter for the shortbread, and a whisk for the brownie batter with a spatula at the end to finish forming your batter if you choose to skip the mixer.


When making brownies, the type of pan you use is really important. To get the most even bake and a chewy center, I recommend using a metal pan rather than glass (like this OXO pan) and this will also help with getting an evenly baked shortbread layer. Just know if you use a glass pan that the bake time may vary and you could wind up with overcooked edges and an under baked center.

Ingredients:

Brown butter shortbread

  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter 141g*

  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar 40g

  • 1 1/4 cup flour 150g

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Brownie layer

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick, 1/2 cup) unsalted butter 113g

  • 1 1/3 cup (8 oz) semisweet chocolate, chopped

  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar 48g

  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar 127g

  • 2 egg + extra yolk

  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 2 tablespoon neutral oil (vegetable or canola oil)

  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour 60g

  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder 35g

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

*After your butter is browned and cooled to room temperature it will weigh less, I measured it at 118 grams if you want to be exact!


Total time: 4-6 hours (optional overnight chill for browned butter)

Prep time: 30-45 minutes

Bake time: 34-36 minutes

Chill time: 2-4 hours

Servings: 16


Equipment:

  • 9x9in square pan (or an 8x8 and increase the cook time a bit)

  • Parchment paper

  • Heavy bottomed nonstick pot (can reuse, or have a small microwave safe bowl on hand too)

  • Hand or stand mixer

  • Spatula (and whisk if no mixer)

  • Large and medium bowl

  • Sharp knife (for cutting brownies)

Cooking instructions:

First, brown your butter. Place your butter in a pot or pan (I recommend using a nonstick heavy bottomed pot) on the stovetop on a low to medium heat. After it melts, you'll hear it begin to crackle. Stir the melted butter and watch it carefully as it can burn easily. You'll start to smell a nutty aroma (you'll know it when it happens). Once you see the color turn to a light brown or amber, remove your pan from the heat and transfer your butter and all of the brown bits at the bottom into a heat proof bowl.


Your browned butter will need to be solidified and at room temperature before the next step. You can allow it to chill and solidify overnight in the fridge and then bring it to room temperature by taking it out a couple of hours before baking (my preference) or give it a few hours out on your counter to solidify.


Make your shortbread base. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.


In a medium bowl (or stand mixer with paddle attachment), add your room temperature browned butter and powdered sugar. Mix together at a medium speed for about a minute. Add in your flour and salt. Continue to mix at a medium speed for another minute or two. It will be crumbly and that's okay.


Switch to a spatula, continue to fold the dough together until larger chunks are holding together.


Line your square pan with parchment paper. Flatten your dough down into your pan and once smooth, use a fork to poke holes across the top surface. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes. It should be lightly golden on the top.

Make your brownie layer. Melt your butter and chocolate together. In a nonstick pot on the stovetop over a low heat (or in a small bowl if you'd like to use the microwave), melt your butter halfway. Then, add in your chopped semisweet chocolate. Stir to combine, and keep on the heat, stirring until smooth. If you're using the microwave, follow these steps and heat in 15 second intervals. Set aside to cool slightly.


In a medium or large bowl (or stand mixer with paddle attachment), add both sugars and your eggs and additional egg yolk. Use a hand mixer at a medium speed to combine for about a minute or two until your mixture lightens in color and thickens. Then, add in your vanilla and oil and continue to mix for another 30 seconds.


Pour your chocolate and butter mixture into your sugar and eggs. Continue to mix at a medium speed until fully combined.


Next, add in your dry ingredients - flour, cocoa powder and salt. You can start with your hand mixer, but I recommend using your spatula to finish folding in your dry ingredients until just combined to ensure you don't overmix.


Pour your brownie batter on top of your partially baked brown butter shortbread and spread it smooth.

Bake and serve your brownies. Place your brownies into the oven (it should still be set to 350 degrees) to bake for 24 to 26 minutes. They should just barely jiggle when you pull them out of the oven but be set on the top.


Allow your brownies to cool at room temperature for at least an hour. For the cleanest slice, place in the fridge for a couple of hours. Slice into 16 squares with a sharp knife and enjoy!


You can store your brownies at room temperature for about 3 to 5 days, in the fridge for about a week, or in the freezer for a couple of months to eat any time! I think they taste great just out of the fridge, but from the freezer I usually give them about 10 minutes at room temperature before enjoying. You can also pop them into the microwave from the fridge or freezer for about 5-10 seconds for a fresh baked taste - this is my preference!


Carb and serving info:

Carbs for full recipe: 516

Carbs per serving (1 of 16): 32


Carbs from chocolate: 115

Carbs from shortbread layer: 155

Carbs from brownie layer: 362


Note: Carb information is calculated based on the specific ingredients I used to cook with to help guide my own insulin to carb ratio when dosing before I eat my home cooked recipes.

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