Maple Brown-Butter Shortbread Cookies! (A Christmas Wish List for Every Home Baker!)

Maple Brown-Butter Shortbread Cookies Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

When I was growing up I looked forward to Christmas morning at my Granny’s house. It seemed like magic how I’d go to bed at night and wake up with a stocking stuffed with goodies at the foot of my bed. Later I learned that this was her way of keeping us kids in bed for an extra hour. Smart lady! My Granny had rituals that she never strayed from and one of them was making Christmas cookies. I remember tins of them all over the house. On every table, in every room there would be a different kind of wonderful sweet. I would search all over for my favorite, the maple-brown butter shortbread cookies that had a sticky caramel coconut topping and a rich buttery bottom. It always seemed to me there were less of these lying around than the others. It turns out they were my father’s favorite as well and he beat me to the tins.

It never occurred to me, as a child, the immense amount of effort my Granny went through to produce a dozen different Christmas cookies every year. All these years later, now that I make Holiday cookies for my own family, I know it was a bit of magic and a whole lot of love that she used to create them, not to mention her precious time! This year she sent me several of those recipes, some of them on the original yellowed index cards from my great grandmother and great aunts.  This year I intend to make every single one of them for my boys. It may take a while, not only because there are so many, but the instructions on some of the cards were minimal, proving it really was magic!

A little note about sifting flour, which I hate to do and will avoid at great lengths! My Granny’s recipe calls for 1 1/4 cups sifted flour, which means you have to sift the flour over the measuring cup and once it is full sweep a knife over to level it off. This takes way too much time and is quite messy. I decided to weigh the flour and see if there was an easier way to get the same amount. It turns out that if I whisked the flour in my bin to aerate it, spooned it gently into my measuring cups and sweep a knife over it, I got exactly the same amount as I did when I sifted it. I was very pleased and intend to do this with most everything, except the most fragile cakes.

Here is the Maple Brown Butter Shortbread Cookies:

1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 1/4 cup sifted flour (see above note on sifting flour if you hate to do this!)

2/3 cup maple syrup

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/3 cups flaked coconut

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons dried cranberries or cherries, very finely chopped (optional)

2 tablespoons candied fruit, very finely chopped (optional)

Prepare a 9″ square baking dish with parchment paper (or use a Rectangular Tart Mold with Removable Bottom)

To make the brown butter shortbread:

In a small sauce pot heat the butter on medium heat until it boils and the butter turns a light golden color, about 3-5 minutes. Strain the butter into a medium bowl. Add the sugar and flour and mix with a spoon until well incorporated. The dough will be quite loose. Cover and refrigerate for about 10 minutes. If the dough gets too cold just let it sit out until it is soft and pliable again.

Preheat oven to 375°

Maple Brown-Butter Shortbread Cookies Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Put into the pan and distribute it evenly,

Maple Brown-Butter Shortbread Cookies Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

cover in plastic wrap and then you can easily spread with your fingers without the dough sticking to you. Bake on a cookie sheet for 20 minutes or until the dough is a nice golden brown. Remove and allow the crust to cool on a rack while you make the maple filling.

Maple coconut filling:

In a sauce pot combine the maple syrup, salt, coconut and vanilla, cook over medium heat until boiling. Continue to cook for about a minute, add the dried and candied fruits if using.

Maple Brown-Butter Shortbread Cookies Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Pour the coconut mixture over the cooled crust. Bake at 375° for about 15-20 minutes, until the coconut turns golden brown.

Maple Brown-Butter Shortbread Cookies Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Cool completely before removing from pan. (If you are using the 9″ pan with parchment you will need to cut around the edges with a knife to loosen and invert onto a plate. Peel off the parchment and invert onto a cutting board.) Cut into rectangular bars or little squares if you want them to last a few extra minutes!

Maple Brown-Butter Shortbread Cookies Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Here they are with the dried fruit and candied grapefruit peel that I made.

Several people have asked me what products they should put on their Christmas wish lists this holiday, here are my ultimate must haves in your kitchen to bake breads and pastries! And my camera equipment, for those of you that can’t bake without taking pictures of your food. It happens to the best of us!

Breads:

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day – But you knew I’d say that! 😉

Baking Stone I like this one because it is thick and will last

Pizza Peel This one is simple and has lasted me for years

Oxo Good Grips Pastry Scraper – for cleaning the counter, stone and nudging your dough. Love this!!!
Taylor Oven Thermometer This one doesn’t take up room on the rack or get in the way

Round Storage Container 6 Quart Clear I find the round bucket easy to mix in, but the square may fit your fridge better?

Escali Measuring Scale I’ve had a few different scales and put them to very good use, this is my favorite and it reasonably priced!

Pastry:

KitchenAid  5-Quart Stand Mixers I’ve had mine for 20 years and it is still going strong. Okay, I blew out the engine the first year by putting a pound of frozen butter in it. The company rebuilt it for me! That was a life time ago and I’ve learned a thing or two! 😉

Spatula Set – different sizes for different jobs

Nonstick Silicone Baking Mat I use this for everything! Make sure it has a high baking temperature

Microplane Grater/Zester If you only get one of these, make sure it is the super fine one. I use it for lemon zest, garlic and ginger. Great for hard cheese too.

Wüsthof Le Cordon Bleu 10-Inch Serrated Super Slicer – best thing for cutting cakes and chocolate!

Piping Bag – Featherweight – 18″ I like the featherweight because they are pliable and easy to hold.

Pastry Tip Set This is the basic set, perfect for the beginner wanting to try new borders and simple flowers

PASTRY BRUSH SET I prefer the old fashion natural bristle brush to the rubber ones

8 by 3-Inch Round Cake Pan I like how deep this pan is, I use it for everything!

Marble Rolling Pin I like the weight of this pin and that the marble stays cool

The Simple Art of Perfect Baking – excellent for the basics, out of print and hard to find

Baking with Julia Savor the Joys of Baking with America’s Best Bakers – nice overall baking book with great pictures

Cookwise and BakeWise:– food science made fun!I love cookwise and have just started reading bakewise. I’m loving the food science more than the recipes.

On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen – for the true food geek who wants to know all about the science, great book!

Photography:

Canon Digital Rebel XSi Camera with 18-55mm Lens (Black) This is the camera I use to shoot everything on my websites. I love the camera because there is a view screen, so I can see exactly what I am shooting.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens This lens allows me to focus on the little detail. It is a modestly priced lens and won’t allow you to get crazy close like the more expensive version!

Happy Holidays and I hope you enjoy the cookies and get everything on your wish list!

***Thanks Granny for the great recipes and wonderful memories of devouring them!

***Here is a nice piece that Rick Nelson did recently on my Granny’s Brown-Butter Shortbread Cookies for the Star Tribune Website. He used a picture of me from 8 years ago when I was pregnant with my youngest son, the Aebleskiver maker I mentioned above! 😉

28 thoughts to “Maple Brown-Butter Shortbread Cookies! (A Christmas Wish List for Every Home Baker!)”

  1. Hi everyone,

    Thanks for checking out my granny’s cookies. I hope you get everything on your wish list!

    PJ, that may be the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me! Thank you!

    Zoë

  2. Ohhhh, those look ridiculous! I’m on the hunt for a kick-ass cookie recipe to destroy my brothers and sisters in our Christmas bake-off this year. Your grandma’s recipe is definitely a contender. Although, I can’t imagine your grandmother meant for this recipe to “destroy” anyone. Just waaaay to much competition in my family;-)

  3. Thanks for the baking tool recommendations! I especially appreciate the pastry recs because I’ve been looking for some of the things that were on your list.

  4. What a wonderful website! I saw your book on the Mother Earth News site (I hope to find a copy). We are living in the UAE and I cannot find a lot of things here. . . including sweetened coconut and maple syrup! Any suggestions? We do have natural coconut chunks and Lyle’s Golden Syrup. Can I substitute? Thank you!

  5. Hi Lorna,

    If you have a food processor and can chop up the coconut so that it is fine shavings, it will work beautifully. I almost used Lyle’s in this recipe, but wanted to keep it true to my Granny’s as possible. Lyle’s will be fantastic in this!

    Thanks for finding me and the book!

    Enjoy, Zoë

  6. Oh hooray Zoë! I brought some pure maple syrup back from Montreal and swore to myself I would use it instead of saving it! Half went into Thanksgiving’s yams and I know just where the other half will go now. Can I make these in an 8X8 tart pan?

    How special that you were given some of your grandmother’s recipes. I have some of my own yellowed, dog-eared notecards and scraps of paper from my grandmother and great-grandmother and they are truly treasures.

    One more quick question– can I prep and assemble the pecan sticky buns the night and leave them on the counter for an hour or so before baking them in the morning?

    Have a great holiday season!

  7. Hi Hayley,

    That maple syrup must be fantastic!!!

    I couldn’t believe she sent me the original recipes. They are so cool!

    Yes, you can make the sticky buns, wrap the pan in plastic and keep in the refrigerator over night. In the morning just take them out and let them rest for about an hour on the counter and bake. It works really well!

    Thanks, Zoë

  8. These cookies like like a dream with a cup of coffee alongside them. How long do you think they stay fresh? I am baking gifts this holiday and looking for cookies that don’t go flat too quickly.

  9. Hi Carrie,

    I just froze a batch and will report back how they do! At room temperature, wrapped really well they should last for at least a few days. My aunt insists that she likes shortbread that has sat around for at least a couple of days!?

    Enjoy!

    Zoë

  10. Hi Katharine,

    I have to do some research on this! I’ve never baked at high altitude, but I know people that have. I’ll check with them and get back to you. If you do try cutting the flour by 1/2 cup, let me know if it works!

    Thanks, Zoë

  11. Zoe, just discovered and adore your website. For these shortbread cookies, do you recommend sweetened coconut flakes or unsweetened. Thanks much!

  12. Hi Rita,

    Thank you so much! I made this recipe with sweetened coconut, just as my granny did. I usually do use unsweetened and have been meaning to try this recipe with it. The only difference will be that unsweetened coconut tends to be dry and will want to soak up lots of the maple. This could be a good thing, or not???

    If you try it before me please write back and tell me how it goes!

    Best, Zoë

  13. These look great, I was going to ask how long they kept, but reading the comments I have my answer. I like to give gifts of cookies to friends who no longer bake but enjoy something homemade and really need things that would last a week or two.

  14. I experienced these cookies yesterday! They are awesome. Your brother, Carey blessed our PT/OT Christmas party by sharing them. I will definitely be trying them during the holidays.

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