These easy-to-make brown butter chunky chocolate chip shortbread cookies have a sprinkling of crunchy sea salt on top.
Full honesty here, when I want a chocolate chip cookie, I usually want a thick chewy bakery-style chocolate chip cookie. Sometimes I want a variant of that style of cookie, like a sourdough chocolate chip cookie, a cookies and cream cookie, a mint chocolate chip cookie (which I developed to taste like mint chocolate chip ice cream) or even my reverse chocolate chip cookie. But I rarely opt for the chocolate chip shortbread cookie variety.
But every now and then I want something with a little crisper. A little more buttery. A little crumbly-in-the-mouth. And though I’ve tinkered with a bunch of various shortbread recipes, including a couple of super popular viral cookies, nothing really resonated with me until I came across Dorie Greenspan’s caramel chunky chocolate chip cookies from her cookbook Baking with Dorie (<- affiliate link).
Don’t be fooled by the name, there’s no caramel in the cookie. But I took her version as a jumping off point, and cranked it up a notch, using brown butter, more vanilla, more chocolate chunks, removed the nuts, and sprinkling on a bit of crunchy Maldon sea salt on top. Yeah, I was that guy who radically altered the recipe! But most importantly, I changed the preparation method a bit to make it easier to form each cookie as I found the slicing of the cold dough difficult to do. The result is the best and easiest to make chocolate chip shortbread cookie that I’ve found!
How do you make this shortbread cookie?
To make these cookies, start off by browning two sticks of butter in a pan. If you’ve never made brown butter, don’t worry, it’s not tough! I’ve got a section below on tips on tricks on making brown butter.
Once the butter is brown, pour it in the bowl of a stand mixer and add a lot of vanilla to it. Then add white granulated sugar and powdered sugar and some kosher salt, mixing it together. Add in flour and mix on slow speed, until the dry ingredients are absorbed, and it looks a little bit like wet sand or tiny pebbles. You know you’re done when the dough will stick together when you grab some in your fingers. Add the chopped chocolate and mix in.
Now brush two muffin tins with melted butter and press in heaping tablespoons of the dough into each cup, compressing the dough. Each dough ball should be about 30 to 35 grams each if you have a scale and want to get precise. Stick the whole thing in the fridge and let it chill for a minimum of 2 hours or overnight preferably. Once chilled, sprinkle some salt on top and bake!
What makes this shortbread different?
Most shortbread cookies tend to be more on the thin and very crumbly. This cookie is baked in a muffin tin, which keep the shape of the cookie and allows it to be thick and chunky. In addition, the use of the brown butter, as well as the melted butter brushed in the pan, means you get a lot of nutty toffee and caramel flavors in the cookie, something that a lot of pale white shortbread cookies don’t have.
Expect these cookies to also have more substance than a traditional shortbread cookie, with a firmer texture and more crunch than a typical sandy crumbly shortbread or sable cookie. But they still have that signature buttery flavor that shortbread cookie has, just with a little more cookie oomph!
What can you do if you don’t have two muffin tins?
This recipe requires you pack each cookie dough into two buttered 12 cup standard size muffin tins. Some folks don’t have more than one muffin tin. If you only have one muffin tin, butter it like instructed, and press half the dough into the cups. Place the pan in the fridge to chill.
Then take the remaining dough and divide it out into 12 balls. Squeeze each ball of dough tightly together in your hands to get it to form together but don’t worry if they aren’t perfect in size. You basically just want them in lumps so you don’t have to divide them later, after they’ve chilled and hardened. Place the balls in an airtight container and place in the fridge along with the muffin pan.
Once the cookie dough has chilled, take the dough balls out of the fridge and set them on the counter. Preheat the oven, and then bake off the cookies in the pan as directed. Once the cookies are baked, let them cool for 3 minutes in the pan, then move them to a wire rack. Wipe out the pan with a paper towel and brush the pan with more melted butter. Press the cookie dough balls into the pan cups. They might fall apart, but that’s ok. Just press and compact them down into the cups of the muffin tin. They’ll pack down. Then bake the second round as directed.
How to brown butter
Browning butter isn’t difficult to do, but it does require you pay a little bit of attention while making it. I recommend using a silver bottom pan if you have one and you’ve never made brown butter before.
Place the pan on the stove and turn the heat on high, heating the pan and butter until it melts. Stirring with a heatproof wooden spoon or spatula. Once most of the butter has melted, reduce the heat to medium low. Continue to cook the butter, stirring constantly until the milk solids on that have fallen to the bottom of the pan start to turn golden brown.
Make sure to scrape the sides of the pan as you stir. This is where the milk solids often accumulate and cook first. The butter will foam a lot, this is the water in the butter boiling off, so make sure to use your spatula to push the foam aside to check the bottom of the pan to see how the milk solids are looking.
Once you start seeing the milk solids turn brown, and the butter starts to smell fragrant and nutty, remove the pan from the heat. Let the residual heat of the pan continue to cook the milk fats until they have all turned a deep golden brown. If you need to nudge the brown butter further and darker brown, return it to the stove on low heat and just continue stir until you get that brown color you want. Don’t go black though! That’s a sign the butter fat has burnt and there’s no going back from that. You’ll have to start over.
Though I highly recommend using browned butter, if you’ve had difficult making brown butter in the past or want to skip this step, just melt the butter in a pan or in the microwave and use that instead. Expect your cookies to be less nutty and caramel in flavor, but they’ll still be delicious.
Tips and tricks on the making these the best cookies
Though these cookies are pretty foolproof to make, here are a few tips on how to make them the best chunk shortbread chocolate chip cookies you’ve had.
- Use chopped chocolate: I prefer to use chopped chocolate in this cookie. The chocolate chips tend to be a little hard and are designed to not melt. I like to use chopped chocolate which is softer in a shortbread cookie. But if you are in a rush or don’t want to chop chocolate, just use your favorite chocolate chips in these cookies. They’ll still be lovely!
- Use browned butter: I love the nutty fragrant and slightly caramelized flavor that the browned butter gives these cookies. They almost taste like they have hazelnut or almond flour in them, but they don’t! I have tips on how to make brown butter in a section above, but if you don’t want to make brown butter, feel free to just use melted butter instead. The cookies will be super tasty, just not as complex in flavor.
- Use the best ingredients: This goes without saying with all recipes, but because this cookie has very few ingredients, I really recommend using the best ingredients you have on hand. Real vanilla extract, high quality butter, pure cane sugar, and quality chocolate. You’ll taste the results.
- Use salt: I like to sprinkle a nice crunchy sea salt, like Maldon salt, on top of my cookies. The salt is a nice contrast to the chunky cookie, as well as elevates and intensifies the flavor of the chocolate and brown butter even more.
- Chill the dough: Though you can make these cookies the same day that you make the dough, after chilling the dough in the fridge for a couple of hours, the flavor of the cookie really intensifies and deepens if you let the cookie chill in the fridge overnight or even 2 days. The flour has time to fully hydrate, and the cookies firm up and deeper toffee flavor emerge. If you don’t believe, try baking up half the cookies the day you make them, and then the other half of the cookies the next day and compare. It’s pretty impressive the difference. But if you are impatient, know that the cookies that are made the day of are still pretty great!
These cookies will keep at room temperature for up to 3 days in an airtight container. You can also freeze them in an airtight container or in a resealable freezer bag. Just thaw on the counter before serving. Keep in mind the salt on top of the cookies will melt and absorb into the cookie the longer you store them.
If you like these chocolate chip shortbread cookies, check out some of these other chocolate cookie recipes
- Hot Chocolate Cookies
- Chocolate Salted Caramel Cookies
- Rainbow Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Salted Chocolate Double Rye Cookies
- Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Bay Leaf, Brown Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookies
Chunky Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies
- 1 cup unsalted butter 225 g or 2 sticks
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup white sugar 100 g
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted 60 g
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups all-purpose flour 280 g
- 1 1/4 cups chopped dark chocolate 210 g (use something you like to eat out of hand)
- 2 tablespoon unsalted butter melted
- Crunch sea salt like Maldon or Sel de Gris (optional but recommended)
- Start by first making browned butter. Place the butter in a large saucepan, preferably one with a light silver bottom. Heat the pan on high, stirring constantly, until most of the butter is melted, then reduce the heat on the pan to medium low. Continue to cook the butter, stirring constantly and scrapping down the sides of the pan, until the milk solids have turned golden brown. Remove from the pan and let it cool slightly, about 2 or 3 minutes.
- Pour the browned butter into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Make sure to scrape in the browned butter milk fat bits at the bottom of the pan into the bowl as well. Add the vanilla, then the white sugar, powdered sugar, and salt into the bowl. Mix on low speed, increasing to medium for about a minute, or until the ingredients have had time to mix together. It won’t look blended, but don’t worry about that.
- Add the flour and mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are absorbed. Then increase the speed to medium and mix for about a 1 to 2 minutes, or until the dough starts to look like small pebbles or large grain sand. Grab some dough and press it together with your fingers. If it sticks together, then the dough good. If it fall aparts, mix for another 30 to 60 seconds.Add the chopped chocolate and mix on slow speed, until it is evenly distributed.
- Take 2 standard 12 cup muffin pans and brush the inside of each cup with some melted butter. Then scoop out a rounded tablespoon of dough from the bowl and smash it into the bottom of one of the buttered muffin cups. Press firmly to pack it in. If you have a scale and want to be precise, the dough should be somewhere between 30 to 35 grams. Repeat this process with the remaining dough, filling up both muffin pans, making 24 cookies.Place both pans in the refrigerator, and let chill in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours, or overnight preferably. You can chill the cookies for up to 2 days if you wish.
- Once the dough has chilled, preheat the oven to 350°F. One preheated, sprinkle the top of each cookie with a pinch of sea salt, then bake the cookies for 18 to 20 minutes or until the edges and the top of the cookies are golden brown. Rotate the pans halfway through the baking if your oven bakes uneven.Let the cookies cool in the pan for 3 to 4 minutes, to let them firm up. Then slide a thin butter knife or small metal offset spatula around the cookie to loosen it from pan. I like to slide it into a couple of spots around the cookie to loosen it. Then slide the knife or spatula under the cookie. The cookies should just pop right out. Move the cookie to a wire rack to cool completely.