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skepticism

Recipe: salted butter chocolate chunk shortbread cookies

“Have you tried Alison Roman’s salted butter chocolate chunk shortbread cookie?”

Ellen and I were discussing shortbread cookies when she asked the question. I actually had it on my list of recipes to try, but I hadn’t tried them yet. She hadn’t tried them either, but she didn’t see what all the fuss was about. And there has been a lot of fuss over these cookies in baking circles. I’m always looking for good shortbread recipes because I find those to be the best cookies to ship. Fast forward a week and Ellen is texting me as she recovers from foot surgery. A friend had made the cookies and dropped some off for her convalescence. “They are gooooood.” Okay, I trust Ellen’s tastes, so I set about making a batch to see what was what.


we took some backcountry skiing, because that’s what we do



The first batch I baked was very frustrating. The weights and volume measurements in the recipe didn’t really jive and had discrepancies by as much as 15%. I went with weights, because that’s far more accurate and easier to troubleshoot. The cookies spread too much and too quickly once they went into the oven, which could very well be my altitude (8500 feet above sea level). While the texture and flavor were good, the appearance was unacceptable (for my standards). Even baking the second half of that batch at a lower temperature and for longer resulted in more spreading than I was willing to tolerate, although slightly less. Research on the internet revealed that the New York Times version used more flour. I figured it was worth another shot.

vanilla, butter, flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, egg, turbinado sugar, flake sea salt, chunk chocolate

beat together cold butter, sugars, and vanilla

mix in flour until just combined

add the chocolate



Beating the cold butter is best left to the power of a stand mixer. If using a hand mixer, allow the butter to soften at room temperature lest you want to add more complications to your baking project. The dough is rather crumbly, but if you press it together between your fingers, it should hold together. You’re supposed to form two cylindrical logs from this cookie dough, presumably by shaping it in plastic wrap. This was something Ellen and I had touched on during our shortbread discussion. I generally prefer to cut my shortbreads into nice neat squares or rectangles. It’s a trick I learned years ago from Deb who picked it up from Dorie. The reason I prefer quadrilateral shortbreads to circular shortbreads is because it is really hard to achieve a proper circle. Usually you wind up with some misshapen thing halfway between an oblate circle and a polygon. But I MacGyvered a way to get properly round cookies using some wax paper, ring molds, and a muddler.

crumbly dough

line a ring mold with a sleeve of wax paper

press a little dough into the mold with the muddler

stack more ring molds as needed



This method not only produces a proper cylinder of cookie dough, but by packing it in with a muddler, you eliminate a lot of the internal gaps and cracks inherent in hand-forming the log. When the log is the desired length, gently remove the ring molds from the wax paper-wrapped dough and chill the dough for 2 hours in the refrigerator. Sometimes they can stick if any dough has leaked through the seams of the wax paper. If you can’t get the dough out, don’t pull on the dough itself – you’ll likely deform it. Just wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 2 hours and remove the ring when the dough is chilled solid.

After chilling, unwrap your dough logs and brush the long sides with egg wash. Roll the logs in the demerara or turbinado sugar so that all of the egg wash is coated with sugar. I found rolling didn’t quite do the job, so I sprinkled the sugar over the length of the dough log to make sure all of the egg-washed parts were covered. Slicing the dough with a serrated knife makes it easier to saw through chunks of chocolate. Even so, expect parts of the cookie dough to crumble off. Not to worry, just mash them onto the cookie disc – they adhere just fine.


remove the ring molds and chill the dough

brush chilled dough with egg wash

roll the egg-washed sides in demerara or turbinado sugar

slice with a serrated knife



Arrange the dough slices on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or a silpat. Sprinkle the tops with some flake sea salt and gently press them into the dough. If you work quickly, the dough should remain quite firm and chilled and should be ready for the oven. If your kitchen is really warm and the dough has been out for a while, it may be quite soft. In that case, pop the baking sheets into the freezer for ten or so minutes to firm up the dough before baking.

sprinkle sea salt on the cookies

let baked cookies cool for a minute or two on the baking sheet

remove to a cooling rack



As I said on Instagram, I am highly skeptical of fads like this cookie, which is why I’m probably the last person on the planet to have attempted these shortbreads. They are good with their salted buttery crumb that has a nice soft snap when you take a bite. The outer layer of crunchy sugar is just the right hit of sweet to offset the bitter, earthy chocolate and zing of flake salt. These are solidly good cookies, but are more of a pain in the ass to make than most shortbreads, so just be sure that you’re making them for the right people. All of my recipients have raved about them, so there’s that.

chunks and shards of chocolate throughout

these make lovely gifts

crunchy, buttery, crumbly, melt-in-your-mouth


Salted Butter Chocolate Chunk Shortbread Cookies
[print recipe]
interpreted by the New York Times from Alison Roman’s recipe in Dining In

1 cup + 2 tbsps (9 oz. or 255g) salted butter, cold*, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (50g) light brown sugar
1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla extract
2 1/2 (326g) cups all-purpose flour**
6 oz (170g) dark chocolate, cut into chunks
1 egg, beaten
demerara or turbinado sugar
flake sea salt like Maldon or Murray River

* Note: If using a hand mixer to beat the butter, use softened or room-temperature butter instead of cold butter.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugars, and vanilla together until light and fluffy – about 3-5 minutes. Mix in the flour until just combined, then add the chocolate and mix together. The dough will be crumbly. Make 2 logs about 2 to 2 1/4-inches in diameter. You can roll these logs in plastic wrap or the trick I use for well-packed dough is to slip a sleeve of wax paper into a 2-inch ring mold (the wax paper should line the entire mold) and pack the dough into the mold with a muddler. Stack more ring molds on top as needed. When the dough is packed, gently slide the wax paper-wrapped cylinder of dough out of the ring mold (don’t twist the dough as it is soft and will deform). Wrap the dough and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 325°F. Remove the dough from the wrapping and brush the length of the dough log with egg wash. Roll the egg-washed log in the demerara or turbinado sugar. I sprinkle more over the dough to completely coat the log. Using a serrated knife, gently, but firmly, saw 1/2-inch slices of dough. Set them on a parchment-lined baking sheet a few inches apart. Sprinkle the tops of the cookies with flake sea salt. Bake for 18 minutes, rotating the baking sheet(s) by 180° at 9 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to cool for a few minutes on the baking sheets. Remove to cooling rack. Makes 24 cookies.


more goodness from the use real butter archives

matcha green tea shortbread cookies midnight chocolate shortbread cookies pistachio rose shortbread cookies macadamia shortbread cookies

10 nibbles at “skepticism”

  1. Collette says:

    OH, the tip about making them for the right people–yes, yes, a thousand times YES! I am careful for whom I cook, bake, and most especially knit. Nothing like a recipient who is not properly appreciative! It’s worse when you live with one. Of course, he’s only ten and I have high hopes for his future! ;-)

    I haven’t made them yet either. I’m not totally in love with shortbread and am typically not down with pain in the ass recipes. But your restrained review of them is more compelling than all the gushing, so I think I’m in.

  2. Abbe@This is How I Cook says:

    I’m so glad you went to the trouble. I needed the whole story and you told it. I do love shortbread and I will probably try them but I am perfectly happy with imperfect rolls. After all, they still taste good right?

  3. Berna says:

    Hi, try this trick to have perfectly rounded cookies😃
    https://youtu.be/L2cXkLdJaG8

  4. Susan says:

    I made these some time ago and had none of the trouble most others did. They were easy to make, easy to shape and exceedingly popular in my house–everyone loved them. It does seem to be a tale of two experiences with the recipe, however, as lots of people did struggle with it. My only theory is that those of us who bake using a scale used more flour and fewer problems. But who knows.

  5. Jill Hyde says:

    Oh these look delightful, even though they may be a pain in the ass. My coffee is screaming for a bite. Glad you got another back country ski in, seems like spring arrived early this year! xo, jill

  6. Mila says:

    Hi,

    Thanks for testing the recipe, I love shortbread and will try this one as well. I also use your method of shaping for all kinds of cookies I bake. Is far more easier then rolling and cutting. Round ones I shape in the empty kitchen paper roll and for square ones I have all kinds of chocolate and French macaroon boxes. But I line them with plastic wrap, it works really good.

  7. Lisa says:

    These chunk shortbread cookies are delicious. I had them with my morning coffee, and it is so refreshing to have home baked cookies. Thanks for being a good Chinese daughter.

  8. jenyu says:

    Collette – I can’t even begin with all of the people for whom I’ve made things and never even acknowledged receipt. Needless to say, they went on my list of people to never ever make anything for again. The cookies are worth trying once. If you like them, you can make them again. If you don’t, you can be glad you never have to make them again – ha ha ha! :)

    Abbe – Yes! If you are fine with imperfect rounds, then it makes it much easier. Although the chopping of chocolate (I hate it – because we’re so arid here all of the little shards of chocolate succumb to static charge and stick to everything), the egg washing and rolling in sugar, can be a bit of a nuisance. But they ARE tasty, especially if you are a fan of shortbread!

    Berna – Thanks! We give all of our cardboard rolls to Neva to play with!! :)

    Susan – I definitely agree that a scale makes for more consistent results. Some days I want to throw my measuring cups out the window ;)

    Jill – xxoo

    Mila – Thanks for the tips! :)

    Lisa – Love you Mom xo

  9. Shari Barnes says:

    Where did you buy your molds from?

  10. jenyu says:

    Shari – I got them at a local cookware shop in Boulder, Colorado (Peppercorn). But you can find them online if you look under something like “pastry rings” or “pastry ring molds”.

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