chewy brown sugar (muscovado) shortbread

As I’ve said before (and will most likely say again) – I am not much of a baker. Or at least I never thought of myself as a baker. I much prefer cooking.

But, thanks to The Kitchn, I have a new found appreciation for baking. The site constantly has great tips, tricks, and fool-proof recipes that are constantly catching my eye. A while back they wrote a post about Muscovado sugar – and I was immediately intrigued. For one – the sugar looked amazing. It was dark, rich & intense looking. I needed to know more. So, I read the full post and The Kitchn explained that Muscovado sugar is unrefined dark brown sugar. Most of the brown sugar in this day and age is refined. This means that all the original molasses is removed from the sugar (i.e. it becomes refined white sugar) and then a little is added back in at a later time. Light brown sugar is 3.5% molasses, and dark brown sugar is 6.5% molasses.

Is it just me, or does that all seem a little bit crazy? Why take out the molasses just to add it back in later?

Well, according to Wikipedia (and lets face it, Wikipedia is always right.): “Brown sugar is often produced by adding cane molasses to completely refined white sugar crystals in order to more carefully control the ratio of molasses to sugar crystals and to reduce manufacturing costs.” So, it all boils down to cost. Of course it does! I shouldn’t be surprised anymore, but the greed of the food & beverage industries never cease to amaze me. Quality was long ago forsaken for cost-effectiveness.

That being said, there is good news: Muscovado sugar. Muscovado is plain, simply, molasses-y, sugary goodness. I am not preaching about the evils of white (or normal brown) sugar. I do think that the less we all partake of refined foods, the healthier and happier we will be. However, I think it is fantastic that Muscovado sugar is readily available for those who care about such things. The Kitchn was kind enough to link me to a few places to buy it (I bought a pack of 10 boxes on This particular brand doesn’t call it ‘muscovado’ sugar, however. It just calls it unrefined brown sugar. They are one and the same.) and I’ve been baking with it ever since. I’ve sprinkled it on top of rhubarb crumble cake, I’ve used it in mini strawberry turnovers, etc. At this point, I pretty much substitute it in any recipe that calls for brown sugar. It has a stronger (more pronounced molasses) flavor than typical brown sugar, but I love that. I think it makes everything taste phenomenal.

So when I saw this recipe for chewy brown sugar shortbread cookies, I knew I had to make them. And of course, I had to use my new (and amazing) muscovado sugar. I was not disappointed. For so few ingredients, these cookies pack a punch. A delicious, delicious punch.

Chewy Muscovado Shortbread
Makes 2- 8″ pans

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup (7 ounces) muscovado / unrefined brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups (9 5/8 ounces) flour

Heat the oven to 325F.

Beat the butter, sugar, and salt until creamy, about two minutes. Do not over mix. Gradually beat in the flour. You may need to work in the last half-cup with your hands. The dough will be stiff.

Divide the dough in half.

Grease two 8″ pans (round or square), line with parchment, and butter the parchment. Press half of the dough into one pan and the rest into the other pan. Smooth the top with the bottom of a buttered measuring cup (I just used my hands to smooth the dough). Prick the dough with the fork in whatever pattern you like. Refrigerate, uncovered, for 30 minutes. (I ran out of time when I first made these and the dough actually sat overnight, and was still great. In fact, I think they were more flavorful because of the extra time!)

Bake 25-30 minutes until lightly brown along the edges. Remove and cool for about 5 minutes. You need to slice the shortbread while still warm (if they cool completely, they will crumble). Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cookies, then invert the pan; slice into wedges ( I didn’t have parchment paper, so transferring the cookies out of the pan wasn’t as easy as I had hoped. But, I just sliced wedges in the pan, and scooped each one out individually. this way and it worked just fine). Transfer warm cookies to a rack and cool completely. Eat with ice cream, berries, coffee, plain, etc. They are good with just about anything.

2 Responses

  1. ms.tea says:

    i can attest to the deliciousness of these cookies! i am so glad you have posted the recipe so i can it myself!

  2. howjido says:

    Lindsay, have you heard of the cookbook “Nourishing Traditions?” It’s pretty awesome and I think you’d be into it. Next time I see you, you should borrow it!

    ~ Catherine

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