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Treat yourself with this brown sugar shortbread recipe

Brown sugar shortbread
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

When you’re making cookies, it doesn’t get much easier than shortbread. A basic combination of butter, sugar, flour and salt baked to crumbly richness, shortbread bakes in minutes. This version, made with brown sugar, has caramel and molasses notes. The recipe makes enough for two pans’ worth of cookie wedges, or enough for about four dozen bars — enough to give some away as gifts, or simply to enjoy yourself.

BROWN SUGAR SHORTBREAD

Total time: 50 minutes, plus chilling and cooling time | Makes 4 dozen bars or 2 dozen wedge cookies

Note: This recipe makes enough dough for 2 pans of cookies, so you can try a pan of each variety if you’d like. Because they’re baked in pans, the wedge cookies will retain more moisture, giving the cookies a chewy texture. Conversely, the bar cookies will be crisp because they are baked on an open, flat sheet.

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1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup light brown sugar

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 1/4 cups flour

1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. In a stand mixer or medium bowl with electric beaters, beat the butter, sugar and salt until creamy, about 2 minutes, being careful not to overmix. Gradually beat in the flour, working in the last one-half cup with your hands if necessary (the dough will be stiff). Divide the dough in half.

2a. To make chewy wedge-shaped cookies, butter 2 (8-inch) metal cake pans and line with parchment. Butter the parchment and press each half of the dough into a pan. Smooth the top with the bottom of a buttered measuring cup. Prick the dough with a fork in a decorative concentric circle pattern. Refrigerate the pans, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

2b. To make crispy bar cookies, shape each dough half into a 10-by-4-inch rectangle on a lightly floured board. Run a blunt knife or your fingers along the edges to straighten them (it doesn’t have to be perfect). Carefully lift each rectangle onto a buttered baking sheet, lifting both edges with your hands. With a blunt knife, score each one once lengthwise without cutting all the way through. Score crosswise 11 times to make 24 rectangles. Prick each one several times with a fork. Refrigerate the sheets, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

3. Bake both the wedge and bar shortbread until lightly brown along the edges, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove and cool for 5 minutes, then slice the shortbread while still warm (if the cookies are allowed to cool before slicing, they will crumble). Unmold the wedge shortbread by running a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cookies from the sides. Gently flip the pan over, then slice the shortbread into 12 wedges. Slice the bar cookies all the way through the scored marks before moving to a cooling rack.

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Each of 48 bars: 72 calories; 1 gram protein; 9 grams carbohydrates; 0 fiber; 4 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 10 mg. cholesterol; 39 mg. sodium.

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