Yesterday I did a batch of shortbread but the cookies have a tangy, almost bitter after taste. Initially I thought the culprit was the lactose-free butter I use, now I know it's probably because the sides of the shortbread browned a bit.

I think I know what I need to change next time I make this recipe, but now I'd like to know what I can do to mask the bitterness in this batch of cookies. I'm thinking of making a caramel sauce to dip the shortbread in. Will this work?

Also, out of curiosity, could anyone explain what makes shortbread taste bitter when they brown?

For reference, the recipe I used can be found here: Simply Perfect Crispy Scottish Shortbread

2 Answers 2


Based on my experience rescuing overdone oatcakes, I suggest crumbling up the shortbread, maybe cutting off any obviously burnt edges, adding some sugar and then using it as the topping for a fruit crumble. You could add another complex taste by adding crumbled nuts to the topping. (Mix them in, else they will burn during the baking.) There will probably be some bitterness remaining, but I'd expect this to mask it and make something palatable for most people.

  • Thank you for the idea. I don't like cake and I have no one to give a cake to right now, but crumbling the shortbread and turning it into something else is something I haven't thought about.
    – LissaC
    Commented Apr 3, 2021 at 15:37
  • As it's already cooked, you could simply crumble it over stewed fruit (or ice cream for that matter)
    – Chris H
    Commented Apr 3, 2021 at 17:06

I'm afraid there is not really much you can do. I once wrote up a catch-all question on trying to remove an overpowering smell from food; in your case, what I said applies to the bitter taste too. (The exception for taste are foods where you can leach it out, such as aubergines).

You already hit on the one technique that has a chance of helping: adding something else, both to dilute the unwanted taste and to distract the senses with a competing taste. I am intentionally saying "has a chance of" and not "will" work - the results are very subjective. For some people, a given combination will be sufficient so they will no longer be bothered by the presence of the bitter taste, for others, it will not be sufficient. This variability is also the reason why nobody can suggest a magic combination that will mask it better than others.

To your subquestion, there is also no obvious reason for this to happen, unless you are using "browned" as an euphemism for "almost charred". This is a very standard recipe, and with so few components, the probability of two things reacting in unexpected ways is minimal. You can of course try baking it less next time, or changing the butter, but at this point, it is really a matter of wild guessing.

  • Thank you so much for your answer. The browned is only slightly brown, nowhere near charred, but the recipe does mention you can't let the edges of the dough brown, and I've ready something online that a browned shortbread means the butter is burned and that creates a bitter taste but I couldn't find further evidence of this. Anyway, today I had a piece of shortbread right after lunch and it felt less bitter, probably because I was eating it after I ate something else. I'll still try the caramel sauce, but I'll also try eating the shortbread with tea or coffee and see if that masks the taste.
    – LissaC
    Commented Apr 3, 2021 at 13:04

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.