These Sourdough Discard Shortbread Cookies are a twist on the classic buttery shortbread or biscuit cookie. They're light, buttery, and with a hint of orange. The sourdough discard makes them a little less sweet and gives them a hint of sourdough tang. And of course, once dipped in dark chocolate, they are divine! They're great to enjoy as a dessert or afternoon treat with a cup of coffee. They also work well in a holiday cookie box!
You can find all of my sourdough discard recipes here, and if you're new to working with sourdough starter, check out these in-depth posts on how to feed sourdough starter, how to use sourdough discard, and tips for struggling sourdough starter.
Why you'll love this recipe
- These Sourdough Discard Shortbread Cookies are easy to make and come together with just 20 minutes of hands-on time.
- You can easily shape these cookies into any shape you like - rectangles, squares or circles are easy!
- Dip the cookies in your favorite chocolate. I like to use dark chocolate, but any kind of chocolate would work well.
- The orange zest gives a nice citrus kick to lighten and brighten the cookie.
There are only a few basic ingredients you'll need to bring these cookies together.
- Unsalted butter: This should be softened and at room temperature for this recipe. That's important to get the texture of the cookies right!
- Granulated sugar: This gives the cookies their sweetness, but also some of their lightness. You'll also use a bit of granulated sugar to sprinkle on top of the cookies after they're dipped in chocolate.
- Orange zest: A bit of orange zest gives these Sourdough Discard Shortbread Cookies a citrus kick and a bright flavor. You'll also use a bit of orange zest to sprinkle on top of the cookies after they're dipped in chocolate.
- Sourdough discard: The sourdough discard should be unfed and at room temperature before starting this recipe.
See full recipe below for detailed directions.
Substitutions & Variations
This is a very adaptable recipe and below are a few easy substitutions and variations you can try.
- Use active sourdough starter - These cookies do not need to rise, so you do not need to use active sourdough starter. However, if you'd like to, you can. Replace the sourdough discard with active sourdough starter in a 1:1 substitute. Be prepared that your cookies may rise or spread more if you're using active starter.
- Use different citrus - These cookies are wonderful with orange zest (Blood Oranges work well, too!), but you could also make these with lemon zest for a different citrus flavor.
- Use a different chocolate - I used dark chocolate for this recipe, but you could also dip the cookies in milk chocolate or even white chocolate for a different flavor!
I have not tested this recipe with other variations, but if you do, let us know how it turns out in the comments! I always love to hear how you're adapting these recipes and use those as ideas for future recipes as well!
How to make Sourdough Discard Shortbread Cookies
There are only a few simple steps to make these Sourdough Discard Shortbread Cookies.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, 2-3 minutes.
Add the sourdough discard, orange zest and vanilla extract, mixing until combined.
Add the flour and salt, then mix on low speed until combined. Increase speed to medium and mix until a dough forms.
Turn the dough onto a work surface and divide in half.
Shape each piece into a rectangle (or your desired shape), approximately 2 inches wide and 1 inch thick. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator to chill for at least one hour.
Unwrap the chilled dough and use a sharp knife to cut into ¼-inch thick slices.
Transfer the slices to the baking sheet, leaving 2 inches between each cookie (they will expand as they bake).
Bake until the cookies are just becoming golden brown at the bottom edges. They will still be very pale overall. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool.
Dip each cookie in melted dark chocolate.
While the chocolate is warm, sprinkle with the granulated and sugar mixture.
Expert Baking Tips
- Cream the butter and sugar together. This is important to get the right texture and lightness to your cookies. You also want the sugar granules to integrate fully into the cookie dough.
- Shape the dough before refrigerating. This is your opportunity to make the shape of your cookies. Rectangles are very easy, but you could also do squares or circles just as easily.
- Remember the cookies will spread. Keep this in mind when shaping the dough for refrigeration. Also, leave space on the baking sheet for the cookies to expand so they aren't touching each other.
- Let the cookies cool before dipping in chocolate. While the chocolate is still warm, sprinkle with the sugar and orange zest mixture.
What is sourdough discard?
Sourdough discard is what is leftover after you feed your sourdough starter. You can either literally discard this (compost it or throw it away), or you can use it in sourdough discard recipes like this one!
The sourdough discard should be unfed and at room temperature for this recipe. Also, this recipe is designed for a sourdough starter that uses a 1:1 ratio (when you feed your sourdough starter, it's with 1 part flour, 1 part water). If your sourdough starter uses a different ratio, you may need to adjust some of the ingredients if your dough seems too wet or too dry.
If you're new to working with sourdough starter, check out these in-depth posts:
I like to make cookie dough in my KitchenAid 5-Quart Stand Mixer, but this is optional. you can easily make this dough in a large mixing bowl with a hand-held mixer. I recommend a kitchen scale for measuring your sourdough discard.
Room Temperature Storage: Store Sourdough Discard Shortbread Cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks. Make sure the cookies are fully cooled before transferring to the container.
Freezer Storage: Once the cookies are fully cooled (and the chocolate is hard), transfer them to an airtight container or freezer-safe bag. You can freeze them for up to 2 months. Before serving, let the cookies thaw to room temperature.
Yes! Orange and lemon work very well here, but you can use almost any kind of citrus to customize the flavor of your cookies.
Yes. This recipe uses dark chocolate, but you could also dip the cookies in milk or white chocolate!
These cookies don't need to rise, so active sourdough starter isn't necessary, but if you'd like to use it, you can. To do so, replace the sourdough discard with active sourdough starter in a 1:1 substitute. Also keep in mind that the cookies may rise or spread more than expected.
Sourdough Discard Shortbread Cookies
For the Cookies
- ¾ cup unsalted butter softened
- ⅔ cup granulated sugar
- 133 grams (about ½ cup) sourdough discard unfed, at room temperature
- 1 Tablespoon orange zest
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 ¼ cups all-purpopse flour
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 3-4 ounces dark chocolate chopped (or chips)
- 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon orange zest
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment*, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add the sourdough discard, orange zest and vanilla extract, mixing until combined. You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Add the flour and salt, then mix on low speed until combined. Increase speed to medium and mix until a dough forms.
- Turn the dough onto a work surface and divide in half. Shape each piece into a rectangle (or your desired shape), approximately 2 inches wide and 1 inch thick. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator to chill for at least one hour.
- Preheat the oven to 350℉. Line to baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- Unwrap the chilled dough and use a sharp knife to cut into ¼-inch thick slices. Transfer the slices to the baking sheet, leaving 2 inches between each cookie (they will expand as they bake).
- Bake one sheet at time for 12-14 minutes until the cookies are just becoming golden brown at the bottom edges. They will still be very pale overall. Transfer the cookies to cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes.
- In a small bowl, mix 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar with ½ teaspoon orange zest. Set aside.
- Once the cookies have cooled, melt 3-4 ounces of dark chocolate in a small pot or double boiler over low heat. Dip the ends of each cookie into the chocolate, then return to the wire rack (or a parchment paper-lined baking sheet). While the chocolate is still warm, sprinkle with the sugar and orange zest mixture. Let the cookies cool completely before serving.