Acorn Maple Shortbread Cookies

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acorn cookies make like shortbread
Photo by Hank Shaw

Those of you who read this space regularly know that I don’t bake much. I am a little too free-form in my cooking to really nail any sort of baking project that requires precision. Fortunately, shortbread isn’t one of those sorts of recipes. Shortbread is easy, and so are these acorn cookies.

What’s more shortbread, by definition, isn’t overly concerned with the gluten in wheat. Shortbread is so named because all that fat — typically butter — shortens the strands of gluten in the dough, leaving the “bread” crumbly. Given this, it occurred to me that a shortbread made with a lot of acorn flour, which is gluten-free, would work really well.

I am happy to report that it does. These little cakes (or big cookies, depending on your point of view), are not only fantastic, but they also hold up for a long time.

Why acorn flour? Well, I like the flavor. Acorn flour tastes a little like chestnuts, and gives the cookies a “warm” flavor that feels more rustic than a typical Scottish shortbread, which is normally made with white flour and white sugar. You could of course substitute other flours for acorns. I’d suggest, in order: chestnut flour, almond flour, barley, rye or whole wheat flour.

I also substitute maple sugar for some of the regular sugar. Maple sugar can be bought in good supermarkets or you can buy maple sugar online. A good substitute would be that brown turbinado sugar you see as “sugar in the raw” in coffee shops.

So while yes, these are great acorn cookies to make at home and eat there, they are also a perfect thing to make for a hiking or hunting trip. Store them in a little tin and put them in your backpack — they’re way better than a typical granola bar.

acorn shortbread cookies recipe
4.84 from 6 votes

Acorn Cookies

This is a great cookie to bring on hunting trips or when you're hiking, because they will keep for days. You really get a sense of the acorn flavor here, and the maple and vanilla play a strong backup. Feel free to sub in some other flour for the acorns if you don't have any. It's very important to work with icy cold dough here, or else the cookies will flatten. They'll still taste great, but won't be very shortbread-y.
Course: Snack
Cuisine: American
Servings: 12 cookies
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature (8 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose or King Arthur's "white whole wheat" flour
  • 1 cup acorn flour

Instructions 

  • Put the butter in a large bowl and add the sugars. Use a fork or spoon to mix them together until well combined. Add the vanilla extract.
  • In another bowl, mix the salt and the flours with a whisk until combined. Pour the flour mixture into the bowl with the butter and sugar and mix well with the fork or spoon. The dough will come together quickly, but will be sticky. Don't overwork it, but be sure you don't have hidden blobs of butter in your dough.
  • Shape the dough into a disk, cover with plastic wrap and set in the freezer about 2 hours, and up to overnight in the fridge. The dough must be very cold for this to work, or the cookies will collapse.
  • When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F. Flatten the disk of dough to about 1/2 inch thick and cut into cookies. I used a 2-inch cutter, but any sort of cutter would do. An acorn-shaped one would be cute. Keep soing this, reshaping the dough, until you've used it all.
  • Arrange the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 23 to 26 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies just begin to brown.

Nutrition

Calories: 158kcal | Carbohydrates: 35g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 1mg | Sodium: 6mg | Potassium: 25mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 17g | Vitamin A: 11IU | Vitamin C: 7mg | Calcium: 18mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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41 Comments

  1. for all those having issues with thin cookies, i did equal parts by weight (140 grams AP flour and 140 grams acorn flour) and they did come out okay. I also added an egg and cinnamon and cooked for 14 minutes. the thickness of the cookie dettermines the bake time, naturally. my thicker 1/2 inch ones were better than the thinner ones. next time I may increase the white flour ratio so they’re less grainy, but a little icing and I think they’ll be perfect.

  2. Can I use maple syrup instead of maple sugar? If so, what is the amount? Or, you mentioned turbinado sugar. I think I might have some of that or coconut sugar somewhere. Would those work?
    Thanks,
    Tracy

    1. Tracy: Better to use turbinado or coconut sugar because if you use syrup, you mess up the liquid balance in the dough.

  3. Hank, I was sure that other people had somehow misunderstood the instructions and that I would surely have success. I threw my quite frozen cookies in the oven on a cold cookie sheet straight from the freezer into a 375 oven and it still became one sheet of thin cookie. I used parchment paper so I was able to flip it back from each side to the middle and score it with a spatula. They’re quite tasty, just not shortbread like. More like a homemade graham cracker crust. I’ll give it a try, but I also had very fluffy flour, so I’m wondering if I used more if it will come out better. We’ll see!

  4. Thank you! I plan to use this recipe for a literature-based unit study I’m doing with my kids. The critters have acorn and oat biscuits (cookies) in the book. I may try to sub some oat flour for the all purpose flower (and if I can’t find acorn flour I’ll use almond), but this is such a great place to start and will make it extra special for them. Thank you!

  5. I refrigerated my dough for over 24 hours and then put it in the freezer for an extra hour just to make sure it was cold enough. They still melted into one large, thin sheet. But I took a wine glass and used it as a cookie cutter too cut it into individual cookies, and they are delicious!

  6. Tried them out and even substituted applesauce for the butter and they were delightful. Did another batch where I substituted sweet potato flour for the whole wheat flour. Tastes like autumn to me. thanks!

  7. I tried baking the maple-acorn shortbread cookies, but the first tray burnt to a flat, blackened crisp and the second tray I just barely saved from spreading (& burning) into oblivion after only ten minutes in the oven. The dough for both trays came right out of the freezer and was quite frozen (I pre-flattened the second batch and then stuck it back in the freezer to re-freeze because the first batch was almost too solidly frozen to work with), AND lowered the oven setting to 325° the second time around. Any suggestions? I still have a bit of dough left and enough acorn flour for a second batch but I don’t want to waste it. Thanks!!

    1. Here in New Zealand shortbread was often baked as a slice and cut into pieces, rather than as separate biscuits/cookies. You could try it baked in a tray, rather than as separate entities and score it with a knife when it comes out of the oven. If you score it, it should break/cut into separate pieces quite nicely.

  8. Would you please be so kind as to weigh one cup of your acorn flour? I made the cookies following your recipe and they turned into little brown (tasty) puddles. My acorn flour is VERY fluffy – I think this is the same problem Marie Duggan had (see above). If I knew how much a cup of your flour weighed, I can adjust the recipe. Thanks!

    1. I had the same problem with spreading as many others have reported and my dough chilled for 24hrs before going in the oven.

  9. If your recipe didn’t work for someone, the problem might be not only the temperature of the dough, but also the variability of acorn flour. Since we all make our own flour, and we might be using red or white oak acorns, the texture and stickiness might be different from one flour to another. Also, leaching techniques result in flour that’s more or less sticky. End result: try it out, modify based on the results!

    Thanks for the recipe, I’ll be trying it out tomorrow. It’s a mast crop this year in Madison, Wisconsin, so I have loads of really beautiful reds! More flavor and oil, yay!

  10. These didn’t wirk. They melted. I think the ratio of sugar to flour is too high. These had two cups of flour, and one cup of sugar. According to Joy of Cooking, about 1/2 cup of sugar is appropriate for two cups flour.