In the past I’ve made pretty bold claims that chocolate chip cookies are the only style of cookie that counts for anything. Don’t expect me to recant that claim, but I also want to go on the record saying that I don’t mean to malign other kinds. I certainly won’t object to a good cookie, chocolate chip or not. Besides, I can always learn a thing or two that may help in my quest for a perfect chocolate chip cookie.
I’ve been thinking about using browned butter in a cookie dough for some time now and thought that making the simpler sugar cookie would be a great way to allow the flavor of the butter to shine. Well, allow the flavor of butter and brown sugar to shine. We’ve used browned butter before as part of a sauce with gnocchi and it contributed a lovely slightly nutty flavor. So making it was nothing terribly new. It’s not difficult to make, but it does require your attention. If you leave the stove unattended for even a moment, it somehow knows and tries it’s hardest to burn, but stand there and baby it for a few minutes and you will succeed every time.
These cookies come out like perfect tender disks of sweet goodness. The browned butter flavor gives this cookies a depth that many other butter cookies lack. Make these and people will comment on how good and tasty they are, I guarantee it.
My intent was to use a standard sugar cookie recipe and simply brown the butter before using it. As I was looking up various recipes, I saw that Cooks Illustrated had a much better method. They thought this through and combined the browned butter with brown sugar to make their cookies. The recipe below uses their technique.
14 Tbsps unsalted butter
1 3/4 ounces (about 1/4 cup) granulated sugar
14 ounces (about 2 cups) packed dark brown sugar
10.5 ounces (about 2 cups plus 2 Tbsps) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp table salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350F.
1. In a medium skillet, heat 10 tbsp butter over medium to med-high heat until melted. Once melted, continue to cool while whisking or swirling the pan for about 2 more minutes. You will know when you are done when the butter looks golden brown and smells nutty and fragrant. Transfer the butter to a large bowl and add the remaining 4 tbsp (cut up) to the liquefied butter. Stir once or twice and leave to melt into the butter about 15 minutes.
2. In a shallow bowl mix the granulated sugar (1/4 c) with an equal amount of the brown sugar (1/4 c or 1 3/4 oz). Rub together until it acquires the texture of wet sand. Set aside loosely covered.
3. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and baking powder.
4. To the bowl with the cooling brown butter add the salt and the remaining brown sugar (about 1 3/4 cups). Mix with eggbeaters or in a stand mixer until until no sugar lumps remain. Add the egg, yolk, and vanilla and mix until it all comes together (30-45 seconds). Scrape down bowl. Add the flour mixture from step 3 and mix until combined (about 1 minute). Scrape down and stir with spatula to make sure everything is mixed.
5. Make about 24 individual cookies (about 2 tbsps each). Roll each cookie into a ball with your hands and then toss them into the bowl of sugar to coat. Keeping the cookies lightly covered until you toss them will prevent them from drying out and help the sugar stick.
6. Place them onto parchment lined baking sheets, keeping about 2 inches between each cookie (they will spread). Bake until cookies are browned and slightly puffy, 12 to 14 minutes. Rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking. Be careful not to overbake, it is hard to judge doneness because the color change will be subtle. The best test is to press lightly about halfway between the edge and the center of the cookie. The outer crust will have just begun to set firmly, but you will still very easily be able to make an indentation. Allow the cookies to cool ON THE SHEET for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Cooling on the sheet will keep the cookies slightly chewy, that’s as good thing.