It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? To all seven of you who read this website, I apologize for my sustained absence. There was work—lots of it—and there were late nights—lots of them—and then there was the inevitable crash afterwards that involved lots and lots of sleeping. Boy, that really makes it sound like my work involved the unregulated consumption of gratuitous amounts of alcohol, doesn’t it? It didn’t, by the way. There was no alcohol involved in any way. But! Moving along! Look what happened after all the work: cookies.
My brother, cookie aficionado, tells me that these are his favorite chocolate chip cookies. This is no small amount of praise, since my brother just might be the world’s foremost expert on chocolate chip cookies. On more than one occasion, I have given him chocolate chip cookies as a birthday or Christmas gift, and the reception those cookies received was nothing short of rhapsodic. It was like watching a person being greeted by a heavenly specter. Or, you know, by really, really good chocolate chip cookies.
The heart of this recipe lies with Cook’s Illustrated, they of the test-it-until-it-is-perfect methodology. Their recipe provides a good starting point, but I have always thought that the recipe fell short of perfect on account of its lack of oomph. The cookies were crisp at the edges and chewy in the middle—which was lovely—but the flavor was far too sweet for my tastes, and the sweetness sort of killed all the other elements of the cookie. Over the years, I have tinkered with the recipe until I came up with my own version, one that I like ten times better than the original, though I realize that such a statement is entirely reliant upon my own personal taste, and not the tastes of the masses. Still, if you enjoy the subtly nutty taste of brown butter, the deep flavor of brown sugar, and the undertone of sea salt, you’ll love these cookies as much as I do. And, of course, as much as my brother, Expert in All Things Chocolate Chip Cookie.
Sea Salt and Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
As noted in the ingredients below, you’ll really want to use either coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate, or bittersweet chocolate chunks or féves. Regular chocolate chips are specifically formulated to not melt when baked, and you really want pure, melty chocolate in these cookies, as it really makes the whole cookie shine just that much more. If you are really keen on the saltiness of a sweet baked good, feel free to sprinkle just a touch of flaky sea salt on top of the cookies as they emerge from the oven.
1 ¾ cups (8 ¾ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons (1 ¾ sticks) unsalted butter
1/3 cup (2 ¼ ounces) granulated sugar
¾ cup packed (5 ¼ ounces) dark brown sugar
1 ¼ teaspoons flaky sea salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 ¼ cups bittersweet chocolate chunks, féves, or chopped bittersweet chocolate
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Adjust oven rack to middle position. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and baking soda. Set aside.
In a medium skillet or pan set over medium-high heat, melt butter. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly (or stirring with a wooden spoon) until butter is dark golden brown and has a nutty scent, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove skillet from heat, then pour butter into a large heatproof bowl.
To the browned butter, add both sugars, sea salt, and vanilla. Whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and egg yolk and whisk until smooth, about 30 seconds. Let mixture rest for 3 minutes in order to allow the sugar to really dissolve, then whisk again for 30 seconds, let mixture rest for 3 minutes, then repeat once more. The mixture will be smooth and shiny. Gently fold in the flour using a spatula or wooden spoon. When the flour is completely incorporated, stir in the chocolate chunks.
Measure out dough into 16 portions of roughly 3 tablespoons of dough per cookie. If you don’t desire such enormous cookies, portion out the cookies in 2 tablespoon chunks. Arrange cookies 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, baking no more than 8 cookies at a time, per sheet (lest your cookies ooze into one another and attach into one long cookie).
Bake cookies 1 tray at a time, in the center of the oven, until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and the centers are still soft, about 10 to 14 minutes for cookies made in 3-tablespoon portions, fewer minutes for smaller cookies. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack. Allow cookies to cool almost completely before eating (I like a still-warm cookie, but you can certainly let the cookies cool completely before eating and nothing bad will come of it).
Makes 16 to 24 cookies, depending on how large your cookie dough portions are.