Tag Archives: brown butter

Sea Salt and Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

15 Mar

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Last Year: Italian-Style Herb Bread and Matambre-this dish’s name roughly translates into “hunger killer,” and, reading the recipe, you’ll soon see why

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.

Apricot Brown Butter Cookies

10 Dec

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Though I will most likely never win the Nobel Prize (most likely, but not never, because what if the Nobel committee might starts awarding the prize to people based on their dedicated contributions to the study of delicious baked goods?), the Fields Medal (nope—no way I’d ever win that one, baked goods or no), or the National Medal of Science, I did just achieve a profound and nearly unbelievable scientific feat: I just reverse engineered a cookie that I ate four months ago and had to recreate based entirely on memory.

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You see, over the summer, when we were wrapping up our annual trip back to San Francisco to watch baseball games and gorge ourselves on ice cream, I stopped off at Bi-Rite Market to grab some snacks and treats for our journey back home. After locating a number of reasonable of healthy foods to accompany us, I also decided to buy a bag of gorgeous toffee colored cookies. The cookies were thick and chewy, rich with brown butter, and topped with a spoonful of sticky apricot preserves. They were some of the best cookies I have ever eaten, and, folks, I have eaten a lot of cookies. We ate most of the cookies while traveling, but I made sure to save one last cookie to enjoy while back home. Also, I had already decided that I had secret plans for that last cookie. Like a scientist entrenched in the lab, I was going to break down that cookie, bite by bite, and recreate it in my own kitchen.

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I started with brown butter, deeply cooked so its toffee notes stood front and center, then, looking to create a cookie with a nice, chewy finish, paired it with brown sugar. Since the cookie I was looking to make was essentially a souped-up butter cookie, I followed the pattern of butter cookie know-how, creaming the lightly firmed brown butter with sugar and flour, then chilling the dough to allow it to hydrate and set up. When baked up with a spoonful of apricot preserves, the cookies were a dream. With a pronounced brown butter flavor, a sticky lid of apricot preserves, and a delectably crisp-yet-chewy bite, they were just like my long lost cookie friend of the summer. Only now, the code cracked, we’ll be able to make this cookie’s acquaintance all year long.

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Last Year: Ginger Almond Toffee

Apricot Brown Butter Cookies

I first made these cookies much larger than the ones pictured here (in the interest of recreating Bi-Rite Creamery’s cookie as closely as possible). The tiny cookies seen here were made for a holiday cookie swap, so a small size seemed like a reasonable idea. If you want to make the cookies more like Bi-Rite Creamery’s, triple the scoop size, multiply the apricot topping by the same factor, then bake the cookies for 2 to 5 minutes longer, checking the cookies every couple of minutes to reach the proper level of doneness. When made larger, the cookies will end up much chewier than a tiny cookie.

1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

½ cup dark brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

2 large egg yolks

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

1/2 cup to 1 cup apricot preserves

In a medium skillet or pan, melt 2 sticks (1 cup) of the butter over medium heat. When browning butter, it is always best to do so in a light-colored pan so you can closely gauge the changing of the butter’s color. Slowly cook the butter, swirling the pan around every few seconds so the butter cooks evenly. The butter will begin to foam, then spatter a bit, and then you’ll see the little dots of milk solids begin to turn brown at the bottom of the pan. This can take anywhere from 5 to 8 minutes, so be sure to watch the butter very carefully to keep it from burning, and stir the butter every now and then to keep the milk solids from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

When the dots of butter solids have turned dark brown and the butter begins to emit a lovely nutty aroma, pour the butter into a medium bowl. Immediately place the bowl in the refrigerator or freezer. Allow the butter to cool, stirring every few minutes, until it is the spreadable consistency of softened butter (you basically want it to be the same texture as the remaining stick of butter that has been left to soften at room temperature). Getting the browned butter to this texture can take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, depending on whether you place it in the refrigerator or freezer, how often you stir it, etc.

When the browned butter has reached the proper consistency, place it in a large bowl, or in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, along with the remaining stick of softened butter. Cream the butters together until they are light and fluffy. Slowly add in both the brown sugar and granulated sugar, beating all the while, until everything is blended together. Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla. With the mixer on medium low speed, slowly add in the flour and salt and mix until everything is well combined and the dough is relatively smooth. Cover the bowl of dough and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

When the dough has chilled, preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Using about 1 teaspoon of dough at a time (or, for a much larger cookie, a couple of tablespoons of dough), roll dough into a roughly 1-inch ball (or, obviously, larger). Place balls of dough about a inch or so apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Using the tip of your finger, make a small indentation in the center of each dough ball. Drop a small scoop of apricot preserves into the indentation (a small ball will handle about ¼ of a teaspoon of preserves, but a larger ball can take about three times that much).

Bake the cookies in the center of the oven for 12 to 14 minutes, until the edges are lightly golden. Remove cookies to a wire rack to cool.

If you make these cookies using 1 teaspoon scoops, you will get around 6 dozen or more cookies.

Spice Cake with Salted Brown Butter Frosting

10 Sep

A few months ago, I made a bunch of cakes for a friend’s Kickstarter campaign. To me, this was a task on par with that of an artist being commissioned to paint a fine portrait. I took it very, very seriously. I bought bakery boxes in which to present the cakes. I made house calls to each and every cake recipient, making sure to describe, in fine detail, the nuances of not only the cakes, but also their frostings and/or garnishes. I shaved chocolate to decorate the cakes, I made special cardboard cake stands on which to sit each cake in its box, and then I hand-stamped my name, along with the name of this very website, onto each cake box. Like I said, I took my task very, very seriously. Behold:

Remind me to tell you about this cake at another time.

Though I have encountered many people who simply cannot believe that I would go to such great cake-making lengths and not get paid a penny to do so, the fact remains that, incomprehensible as it may seem, I really enjoy making cakes. I also enjoy making salads, Indian food, bread, and…well, food. Just in general, I enjoy making food.

A couple of years ago, I agreed to make an enormous spread of food for my son’s school open house, and when, on the afternoon of the open house, it began to snow (which, just to be clear, rarely happens here), I was struck with both parts panic and delight when I realized that, my lord, what happens if the open house gets canceled and I get stuck with all this food. And then I realized that, hey, if the open house gets canceled, we get stuck with all this food. The samosas, the smoked salmon bruschetta, the caramelized onion flatbread, the lemon bergamot bars, the spicy brownies—all of it would have been ours and ours alone. Most of the time, when I prepare food in this manner, I never get to actually eat it. I just drop it off, then come back later on to retrieve the empty platters. For the first time ever, I was faced with the possibility of actually being able to eat the food I had spent the past two days making. It was equal parts exciting and confusing.

This is basically what happens when I make cakes for people, as well. I lovingly prepare the cake, frost it with the gentlest of care, then nestle it into a special box, never to be seen again. I suppose that is why, when I was scrolling through some old photos from the beginning of the year, I almost could not remember making this spice cake. The spice cake recipe from America’s Test Kitchen, packed with spices that get bloomed in brown butter, then perked up with a shot of fresh ginger, is an old favorite of mine. The frosting, dreamed up when I was looking for a way to really punch up the cake, is a new favorite.

The brown butter in this frosting is the perfect compliment to the brown butter in the cake, and the hit of sea salt contained within supplies the most wonderful undertone to the warm sweetness of the cake. How do I know this, having just admitted that I never had the chance to taste this cake, as it was meant for someone other than me? Well, I may have never tasted this particular cake you see in the picture, but you’d better believe that, as soon as I was able, I took the time to make another one of these cakes. And the second time, it never had a chance to leave the house.

Last Year: Green Beans with Cherry Tomatoes Caramelized Lemon-Balsamic Onions

Spice Cake with Salted Brown Butter Frosting Recipe

Spice Cake

Adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

¾ teaspoon ground cardamom

½ teaspoon ground allspice

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces and softened

2 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

2 large eggs, room temperature

3 large egg yolks, room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 ¼  cups granulated sugar

2 tablespoons light or mild molasses

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1 cup buttermilk, room temperature

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour 2 9-inch round cake pans, then line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper.

In a small bowl, combine cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, and nutmeg. In a small skillet, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat and continue to cook, swirling the pan constantly, until the butter turns light brown (this should take anywhere from 3 to 6 minutes). Stir in the spice mixture and quickly cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Remove from heat and pour the mixture into a bowl to cool slightly.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla.

In a large bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the remaining 12 tablespoons of butter with the sugar and molasses. Beat on medium-high speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 to 6 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat in the ginger, the cooled butter-spice mixture, and half of the egg mixture until combined, about 30 seconds. Beat in the remaining egg mixture until combined, about 30 more seconds.

Reduce the mixer speed to low, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and beat in one-third of the flour mixture, followed by half of the buttermilk. Repeat with half of the remaining flour mixture and the remaining buttermilk. Beat in the remaining flour mixture until just combined.

Give the batter a final stir with a rubber spatula to make sure it is thoroughly combined and there are no unmixed bits at the bottom of the bowl. Scrape the batter into the prepared pans, smooth the tops, and gently tap the pans on the counter to settle the batter. Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean with a few moist crumbs attached, about 20 to 25 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking.

Allow the cakes to cool in their pans for 10 to 15 minutes, then run a small knife around the edges of the cakes and flip them out onto a wire rack to finish cooling completely. Peel off the parchment paper and allow cakes to cool for at least 2 hours.

Salted Brown Butter Frosting

3 sticks unsalted butter, cut into chunks and softened

2 tablespoons milk or cream

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

heaping ¼ teaspoon sea salt

3 cups confectioners’ sugar

In a large skillet set over medium heat, melt 2 sticks of the butter, then cook, swirling constantly, until the butter turns light brown and just begins to release a nutty aroma. Remove from the heat, then transfer to a medium bowl. Place the bowl in the refrigerator, and cool the browned butter for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until the browned butter reaches the consistency of softened, room temperature butter.

Remove cooled browned butter to a large bowl, or the bowl of a standing mixer. Add the remaining stick of butter, milk or cream, vanilla, and salt. Beat together at medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Reduce mixer speed to medium-low, then slowly add the confectioners’ sugar and beat until smooth and incorporated, about 5 minutes. Increase mixer speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, which can take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the power of your mixer.

Makes about 4 cups of frosting, enough to frost a 2-layer cake or one large sheet cake.

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