Sunday, August 12, 2012

Better with Browned Butter!

You might have noticed by now that I really enjoy recipes that use simple, ordinary ingredients, but produce extra ordinary results.  There are practical reasons for this such as time:  no running to the grocery store for unusual items, and money:  no paying at the grocery store for unusual items!  Mostly though, I like these types of recipes because of their inherent creative factor.  The success of these types of recipes commonly hinges on a certain innovative procedure or a way of handling a key ingredient. 
This cookie recipe is another example of this type of cooking.  It uses ingredients that most of us always have around:  flour, brown sugar, eggs, etc.  BUT the delicious factor in these cookies is BROWNED BUTTER!!  Do you know about the magic of BROWNED BUTTER?  It's "just" butter that has been heated on the stove until the milk solids have become, well, BROWNED!  But if you've ever done this you know that this procedure transforms an already yummy substance into a complex flavored, fragrant thing of delicious-ness!  As an ingredient to baking, it provides a rich, kind of toffee-like, nutty flavor to frostings, cake batters, and cookies.  BROWNED BUTTER takes pecan pie to another level!  BROWNED BUTTER is not just for baking though.  Have you ever eaten Trout Almondine?  If you have, that lovely, rich, nutty flavor is not just due to the almonds; it's mostly the, you guessed it, BROWNED BUTTER! 
Well, anyway, you get the idea.  If you want to try BROWNED BUTTER in a baked product that doesn't already call for it, adding melted butter will change it a little.  Usually, it makes things moister and chewier, so take that into consideration if you decide to get creative with a conventional recipe.  There are lots of recipes designed to use BROWNED BUTTER though-- and I have yet to try one that isn't wonderful!  This cookie recipe is from "Cook's Illustrated", which is a magazine I really enjoy.  I changed the procedure just a bit, but I think you'll be singing the praises of BROWNED BUTTER with me if you try them!
1.75 sticks (14 Tbl.) unsalted butter
2 cups packed light or dark brown sugar (origianl recipe calls for dark brown-- but both are yummy!)
1/4 cup white sugar
2 cups + 2 Tbl. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 Tbl. vanilla extract
Put 10 Tbl. of the butter in a small saucepan.  Allow it to melt, then stir over medium heat until the butter gets golden brown and fragrant.  This takes about 3 minutes, but don't get impatient and use high heat because the butter solids burn easily.  Pour the melted butter into a large mixing bowl and drop in the rest of the butter to melt.  Allow this to cool at least 15 minutes.
Heat the oven to 350F.  Mix the white sugar and 1/4 cup brown sugar in a shallow bowl with a fork and set aside.  Line a couple baking sheets with parchment paper.
Add the remaining 1.75 cups brown sugar and the salt to the butter and mix well.  Add the eggs, and vanilla and mix well, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Add the flour, baking soda, and baking powder.  Mix until incorporated, but don't overmix.
Form the dough into about 1 inch balls (or scoop out with a dough scoop--1 Tbl. size) and roll in the brown/white sugar mixture.  Place them on the cookie sheets about 2 inches apart. 
Bake for 10-12 minutes.  If you press a cookie off-center and it doesn't feel super squishy, the cookies are done.  Let them cool on the sheets for about 5 minutes, then remove to racks to cool completely-- but definitely "sample" them warm :)
Makes about 3 dozen cookies. 

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