Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Browned butter

I’ve been on a chocolate chip cookie quest for a while now. Not for the “perfect” or the “best” or the “ultimate” chocolate chip cookie, because how do you quantify any of those things? People want different things from life, and they want different things from chocolate chip cookies. No, I’ve been on a quest for my own personal chocolate chip cookie nirvana. I figured that, when I found it, I’d share it, on the assumption that some other people might feel the same way about it.



You know how it is when you have definite opinions about things. For me, chocolate chip cookies have to be chewy, but not too soft; they also should have some crispness. They have to be flavorful, and not too sweet. And, after some experimentation, I have decided that, ideally, they should be made with browned butter.

I’ve been experimenting with browned butter a lot lately; it adds complexity and depth of flavor to baked goods, and though the difference can be subtle, it is definitely noticeable. The main obstacle, of course, is that in order to brown the butter, you have to melt it; and the consistency of the butter that you use in baked goods (ie frozen, cold, room temperature, melted, etc.) can have a dramatic impact on the texture of the finished product. With chocolate chip cookies, I learned, melted butter can make for cookies that are chewy when warm, but tough when cooled. How to get around this?

Here’s what I did: I browned the butter ahead of time, and let it cool back to a soft room temperature. Then I used it as I would regular softened butter. This worked so well that I’ve gotten into the habit of making batches of browned butter when I’m already doing something else in the kitchen, and keeping them around for whatever I happen to be baking next. (Further experiments await….)

So here I present my personal chocolate chip cookie nirvana: the first recipe that has compelled me to keep a stash in the freezer, ready to bake as needed.

Browned butter chocolate chip cookies
Adapted from The Best Recipe by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated
The original recipe for these cookies calls for regular softened, unsalted butter, and given the source, I’m sure they’re delicious that way too. But the browned butter (which I acknowedge adds an extra step) really does take the flavor to another level.

2 ¼ cups/270 g all-purpose/plain flour*
1 tsp/5 g salt
1 tsp/5 g baking soda
½ lb/2 sticks/227 g butter, browned and cooled to room temperature
1 cup/150 g brown sugar (packed if using cup measurement)
½ cup/90 g granulated/caster sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp/5 g vanilla
½ tsp/3 g water
2 cups/360 g semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375F/190C. Line baking sheets with parchment. Whisk flour, salt, and baking soda together and set aside.

Mix butter and sugars together until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes with a hand mixer; longer if by hand), scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add eggs, vanilla, and water and mix until just combined; scrape bowl again. Add dry ingredients and repeat, then stir in chocolate chips.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoons onto prepared baking sheets, leaving at least 1 in/2.5 cm between cookies so that they can spread.** Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes, reversing position of sheets after about 5 minutes. When cookies are just starting to turn light golden brown, they are done. ***

Cool cookies on sheets for no more than 2 minutes, then remove to cooling racks. Serve warm with a large glass of cold milk.

Makes 24-36 large cookies.

* You can substitute some whole-wheat flour for the white here, but don’t try to swap more than 25%, or the texture of the cookies will change.
** At this point, you can freeze instead of bake: slide the loaded baking sheet into the freezer and leave for at least 30 minutes, then remove the flash-frozen cookie blobs to a freezer bag to bake and enjoy later.
*** Here’s a tip that helps guarantee chewy cookies: when they are just about done, whack the cookie sheet on the counter a few times to make the puffiness fall. I picked this up from Mark Scarbrough and Bruce Weinstein’s Ultimate Cookbook during my cookie quest, and it works like a charm.

4 comments:

celia said... Best Blogger Tips

Nancy, you're a genius. Who else would think to pre-brown butter for cookies? :)

Roving Lemon said... Best Blogger Tips

Aw, shucks, thanks! It's getting to be an obsession...just about to brown another batch!

Niece Musabelle said... Best Blogger Tips

OM42 THESE WERE DELICIOUS :D :D :D
The MHS GSA thanks you for this recipe... P:

Roving Lemon said... Best Blogger Tips

@Niece Musabelle
You and the MHS GSA are very welcome, darling niece!

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