Brown butter is a baker’s best friend. If I had a pound for every recipe I’d read extolling the virtues of this simple ingredient since I’ve been blogging, I’d be a very rich little loaf. Until fairly recently I’d always thought of it as a savoury thing, the foaming beurre noisette surrounding a piece of white fish or flavoured with sage and poured over pasta; I’m only just starting to understand the joy of stirring it into biscuits, cakes, cookies and muffins to ramp up the flavour and add to their intensity.
Brown butter, or beurre noisette (‘hazelnut butter’) gets its name from the rich toasty smell and nutty brown colour which result when you continue to cook butter beyond its melting point. As the butter heats, the milk solids separate out from the butterfat, sinking to the bottom of your pan and slowly turning a gorgeous golden brown. It’s very easy to burn, so requires careful attention to avoid getting bitter, blackened lumps, but provided you pay attention to your pan, brown butter is a simple, delicious addition to almost any recipe.
In this instance, I’ve added it to cookies. Having read about brown butter cookies in the most recent issue of Made with Butter magazine, I encountered them again in Joy the Baker’s book, then again on this gorgeous blog, as well as on a number of other sites, until it got to the point where I’d spent more time reading about them than it would have taken to rustle up a batch. The time had come to bite the bullet and find out what all the fuss was about.
When it comes to chocolate chip cookies, everyone has an opinion. A lot of people swear by a single favourite recipe as well, but I’m slightly to fickle for any such rule to apply. I like my cookies large, allowing for a crispy edge leading through a chewy mid section to a soft melting middle; I like chunks rather than chips for added texture and a big chocolate hit; I like lots of brown sugar to increase the chewiness and caramel flavour, but after that I’m open to suggestion. Milk or dark chocolate? I’m happy with either. Brown or white flour? Each works in its own different way. Nuts or not? I’ve tried pecans and walnuts, macadamias and brazil nuts with equally delicious results, as well as leaving the cookies completely nut free.
Or you could use brown butter to add an extra element of nuttiness without any crunch. This dough use two lots of butter, one sizzled in a pan until rich, brown and nutty, the other creamed with sugar until light and fluffy. The former is to the latter what caramel is to sugar: a deeper, darker, altogether more adult ingredient, rich in its intensity and packed with flavour. Combined with three types of sugar, large chunks of the best quality milk chocolate and buckwheat flour for an extra hit of nuttiness (and gluten free!), it makes for a pretty serious cookie.
If you do one thing today, make brown butter. If you can push it to two, make brown butter and stir it into cookies. Eat some dough (I defy you not to), eat a cookie hot from the oven, then try another later when they’ve cooled to a chewy, chunky, dense nutty slab of chocolaty goodness. Eat another one the next day for breakfast, sneak one into your packed lunch at work, sandwich them around ice cream after dinner and savour each and every last mouthful over the next few days until the whole tin is gone. Then repeat. This is the start of your journey into the world of brown butter. It’s going to be good.
Brown Butter & Buckwheat Chocolate Chunk Cookies
185g unsalted butter, softened
225g buckwheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
120g golden caster sugar
95g soft light brown sugar
75g dark brown sugar
1 large free range egg + 1 yolk
280g milk chocolate, chopped into chunks
First of all, make your brown butter. Melt 85g of butter in a saucepan over a medium heat. Continue cooking, swirling the pan constantly, until the butter starts to foam and crackle and the milk solids separate out begin to brown. Once the butter is golden with a nutty aroma, remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Be careful not to overcook it as you don’t want black butter!
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the remaining 100g butter with all three sugars. Add the egg, egg yolk and cooled brown butter and continue to whisk until just combined and smooth, about 30 seconds.
Using a wooden spoon, stir in the flour mixture until smooth. Add the chocolate chunks and stir until combined. Cover the dough with cling film, pop in the fridge and chill for 24 hours.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Line two trays with non stick baking parchment.
Take your cookie dough out the fridge and roll into balls about the size of a ping pong ball. You can make these larger or smaller depending on how you like your cookies, but do make sure to adjust the baking times. Space the balls a good few inches apart as the cookies will spread, then either:
Bake for approx. 8 – 10 minutes, remove from the oven and cool
OR (and this is what I do because I’m slightly obsessive about my cookies)
Bake for 5 minutes then remove from the oven. Your cookies will have spread significantly, so coax them back into a perfect round shape with a teaspoon, then return to the oven for 3-4 minutes more.
Regardless of method, err on the side of caution – these cookies are best removed from the oven when they look slightly underdone as they will continue to cook once you remove them.
Allow to cool slightly then enjoy. Preferably with ice cream or a tall glass of ice cold milk.