Friday, December 2, 2011
Brown Sugar Brown Butter Cookies
If you’re a fan of the rich nutty flavor of brown butter and also a fan of the caramel notes that come from using brown sugar, chances are you’ll enjoy this super tender cookie that features the subtle deliciousness of both.
There’s nothing terribly fancy or complex about these cookies but they are somehow pretty irresistible. Pecans are finely ground with the flour to enhance the nuttiness of the brown butter. The brown sugar adds its distinctive flavor while the granulated sugar preserves the crispy texture. The egg yolks provide a large measure of tenderness. Vanilla adds to the flavor profile and salt gives the cookie a distinct edge.
So there you have it - a crispy, crumbly, buttery, not-too-sweet shortbread cookie to share with cookie lovers, especially during this season of appreciation and giving.
- Toast pecans in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes.
- If you don’t have a vanilla bean, add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract to the butter after it has browned.
- For a good illustration of how to brown butter, see the guidance at Simply Recipes. Use a stainless steel pan so you can watch the butter carefully as it can take just a moment to burn. Once you begin to detect a nutty aroma, it’s just about ready. I lift the pan off the heat and swirl for more control if I think it’s browning too fast or nearly done. It will continue to brown once you take it off the heat. Pour immediately into a heatproof bowl to stop the cooking.
- I used a #40 ice cream scoop to portion these cookies. It speeds up the process and creates uniform cookies. (The #40 refers to 40 scoops per quart.)
- One test for doneness for cookies is to gently nudge one with your fingertip. If the cookie slides easily, they are done. If you feel a lot of resistance, bake for another minute or so. Once removed from the oven, most cookies will need to firm up for a minute or two before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.
Brown Sugar Brown Butter Cookies
Makes 2 dozen 2" cookies
8 oz (2 sticks; 16 T) butter
1/2 vanilla bean or 1 t vanilla extract
2 C flour
1/2 C pecans, toasted
1/2 t salt
1/4 C + 2 T dark brown sugar
1/4 C + 2 T granulated sugar
2 egg yolks
Cut the butter into small pieces and melt in a saucepan over medium-low heat. If using a 1/2 piece of vanilla bean, cut it lengthwise, scrape out the seeds and add it to the butter along with the casing. Swirl the butter carefully as the foam subsides, the mixture begins to brown and the flecks on bottom of pan turn golden. Lift off the heat periodically to check on the browning and to avoid burning. The browning only takes about 5 – 6 minutes. Pour into a clean container and set aside to cool. If you didn’t use a vanilla bean, add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract at this time.
Place the flour and pecans in the bowl of a food processor and process until the nuts are finely ground. Add the salt and sugars to the flour mixture and pulse to blend. Remove the vanilla been casing from the browned butter and add. Pulse just a few times to begin to combine. Add yolks and pulse until the dough starts to clump around the center of the machine.
Pour the dough onto a piece of plastic. Press into a disc and wrap tightly. Place in the refrigerator for about an hour to allow the flour to soak up the butter and the dough to firm up.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment or silpats. Shape dough into balls about 1 1/4” in diameter. Place 12 on each baking sheet and press down gently to flatten just a bit so cookies measure about 2” in diameter.
Bake for about 15 – 18 minutes until slightly brown and firm to the touch, rotating pans from top to bottom and front to back about half-way through the baking. Cool on a wire rack.