Monday, February 4, 2008

Brown sugar cookies

Despite never having lived in the South, I seem to have developed a southern girl's affinity for molasses and brown sugar. Perhaps it's my Alabama-born grandmother's influence. Anyway, when I saw this brown sugar cookie recipe on an episode of America's Test Kitchen, I had to try it. Not only because they're full of brown sugar--although that would have been plenty of incentive--but because they have browned butter, a flavor I thoroughly enjoy but haven't really used much.

The cookies were delicious, and enjoyed by one and all, but I was left wanting a bit more. Not from the cookie, that is--they have great depth of flavor, and are especially delightful when still warm--but from myself. The browned butter feature has great potential, I think, and I want to see how it enhances a couple of different cookie concepts. Tonight I shall experiment with two variations: chewy ginger cookies and lace cookies. I'll post the basic brown sugar cookie recipe here, and put up a separate post with the changes separate posts for the two new recipes.

Brown Sugar Cookies

14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar (~1 3/4 ounces)
1 3/4 cups plus 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar, divided (14 ounces)
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour (~10 1/2 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Heat 10 tablespoons of the butter in a 10" skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue to cook, swirling pan constantly, until butter is dark golden brown and has a nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes.

Notes: 1) do not use a nonstick skillet, as its dark color will prevent you from seeing the butter's change in color; 2) use a heatproof spatula to stir aside the foam that will otherwise keep you from observing the coloration of the butter at the bottom of the pan; 3) when the butter browns, it will happen very suddenly and quickly, so keep an eye on it--this is not something you can leave unattended while you prepare other ingredients.

When the butter has browned, remove skillet from heat and transfer browned butter to a large heatproof bowl. Stir in remaining 4 tablespoons butter to melt, and set aside for at least 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a shallow baking dish or pie plate, mix granulated sugar and 1/4 cup (packed) of the brown sugar, rubbing between fingers until well combined, and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, and baking powder and set aside.

Add remaining 1 3/4 cups brown sugar and salt to the cooled butter, and mix until no sugar lumps remain. Scrape down the sides of the bowl; add egg, yolk, and vanilla and mix until fully incorporated. Scrape down bowl again. Add flour mixture and stir until just combined; make sure that no flour pockets remain and that the ingredients are evenly distributed.

Divide the dough into 24 portions (each should be about 2 tablespoons) and roll each portion between hands into a ball about 1 1/2" in diameter. Working in batches, toss balls in reserved sugar mixture to coat and set on preserved baking sheet about 2" apart. Bake one sheet at a time for 12 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through, until the cookies are browned and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft (cookies will look raw between cracks, and seem underdone).

Cool cookies on sheet 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and cool completely. (But I recommend eating them as soon as they're cool enough to handle.)


Brave Sir Robin said...

hmmm - I'm not really a browned butter fan, but the cookies do sound nice.

As for Molasses and brown sugar, I am a huge fan.

When I was growing up, we used Steen's Cane Syrup. It is pretty much the only thing my Dad would ever use. It may be hard to find in California, but it is tasty. A bit lighter than Molasses.

Anne said...

I don't know if we have Steen's Cane Syrup around here, but I've seen (and used) Lyle's Golden Syrup, which might be similar.

Supersaps said...

Mmmm. Do you mind sharing the recipe for those delicious vegan ones you made and brought over?