Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie | Image: Laura Messersmith

It’s not overstating a fact to call the chocolate chip cookie iconic and there’s a reason they’re the first to go from any conference room buffet leaving only decoy oatmeal raisin and lackluster plain sugar to be last picks. Chocolate chip cookies are flipping delicious – sweet, a bit salty, and if the baker isn’t stingy with the chocolate pieces they can be downright decadent (hello fellow Levain devotees.)

I started my baking career with the classic yellow-bag Toll House recipe only daring to add an extra half teaspoon of vanilla or quarter cup of chips for fear of risking cookie meltdown. Today, I’m proud to say that while that version remains the bedrock of my kitchen memories I’ve found the courage to branch out a bit and explore.

There can never be enough chocolate chip cookies which means the search for the perfect recipe is ongoing. First with a Tara O’Brady’s recipe that toyed with both the brown sugar:white sugar ratio and included melted butter.* Now with this challenger from the very talented Joy Wilson, better known as Joy The Baker, we’re trying browned butter and now a third sugar ratio. All in the name of science, of course.

*Since I never plan quite far enough ahead; room temperature butter is always my downfall, so this was a major development.

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie | Image: Laura Messersmith

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies (yield: about 3 dozen cookies)

1 cup (2 sticks) room temperature unsalted butter, divided
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon molasses
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups roughly chopped bittersweet chocolate chips
flaked sea salt, to sprinkle on top

Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Place half the butter (1 stick) in a medium heavy-bottomed skillet; stainless steel or light colored will help you track the progress of the butter more easily. Melt the butter over medium-low heat, swirling the pan occasionally. The butter will foam as it cooks, and start to crackle and pop. Once the crackling stops, keep a close watch, continuing to swirl the pan often. The butter will start to smell nutty, and brown bits will form in the bottom, about 5-7 minutes. Once the bits are the color of wildflower honey remove from the heat and immediately pour it into a small bowl, bits and all. This will stop the butter from cooking and burning. Set aside to cool for 20 minutes.

Beat the remaining 1 stick room temperature butter and brown sugar together with an electric mixer for 3 to 5 minutes, until the mixture is very smooth. Next, beat in the vanilla extract and molasses.

Pour the cooled brown butter into the bowl, along with the granulated sugar. Beat for 2 minutes, until smooth; the mixture will lighten to the color of pale sand and become fluffy. Add the egg and egg yolk, and beat for one more minute.

Sift the flour, salt, and baking soda into the butter mixture, beating on low speed just until everything is incorporated. Use a spatula to fold in the chocolate chips by hand and finish incorporating all of the dry ingredients.

Turn the dough out onto a piece of parchment paper, waxed paper, or plastic wrap. Flatten it slightly into a thick disk, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. About 15 minutes before you’re ready to begin baking, place racks in the center and upper third of the oven and preheat your oven to 350°F.

Break the dough up into equal pieces – about 2 tablespoons worth - and roll into balls between your hands. Place the balls of dough on the prepared baking sheets leaving 2-inches of space between them so they have room to spread as they bake.

Sprinkle the top of the cookies with flaked sea salt – according to your taste**.

Bake the cookies in the pre-heated oven for 12 to 15 minutes, rotating the sheet pan halfway through, until they’re golden brown. Remove from the oven, and allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet (5 minutes or so) before moving them.

Serve warm; or cool completely, and store airtight at room temperature for several days. For longer storage, wrap well and freeze.

**Note on Sea Salt: I made these cookies both with and without the sprinkling of sea salt on top and found that without it they were a little under-seasoned. If you don’t plan to use it then I’d add a bit salt more to the dough itself to keep the cookies from tasting flat.

Lightly adapted and rewritten from Joy the Baker’s The Best Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
For a cookie recipe, yes. I used one large mixing bowl, medium stainless steel skillet, an electric hand mixer, two rimmed baking sheets, mesh sieve (optional), measuring cups and spoons, a rubber spatula, metal spatula, small cutting board and a chef’s knife.

The Verdict:
How could these cookies possibly be anything other than AMAZING? Normally I resist trends like sprinkling sea salt on everything or constantly browning butter, but in this case these little additions to the process offer so much flavor and depth that it would be miserly to keep them from you. I baked a batch when a friend was visiting from out of town and after a bite or two I started to wonder whether we shouldn’t have just skipped the whole dinner business and gone straight to dessert. Well done, Ms. Wilson.

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie | Image: Laura Messersmith

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Chocolate Chip Cookies | Image: Laura Messersmith

Calling the chocolate chip cookie the all-time best cookie ever is still probably an understatement of its greatness. Nothing conjures more images of wholesome, homemade comfort than a warm tray of chocolate chip cookies and a glass of cold milk frosted with condensation. And just consider how sad it is when you realize you’ve picked up an oatmeal raisin masquerading as chocolate chip from the platter. Dagger, right? Instant disappointment.

We have Ruth Graves Wakefield, inventor of the Toll House Cookie, to thank for the afternoon snack that launched 1,000 half-hour family sitcom clichés. It’s the recipe I’ve been faithfully making for decades with little variation, other than a dash more vanilla here or a handful of dried cranberries there. It’s been my constant companion, a guaranteed crowd pleaser, never a crumb left on the plate. Why mess with a good thing?

And now I have a confession to make… thanks to the experimentation and inventiveness of Tara O’Brady, author of the blog and now cookbook Seven Spoons, I might have a new favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. Don’t hate me, Ruth!

The Seven Spoons recipe clearly descends from the original with a few small changes like chocolate chunks and sea salt. While normally, the thought of having to chop a block of chocolate would seem like too much work, I was won over by the delicious realization that the cookies would have both big piece of chocolate in them and the small shavings too. Also it makes your kitchen smell like chocolate. Worth the effort in my book.

Sea salt window dressing aside, Tara’s true genius is in adjusting the proportions to solve the number one problem I consistently have when making classic chocolate chip cookies: softened butter. The original Toll House recipe relies on butter warm enough to mix easily, but not fully melted. Unfortunately, I always forget to take the butter out of the refrigerator and even the most careful microwaving fails to produce the same texture.

Cue choirs of angels when I realized that you and I no longer have to plan our cookie making a day in advance thanks to Ms. O’Brady and her wonderful recipe. Because one never knows when a cookie emergency will strike!

Chocolate Chip Cookies   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Chocolate Chip Cookies | Image: Laura Messersmith

Basic, Great Chocolate Chip Cookies (yield: 28 cookies)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, diced
3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 pound (12 ounces) semi or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Flaky sea salt, to finish

Preheat the oven to 360 degrees F (not a typo). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Melt the diced butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan over very low heat, stirring occasionally. Take care that the butter does not sizzle or bubble so that it retains its moisture.

While the butter is melting, chop the block of chocolate with a large chef’s knife into pieces - think somewhere in the ballpark of a sugar cube.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and kosher salt.

Pour the melted butter into a second medium mixing and whisk in the light brown sugar and granulated sugar until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking until just combined. Stir in the vanilla.

Use a wooden spoon or silicone spatula to stir in the dry ingredients until barely blended. When things are still looking a bit floury, stir in the chocolate (pieces, shavings and all) until all of the ingredients are just combined.

Chill the mixed dough in the refrigerator for 5 minutes before rolling into balls, about 2 tablespoons each. Arrange on the prepared baking sheets leaving a generous amount of space (2-3 inches) between them to allow the cookies to spread. Sprinkle each cookie with a pinch of sea salt.

Ideally, bake each pan individually at 360 degrees until the tops are cracked and lightly golden, about 10-12 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. If time is of the essence, trade the pans halfway through the cooking time and rotate for evenness. Cool on the pan for 2 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Very slightly re-written and adapted from Basic, Great Chocolate Chip Cookies from Seven Spoons by Tara O’Brady.

Chocolate Chip Cookies   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Chocolate Chip Cookies | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Totally. I used two medium mixing bowls, a small sauce pan, two baking sheets, a wire rack, a medium cutting board, and a chef’s knife. I also needed measuring cups, measuring spoons, a rubber spatula, wire whisk, a 1 tablespoon sized cookie scoop, and parchment paper.

The Verdict:
The higher percentage of light brown sugar adds a caramel scented depth to the cookie dough that I absolutely looove. Finding a giant chunk of semi-sweet chocolate buried in the center doesn’t hurt either. These cookies manage to seamlessly evoke the classic back-of-the-package version, while the sprinkle of sea salt brings them into the modern age and makes them elegant enough for even the most jaded grown-up. The ability to make these cookies at a moment’s notice just seals the deal.

Chocolate Chip Cookies   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Chocolate Chip Cookies | Image: Laura Messersmith

Cherry & Blueberry Buckle

Cherry & Blueberry Buckle  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Cherry & Blueberry Buckle | Image: Laura Messersmith

The theme of red, dessert-related treats continues today mainly because I over-did it a little on the cherry related purchases last week. They were just so gorgeous looking that I bought a giant bag, so here we are with more cherries to eat. Thankfully, we were invited to a brunch party over the weekend, so I volunteered to bring the coffee cake and thus had a perfect excuse to make Cherry & Blueberry Buckle.

I was inspired by a recipe I found on Seven Spoons, and I knew immediately that it would be the perfect stand-in for a traditional coffee cake. I’m not entirely sure what a pastry chef would consider the difference between a buckle and a coffee cake since both involve fruit and a streusel topping, so I just decided to go with it.

Seven Spoons’ recipe was loosely adapted from this Blueberry Buckle recipe by Salt Water Farms for Bon Appétit. Coincidentally, SWF offers an entire class on fruit desserts entitled Cobblers, Buckles and Grunts. Doesn’t that sound like heaven? Maybe this is my opportunity to go to Maine and learn about the entire spectrum of fruit-related sweets….

Just in case Maine isn’t in the cards this year we can still channel a summery, New England treat at home. I partially followed both recipes noted above (my adaptation below) and the results were delicious.

I promise I’m not tooting my own horn here – Mike and my partners-in-brunch can corroborate that it was pretty awesome. Sweet, fragrant, and packed with fruit it was especially good served still warm from the oven.

I have future plans for this recipe involving other fruits: apricots, perhaps? or tart cherries? I’d love to try it in muffin form or perhaps with the addition of a scoop of vanilla or blueberry ice cream? The possibilities seem endless….

Cherry & Blueberry Buckle   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Cherry & Blueberry Buckle | Image: Laura Messersmith

Cherry & Blueberry Buckle (yield: one buckle, serves 6-8 ppl)

Sugar & Spice Topping Ingredients:

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4" pieces

Buckle Ingredients:

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) room temperature unsalted butter, plus more for pan

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan

2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoons kosher salt

3/4 cup sugar

1 large egg

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup whole milk

6 ounces (1 ¼ cups) fresh or thawed blueberries

10 ounces (2 cups) pitted, roughly chopped black cherries

Special Items:

9” spring form pan

parchment paper

Sugar & Spice Topping Instructions:

In a medium bowl, stir together sugar, flour, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and salt. Add diced butter and combine with your fingers until mixture comes together to form a texture like damp sand; refrigerate until needed.

Buckle Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. To prepare the pan butter the inside of a 9” spring form cake pan and place a disk of parchment paper cut to size in the bottom. Butter the parchment paper and dust the interior of the pan with flour. Tap out any excess flour.

In a medium bowl, whisk baking powder, salt, and flour.

In a separate medium bowl, beat sugar and room temperature butter using an electric mixer on high speed until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in egg and vanilla just to combine, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add dry ingredients in stages, then milk; mix just to combine.

Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in blueberries and diced cherries. Don’t be stingy with the fruit, if you have a few extra berries or cherries – add them in! Spoon batter into prepared pan, smooth top, and place pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Evenly crumble sugar and spice topping over.

Bake until top is golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 75–90 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool before unmolding and serving.

Small Kitchen Friendly?

Yes, to a degree. The recipe as written calls for three medium bowls, an electric mixer, measuring cups & spoons, a spring form pan, and a cookie sheet.

However, if bowls are limited it would be easy to switch the order of prep and re-use the dry ingredient bowl to make the topping. If a fancy presentation isn’t essential – and this is a rustic type of cake – then using a regular cake pan or muffin tins would be a solid option too.

And, don't forget Food52's genius cherry pitting DIY - I used it again, still works!

Cherry Blueberry Buckle 4 smaller.jpg