A few years ago we were vacationing on the California coast when we happened upon a brightly colored little store in a small seaside town called Cayucos. After hiking around the windswept beach with the kids the Brown Butter Cookie Company sounded good. I’d never had brown butter cookies before but they sounded mighty fine so after we got over the sticker shock of $1 per bite sized cookie we tried some. It turns out they are rather famous having been featured in Gourmet, The New York Times, and more. Of course I resolved to figure out how to make them at home.
Over the years I have made several attempts at these cookies with varying results. Always the cookies were tasty but they seemed to fall short of what I remembered them to be. I even made them on our island vacation earlier this year to good results so when I returned home I figured I would put it on the blog. All the recipes online use salted butter. In part, I think, because salt is an important part of making these cookies work. The problem is salt content varies and so what worked on the island produced cookies that were too salty at home. So the blog entry got put on the shelf. Until yesterday when we were invited over to some good friends for dinner. We needed to bring dessert so it was time to try once more.
This time I used unsalted butter and took a stab at the correct salt content as well as modifying the amount of flour that was causing them to get too dry to work with. The results were good. I was pretty happy. But that isn’t the end of the story. I brought the cookies over and explained their origins. By some strange coincidence not only had our friends heard of the store, not only had they recently visited the store on their vacation, but they had also actually brought some of the cookies back! And then something even more interesting happened. We got to try the official cookie next to mine and guess what? Mine are better! Actually way better! All this time I had been comparing them to some mythical whale of a memory when at some point I had actually succeeded in surpassing reality. Too funny. I hope you give these a try. They are rich, but they are so good.
Brown Butter Cookies (modified from maplesugarlyrics)
1 c unsalted butter
1 tsp salt
2/3 c packed, dark brown sugar
2 tbsp white sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 c + 1 Tbsp flour
1 tsp baking soda
Brown the butter. This is a little tricky and when it starts to foam up I turn the heat down to have more control. I stirred a lot and pulled the pot off at regular intervals so I could see how brown it was getting. It is hard to see the color because of the foaming. There is not much room between brown and burnt butter so be careful. Do try to hold on for the butter smelling nutty though. Mix in the sugars then the vanilla, flour, and baking soda and give the flour a chance to absorb the butter. It will be a lot like wet sand but it will clump. I work it over with a fork to make sure the butter was evenly distributed. I’ve found the best way to form them is to pack them into a 0.75 ounce ice cream scoop packing them in a bit to keep them together and then carefully placing them on a tray with parchment. Top with a dash or so of a fine-grained sea salt. This might sound weird but it is this salt that really brings the cookie together in a fantastic way. Bake for 15 minutes at 325 F. They won’t really brown much but that’s ok. Let them cool (if you can) and enjoy.