Mar 242013

Browned-butter cookies!

The quest for the ultimate chocolate-chip cookie is a bit of a thing for people like myself. Sure, you could go with the back-of-the-chocolate-chip-bag one, but while there’s nothing wrong with it per se, there’s nothing special about it. And even though the chocolate-chip cookie is the standard, that doesn’t mean it has to be boring. It appears that others agree, so a zillion recipes and versions abound, which leaves you with a conundrum: how do you find the best? And what are your criteria for the best? Some people like chewy cookies, some like crispy, some like super-sweet, others like excessively-chocolatey. And some weirdos even like nuts in them. And I certainly have more than one recipe that I adore. The point is: if you can think of a cookie characteristic, you can find someone who thinks that it’s absolutely necessary and a recipe that corresponds to that criterion.

Luckily, this recipe can please just about everyone.

Chewy in the center, a bit crisp on the edges, warm and gooey flavors of toffee throughout (and yes, you weirdos can add nuts if you please), this cookie is simply made of magic. The secret is in the browned butter and extra egg yolk, and the seemingly-fussy mixing-method gives results unlike any I’ve ever seen before. And in theory, these cookies are perhaps even better the next day, but really, do you think they’re likely to survive that long?

Browned-butter cookies!

Sublime Browned-Butter Chocolate-Chip Cookies
From the May/June 2009 issue of Cook’s Illustrated
Makes 16 large cookies

Use the lightest-colored pan you have to brown the butter, as a dark coating (like non-stick or cast-iron) will make it hard to catch the butter when it’s browned (and before it’s burned).
1 3/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
3/4 cups (5 1/4 ounces) packed brown sugar, still moist, preferably dark
1 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cups (7.25 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks
3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted (optional, as some of you will insist upon nuts in your cookies)
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (18- by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.
Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.
Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.
Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons (or use #24 cookie scoop, or two smooshed-together scoops of a purple-handled cookie scoop). Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet. (Smaller baking sheets can be used, but will require 3 batches.)
Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.

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