I’ve always thought I knew that my favorite type of chocolate chip cookie was of the soft variety. A pale bake, with soft edges, and even softer, almost underdone centers. But tastes change, and sometimes, that’s simply from discovering a new way of making an old recipe, and discovering that the best thing could become even better. These Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies were just such a discovery, and they’ve become my all-time favorite cookie. Our freezer is pretty much always stocked with these cookies, because they’re just so good!
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Attempts at Pan-Banging Chocolate Chip Cookies
Recently, I thought I’d finally make Sarah Kieffer’s infamous pan-banging chocolate chip cookies, which have been circling the internet for several years, and were featured by The New York Times. I suppose I never tried them because I don’t like thin, crispy cookies, and all the banging seemed pretty fiddly.
But curiosity won, and a few weeks ago, I read through the recipe, picked up some good-quality chocolate and prepared to pan-bang. Long story short, in spite of meticulously following her instructions for mixing, chilling, baking and banging, I didn’t achieve the look of her signature thin, ripply cookies. Perhaps it’s because I changed too many ingredients to adapt the recipe for high altitude.
What I did end up with, though, were these brown butter chocolate chip cookies. They’re completely different from my old recipe, but I love them even more. This surprised me, because these aren’t soft, but rather thick chewy cookies with faintly crisp edges, and I can’t stop eating them. I’ve been keeping these in the freezer, individually wrapped, and allow myself one a day in the afternoon, when my boys are in their rooms for naps/quiet time, and I have a few peaceful minutes to myself for a cup of coffee and a cookie.
Making Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
I began developing this recipe with browned butter, because I absolutely love the nutty richness it adds to cookies. It’s so aromatic, light and fluffy when whipped with the sugar (and also makes fantastic buttercream). Using both granulated sugar and a little dark brown sugar adds a richer, deeper flavor, than just the granulated sugar. I beat the browned butter with the sugars for about five minutes, which incorporates air and volume. As the cookies bake, they puff up just a little, and then settle back down as they cool. This creates that pretty, crispy ridge around the edge of the cookies, with a chewy center.
Then I add an egg, and vanilla, which binds the dough together and adds flavor.
For the dry ingredients, I combine all-purpose flour, baking soda, espresso powder and coarse Kosher salt. The espresso powder nicely enhances the dark chocolate, but there’s a small enough amount added that the cookies don’t taste like coffee. And the salt is an absolute must. I think that cookies should be noticeably salty, which is why I always sprinkle a little salt right on top of them, as well.
For the chocolate, you can certainly use chocolate chips. I love the Kirkland (Costco) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips. They’re great quality, with minimal ingredients. But use dark, semi-sweet, milk – whatever your favorite is. I really love using good-quality chopped dark chocolate in this recipe, though. I prefer Chocolove Dark Chocolate, which contains 55% cacao. The flavor is deep, rich and smooth, and it’s a chocolate that I love to use in baking. Chocolove also has such pretty wrappers on their chocolate bars, and I love pretty packaging. If you want more pools of dark chocolate on top of your cookies, save a few of the bigger pieces after chopping the chocolate and press those onto the tops of your cookie dough balls before chilling.
Baking the Cookies
Before baking, the dough benefits from some time spent chilling first. The chill time does two things. It helps to prevent the cookies from spreading too much while baking, as well as to let the flavors mingle and intensify. And just before baking, the cookie dough balls are frozen for a few minutes, which allows the edges to brown while the centers cook more slowly, resulting in a delightfully chewy cookie that’s completely wonderful.
When you take the cookies out of the oven, the edges are golden and crisp and the centers gently puffed. But as the cookies cool, the slightly under-baked centers settle a bit, leaving a soft chewy middle surrounded by faintly crisp edges. These brown butter chocolate chip cookies are thick, just sweet enough with a good pinch of salt, and full of rich dark chocolate.
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Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Stand Mixer
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
- 1 large egg
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 1 ½ tsp espresso powder, optional
- 1 tsp coarse Kosher salt, divided
- 6 oz good-quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped (see note)
- In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Continue to cook the butter, swirling occasionally, until the water evaporates, and the butter forms fragrant, nutty brown solids at the bottom of the pan. Remove from the heat and immediately pour the hot butter into a bowl, scraping all the browned bits off the bottom of the saucepan with a spatula. Let the butter cool at room temperature for several hours, until it becomes somewhat solid again. As the butter cools, it may not become firm enough to hold its shape (depending on how warm your kitchen is), and may remain a little soft and spreadable, but allow it to cool until it is no longer a liquid.
- In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cooled browned butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar for 5 minutes on medium speed, scraping the bowl occasionally, until very light and fluffy. Gently mix in the egg and the vanilla.
- In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, espresso powder, 3/4 teaspoon salt and the chopped chocolate. With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined, briefly increasing the speed to medium to incorporate all of the flour.
- Use a cupcake/ice cream scoop to divide the dough into 17 portions, about 2 ounces each. Shape the dough into balls, place in an airtight container, and refrigerate for several hours, or overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 350 and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. While the oven is preheating, place 8 balls of dough on a plate in the freezer for 10 minutes.
- Place the frozen balls of dough on the baking sheet, spaced three inches apart. Bake for about 13 minutes, until the edges are crisp and light golden brown, and the centers are gently puffed and look slightly underdone. Sprinkle the cookies with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Let cool on the pan for 1 minute, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. As the cookies cool, the soft centers will settle down a bit, leaving a lightly crisp edge around the cookies with chewy centers.
- Repeat steps to freeze and bake the other 7 balls of dough. Store cooled cookies in an airtight container for several days, or freeze indefinitely.