Friday, February 10, 2012
It’s hard to describe these cookies, but I can do it in two words: “Snickerdoodles - Elevated”. If you’ve never experienced browned butter anything - this is a great place to start. Something about browned butter is just heavenly - nutty, warm, caramel-ley... - have I come close yet?
When I was young, my mother often made (what she called) Caramel Frosting to go on one of my favorite cookies. I had no idea that what gave it it’s memorable flavor was browning the butter. Common sense (to most of us) would mean NOT to burn butter on purpose.
Browning butter used to be a ‘chefs only’ technique, but now you see it in all sorts of recipes. The French term for it was Beurre Noisette (meaning hazelnut butter) - but it wasn’t given that name for the flavor, but rather the color. It’s achieved by cooking butter over heat until the milk solids burn, and it is then that it gains it’s complex flavor. But you can’t burn butter with reckless abandon - once it melts, you have to be totally on board and at full attention to prevent a disaster. However, don’t use this as an excuse not to try it - it’s really very easy. How many of you have ever easily burned anything? I rest my case...
Browning butter occurs in a few steps. First, melting the butter. Then being prepared for it to foam (a LOT). Once the foam begins to subside, you need to be watchful for the color change. Remove it BEFORE it reaches the final brown color (almost cinnamon colored). Once you take it off the heat, it will continue to brown unless you remove it from the pan immediately. You will see brown flecks - which is desirable - these are the burned milk solids that give it it’s nutty flavor.
As I made the frosting, I couldn’t help but wonder what percentage of kitchen fires begin while some sweet little housewife is attempting to brown her butter? Like I said - stay close and pay attention! No talking on the phone while you make this...
The cookie UNDER this fantastic frosting is just as wonderful. Unlike it’s close cousin (the Snickerdoodle) - it uses butter, and egg yolks instead of whole eggs. The cookies by themselves are wonderful. But when you add the browned butter frosting - they are hard to resist.
For the recipes for the cookies & frosting - go to: