05 February 2014

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies and A House in Queens

Recently my friend and co-worker Salina said goodbye to the home of her grandmother, which had been in her family since before she was born. Over the three years that I've worked alongside Salina I've been regaled with stories of her grandmother's house in the Jackson Heights section of Queens, to the degree that I'm surprised I'd never visited the place as it seemed so vivid to me. She'd lived there for a time as an adult with her Grandmother, and I felt some connection to this woman after attending her memorial service, or rather viewing, in a funeral home on Mulberry Street in Chinatown. I met Salina's father and various other relatives, including her sister and brother-in-law, who were living in the Queens house at the time, and participated in the Chinese tradition of leaving with a coin and a piece of candy. I'm not sure of the exact symbolism of the coin, but I recollect the candy is meant to alleviate the bitterness of the occasion of the death of a loved one.
Two years later Salina's family sold the house, and were faced with what I can only guess would be the time consuming task of sorting through all of the possessions accumulated within it over the decades, dating back to the 1960's. One day not too long ago I found myself the unexpected beneficiary of these events when Salina arrived at work with a stack of Cooks Illustrated magazines. Her brother-in-law had a subscription that had been piling up for some years and I was to be the lucky recipient!

I spent the next week perusing through recipes for the perfect Blueberry Pie and Enchiladas Verde, tips on everything from "easy olive slicing" (hint: use an egg slicer!) and splatter free tomato crushing, to reviews of cinnamon, coffee makers, and premium bacon. I was pretty excited.  

You can imagine then how thrilled I was to come across a recipe for Chocolate Chip cookies using browned butter. This was a riff on the Tollhouse Classic, using similar ingredients/amounts, with a few quirky tweaks in technique.The biggest alteration is in melting and then browning the butter prior to blending it with the sugars and egg along with a whisking + resting technique which purportedly has some effect on creating a more chewy consistency due to the sugar dissolving into the batter. The other tip which I'll admit I never really gave much thought to was the size of the cookie. Based upon my childhood days wherein my mother taught me to use two teaspoons to scoop out cookie dough, this was the method I'd always used. For the Cooks Illustrated version I actually measured out three tablespoon balls of dough, which results in the crispy on the edges-gooey on the inside consistency.

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted slightly from Cooks Illustrated 

One note to this recipe, while the CI version calls for dark brown sugar I swapped out light instead as that was what was in my cupboard. Paired with the brown butter I think this worked perfectly well in creating a caramel-y flavor, however I'm sure the dark brown sugar would up the ante.

1¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
¾ cup light brown sugar
½ cup  granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1¼ cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and then line 2 large (18x12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat liner.In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda and set aside.

Heat 10 tablespoons of the butter in a medium size stainless steel or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling the pan frequently until the butter is dark golden brown and has a nutty aroma, about 1 to 3 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and transfer the browned butter to a large heatproof bowl. Stir the remaining 4 tablespoons butter into the hot browned butter until it is completely melted. Set aside and let cool to room temperature.

Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to the bowl with the butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add the egg and egg yolk and whisk again until the mixture is smooth with no lumps of sugar remaining, about 30 seconds. Let the mixture stand for 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat the process of resting and whisking 2 more times until the mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny. Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in the flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in the chocolate chips and give the dough a final stir to ensure there are no hidden flour pockets.

Scoop the dough into 16 even portions, each about 3 tablespoons, and arrange them 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet. At this stage if you want to freeze a portion of the dough, place a cookie tray with dough balls in the freezer until solid and then place in a large seasonable freezer bag. 

Bake the cookies until they cookies are golden brown but still puffy, and the edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer the baking sheet to wire rack and allow cookies to cool completely before serving. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days

1 comment :

  1. I'm pleased that the stack of Cooks Illustrated found a good home :)


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