Ah, spring. The air is starting to warm, the snow has all but disappeared, and we’re all stuck inside due to a pandemic. I guess there is no better time to start cooking! Well, baking in this instance, specifically, baking Easy Small Batch Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies. This might be the best chocolate chip cookie I have ever had. It is crispy along the edges and oh so chewy and gooey in the middle. Even better, this is a small batch bake and only makes 10 cookies, perfect for giving your family a snack for the week (though you can double or triple the recipe if you want to have more cookies on hand).
Why brown butter?
Brown butter adds a delicious nuttiness to these Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies. It can be a little tricky to master if you have never done it before but if you take your time and don’t walk away while the brown butter is cooking, you will be just fine. And then you will have another tool in your belt to make other yummy dishes like gnocchi with sage and brown butter sauce. Yum!
What makes the butter brown?
Brown butter is just butter that has had its water evaporated and milk solids caramelized. In this recipe you make the browned butter over medium heat. If you haven’t made it before, it is totally okay to start with a lower temperature around medium-low. It will take a bit longer than the instructions specify below but it will also give you a bit more leeway between browned and burnt.
How to brown butter
Start by putting cold or room temp butter that has been cut into 1 tablespoon pieces into a light colored saucepan. (You don’t want to use non-stick because typically they are dark in color and you won’t be able to see when the butter browns.) Turn the heat to medium-low and stir occasionally until the butter is fully melted. Then stop stirring to let the butter start to simmer. It will pop and spit because the water that was trapped in the butter is trying to evaporate and break free.
When the popping and spitting starts to calm down, start stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan. At this stage, the butter will be bubbly and will eventually start to look like foam. When it starts to foam, the browning has started. The milk solids (they will look like little crumbs in the bottom) will start to change from white to golden to amber. This is the stage where you need to keep an especially careful eye on it because it can go from browning to burning in a hurry. Keep stirring until you notice the milk solids have turned a deep amber. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and, in this case, pour it into the sugar. If you let it sit in the pan the butter will continue to brown so make sure to pour it out of the pan as quickly and as safely as you can.
I burnt my butter, now what?
It happens to the best of us. You start daydreaming for a second and your butter burns. Just remember, it’s just butter and you can always start over. Which is exactly what you will need to do because burnt butter is not very good.
Why whole wheat flour?
Because it’s healthy! Also, and more importantly, it adds flavor. Whole wheat flour has a kind of nutty flavor that comes from the outer shell of a grain called the bran and this compliments the nutty flavor from the brown butter. Versus all-purpose flour which has had the bran removed and is strictly the endosperm. And then there is whole grain that has the bran, endosperm, and germ still intact but that is a lesson for another day.
Substitution: If you do not have whole wheat flour, you can definitely make these cookies with only all-purpose flour.
A note on measurements:
There are a few ways to measure brown sugar. The first is to pack the brown sugar. When you pack brown sugar, you will push the sugar into your measuring cup as firmly as you can. You will then add more sugar, press and continue this process until your measuring cup is completely filled and you can’t pack it in any more. When you pour the sugar out of the measuring cup, it should maintain its shape.
You can also measure brown sugar like any other ingredient by just filling the measuring cup to the top and leveling it off. When you pour it out it will revert back to its individual granules.
When you lightly pack you get a combination of these two. You will push the brown sugar into the measuring cup but with less force then when packing. So, when you pour out the measuring cup it will hold its shape for a few seconds before it starts to slowly collapse into individual granules.
When measuring flour by volume, I always use the pouring method, never the scooping method. If you scoop, keep in mind you will end up with more flour than you need and it could upset the balance of the recipe.
Stacking the dough
When you bake cookies, the first thing the dough wants to do is start to spread out because all of the butter is starting to melt. Since this is a low flour Brown Butter Chocolate Chip recipe, the tendency is for the dough to spread out even more leading to a crispier, over cooked cookie.
In this version of Brown Butter Chocolate Cookies, stacking the dough allows the cookie to spread slightly and start to form a crust along the edges to stop the dough from spreading out completely. This leads to the excess dough in the middle with nowhere to go. And since there is more dough it cooks less than the exterior leaving it with a chewy center.
While developing this recipe, I knew what I wanted in the end: a crispy edge with a chewy center. But I wasn’t totally sure how to achieve it. While testing, I didn’t have the right sized scoop to create one cookie so I had to improvise and use a small ¾ ounce scoop. I started out by taking two scoops and forming them into a single mass. But, I got a little lazy by the third test and just stacked them. The cookies that came out had the perfect texture!
Easy Small Batch Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Stand Mixer or Hand Mixer
- ½ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed 3 ounces; 85 grams
- ¼ cup plus 2 teaspoons granulated sugar 2 ounces; 56 grams
- ¾ cup plus 4 ½ teaspoons all-purpose flour 4 ounces; 113 grams
- ¼ cup whole-wheat flour 1 ounce; 28 grams
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 stick butter, cut into 8 pieces 4 ounces; 113 grams
- 1 large egg room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips 4 ounces; 113 grams
- Preheat the oven to 375° F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
- In a medium size bowl, whisk together flours, baking soda, and salt; set-aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together sugars until combined.
- Brown the butter in a light colored 1 to 2 quart heavy bottom saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently until the butter is fully melted. Let cook without stirring until water has evaporated and the butter begins to bubble. Once water has evaporated, stir constantly until milk solids turn (see recipe notes) amber in color. The whole process should take 5 to 7 minutes. Immediately and carefully pour butter into the bowl with sugars and mix on medium-low until the mixture has cooled to about 110 degrees or you can hold your handle on the bottom of the bowl for more than 10 seconds without feeling like you have to pull away, about 6 to 8 minutes.
- Once cooled, add egg to sugar mixture and mix on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 4 to 6 minutes. Add vanilla and mix on medium speed until incorporated, 15 to 20 seconds. Remove bowl from stand mixer, if using, add dry ingredients and fold together until there are just a few spots of flour left. Add chocolate chips and mix until fully incorporated and no more flour is visible. Let sit for 20 minutes to allow the flour to fully hydrate.
- Each cookie will be made of two scoops. Use a small ice cream scoop, about ¾ ounce, to scoop dough onto the prepared cookie sheet and stack another scoop on top of the first using a light pressure to push the top scoop to adhere it to the bottom scoop (see picture). Bake in the preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes, turning the pan halfway through cooking, the edges will just begin to set but the center will still be soft. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes on the tray before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely.