Brown Butter Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies

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"I just figured if I was going to make the world a better place I would do it with cookies.”

You know that scene in Stranger Than Fiction where Ana (Maggie Gyllenhaal) gives Harold (Will Ferrell) a made-from-scratch cookie after a really awful, no-good day?

Harold asks Ana when she decided to become a baker, and she tells him how, in law school, she started baking for her study group. Sometimes she’d bake all afternoon and bring different treats for her study partners. Everyone loved them. They would "eat and stay happy and study harder and do better on tests.” She was always looking for better and better recipes.

"ricotta cheese and apricot croissants,
mocha bars with an almond glaze,
lemon chiffon cake with zesty peach icing..."

Until she found herself with 27 study partners and a “D” average, at which point she dropped out and decided to make the world a better place with cookies.

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It’s one of my favorite movie scenes.

Like Ana, I discovered my passion for baking in law school. I’d started baking in college after a break-up—a welcome distraction between study sessions—but it wasn’t until law school that I found the joy in testing new recipes and sharing my creations with family and friends.

I’m sharing recipes here in the hopes that they’ll inspire you to turn on your favorite playlist, put on some comfy shoes, and spend some time getting your hands flour-y, clearing your head and making something all your own.

And I’m starting with these cookies. Because chocolate chip cookies are my favorite sweet thing—the perfect end to a really awful no-good day, or a great day. And when I say chocolate chip cookies, I mean these chocolate chip cookies. Slightly crisp on the edges with a soft, chewy center, a golden dough with notes of caramel and toffee, barely holding itself together between puddles of dark chocolate. definitely want in on this.

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  • I highly suggest prepping a full batch of dough (or perhaps two batches) and freezing extra cookie dough scoops so that you’re always just minutes away from fresh-baked cookies. They are great for unexpected guests, surprising coworkers when you’re feeling nice, or satiating your sweet tooth one serving size at a time. If you make one big batch and freeze your dough, your investment will pay off in no time.
  • Feel free to add nuts to this recipe if you’d like. (I’d recommend up to 3/4 cup, and not more, added at the same time that you add the chopped chocolate.) The first time I made these with toasted, chopped pecans, my husband thought it was sacrilegious. “If I went into a bakery and ordered a chocolate chip cookie and got something with nuts in it, I’d feel like I didn’t get what I ordered.” (Well then.) I’m decidedly more liberal in my approach. Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t.
  • Letting your dough rest will lead to much better cookies. A resting time of 12-36 hours is suggested—with 36 hours being ideal—but even 30 minutes makes a difference.
  • I recommend 72% dark or bittersweet chocolate for this recipe, which balances the sweetness of the dough. Three of my favorites are Trader Joe’s 72% Belgian dark chocolate, Guittard 72% bittersweet chocolate, and Valrhona Araguani 72% dark chocolate.
  • For this recipe (and all the recipes on this blog), I highly recommend using the weight measurements provided. Using a kitchen scale is a game changer, and will make your baking more consistent and precise and, therefore, better (not to mention tidier!). If you opt to use volume measurements, know that this method, by its very nature, will result in variation.  You don’t have to take my word for it.

Brown Butter Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies

makes about 30 medium-sized cookies

250 grams (1 cup + 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter
325 grams (2 2/3 cups) all-purpose flour
5 grams (1 teaspoon) sea salt  
5 grams (1 teaspoon) baking soda
175 grams (5/6 cup, packed) dark brown sugar
125 grams (scant 2/3 cup) organic cane sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
300 grams (2 1/2 cups) chopped dark or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
sea salt flakes, to sprinkle on top

In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium low heat. The melted butter will begin to bubble, crackle and pop. Keep an eye on it. Once it goes dead silent (in maybe 5–10 minutes), and not a moment later, remove from heat. There will be little brown bits at the bottom of the saucepan, and the butter will be fragrant and nutty. Pour the butter and all those brown bits into a bowl and add 2–3 tablespoons of water to bring the butter weight back up to 250 grams. Chill about half the brown butter (125 grams or 1/2 cup) in the fridge until it’s solid (about 30–60 minutes). Allow the other half of your brown butter to cool at room temperature.

Sift together the flour, sea salt and baking soda in a bowl and set aside.

Scrape your solidified brown butter into a large mixing bowl. Add dark brown sugar and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed, then add vanilla extract.

Add cooled liquid brown butter into the bowl along with organic cane sugar. Beat on medium speed until light in color and sandy. Add egg and egg yolk and beat until well combined.

Using a mixer on low speed, a wooden spoon or a silicone spatula, stir in the dry ingredients until barely combined. There should still be flour-y streaks in your dough. Stir in the chopped dark chocolate. 

Scrape the dough into a large bowl, cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to 36 hours. (See baking notes.)

Scoop the dough using a medium cookie scoop or a large spoon into medium-sized balls, about 40 grams or 1.5 tablespoons each.

When you’re ready to bake your cookies, heat your oven to 355°F (180°C). Line your baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

Bake for 10-14 minutes, until the edges are set and golden brown and the cookie middles are still paler and softer than the edges. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with sea salt flakes and allow to rest on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before moving. Or pick them up right away in warm, ooey gooey pieces and scoop them into your mouth or a bowl of vanilla ice cream and enjoy. Either way.

Store extra baked cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days. To store longer, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze. Store extra scooped cookie dough in a sealed freezer bag in the freezer for up to 3 months.