Some undefinable gravitational pull guides me towards baking. Almost always. I would say it’s about 9/10 times I’m planning recipes for the blog that I choose to make something sweet and bake-able. No matter how hard I try to lead myself towards grain bowls, egg sandwiches, appetizers and sides, and all that, I just can’t help but end up pulling sugar and flour off my pantry shelves.
First, there’s the sweet-tooth component that can’t be ignored. I’ve always had it and I give credit to my mom for that (if possible?). Second, there’s the nerdy component that also cannot be ignored. I’ve always had that and I give the credit to my dad.
What tends to intimidate most people - even some chefs - about baking is the required precision of measuring and accuracy of ingredients. I’m no professional (and yet here I am, writing like I am), but I’ve read article after article and books upon books about this stuff, so I think I can speak at least a little bit to this topic. Just one small change in a given ingredient can yield a much larger change in the overall taste, texture, and appearance of whatever it is.
Take browned butter, for example. Most people furrow their eyebrows in response when I tell them what the cookies are made with, unaware and probably a little hesitant about what this “browned butter” thing is. Guys, it’s just cooked butter. Simple. But some genius in the kitchen one day wondered what a cookie would taste like if the butter acquired a little extra flavor from some time spent over low heat in a skillet. Genius. Life-changing. Cookie-changing.
And take turbinado sugar, for another example. In short, it’s basically a cross between white sugar and brown sugar. While all of the molasses has been removed from white sugar and none of it from brown sugar, only some of it has been removed from turbinado sugar. It’s only partially refined (more nutrients! yay!), too. Unlike white and brown sugar, it’s larger crystals prevent it from fully creaming into the browned butter (which I have mentioned in the steps below, so you’re prepared), but this works in our favor by yielding a more textured cookie - still gooey in the center and crisp around the edges, but with a certain subtle crunch, unique to turbinado sugar.
As I have been doing with this banana bread, I’ve made these cookies at least five times since I first developed the recipe. The road has not been smooth, though. While the first batch hit all the marks in texture and taste, the appearance wasn’t blog-worthy (because it’s all about appearance here, ya’ know) (<— kidding). With the second batch - in one day, might I add! - I went for a larger cookie, but ended up with cookies the size of my entire face and way too crumbly. I threw in the towel for the day and returned to the recipe the following week, hoping for the look of a cookie you might see in Bon Appetit or something. I’m a huge fan, Bon Appetit staff, if you’re reading this! Still, something about this batch and the next one (yes - I made it twice in one day… again) just didn’t make the cut. So I left it alone…
… until now. A group of girls from my church planned a Christmas party and each guest was to bring a dish - you can probably immediately guess what I volunteered to bring. My goal with this batch was simply to make them tasty. They didn’t need to be picture-perfect for the blog, just satisfying in taste and texture for the friends I was about to feed. And yet, they came out picture perfect. How does that happen?! Past experience reminds me not to question miracles like this. Just be thankful.
And that brings me here - spending a couple hours on Saturday (when homework and studying are screaming at me) editing these photos that have made my entire day and writing this post, simultaneously wishing I had kept one or two cookies at home to snack on right about now.
Don’t be intimidated by the browned butter! The making of these cookies isn’t much different from what you’re probably used to. When I say “browned butter”, I just mean you’re cooking the butter over low heat until it’s - guess - BROWNED :) it’ll smell delightful and it’ll make the cookies taste unbelievable. Like your grandma made them. With superpowers and extra chocolate and peanut butter chips.
Makes 18 cookies
2 cups whole-wheat flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
2 pasture-raised eggs at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 sticks grass-fed butter
3/4 cup turbinado sugar
1 cup add-ins: dark chocolate chips/chunks, peanut butter chips, nuts, oats, etc.
Coarse sea salt, for garnish
Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat and add the butter. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the butter turns an amber color. If you’ve never browned butter before, here is a step-by-step explanation and a pictures of what it should look like throughout the cooking process. Transfer the browned butter to a heat-safe bowl and cool completely. I refrigerated mine for about 20 minutes - be careful to not let it solidify!
In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs, vanilla, browned butter, and turbinado sugar until smooth. The sugar will not completely creamy into the butter as with traditional cookies, so stop mixing when it looks mostly smooth, an off-white/cream color.
Slowly, half cup by half cup, add in the flour, mixing gently after each addition. Stir in the add-ins of your choice and then shape into balls about the size of a golf-ball (or slightly larger if you’d like). Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the cookies on the tray, leaving two inches of space from cookie to cookie. Bake for 8-10 minutes - 8 will yield softer, more moist cookies, while 10 will yield crisp-around-the-edges cookies. Remove them from the oven and let them cool on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack until ready to store or serve.