Monday, September 23, 2013

My Favourite Cookies + Toronto Picnickers Part III

brown butter chocolate chip cookies fresh baked

When I was in university, cookies were a near constant in my life. Almost every week, I'd stand over the counter, creaming together butter and sugar to make a batch of cookies. The smell of the freshly baked cookies would eventually draw my roommates out of the woodwork, and I would happily foist as many cookies as I could on them. Throughout the following week, I would carry around a container of those cookies from class to class, sharing them with my classmates and professors (sometimes forcefully).

I still bake cookies, but not as often. Perhaps it was the stress of those years - the constant approach of deadlines, the late nights writing papers, the hours spent reading theory that sent me running into the kitchen. It was easy to get trapped in my own crazy headspace, to become lost staring at a computer screen. Baking always helped to calm me down, and it still does. It was a creative break, a way to get me out of whatever argument or article I'd gotten stuck in. It even made me feel a little productive, for while my cursor would blink indefinitely at me and my essay remained complete, in an hour my apartment would smell of butter and caramel, and there would be edible proof of my time spent in the kitchen. And always there was the reward of seeing someone else smile and happily devour something that I had made.

I may not bake cookies as much as I did then, but every now and then I'll sit up and declare to my roommates: "I need to make cookies." (They never object.)

Sometimes I get stuck on what to make, sometimes I spend over an hour flipping through recipe books, searching the web, but I'm almost always drawn back to this recipe.

Several years ago, when these cookies began their evolutionary journey in my kitchen, I learned the secret of browning butter. It was life-changing. Cookie changing, in fact. Browning butter for any recipe is a surefire way to make it better, and you need to try it, if only to make your kitchen smell amazing.

These cookies were my contribution to the latest Toronto Picnicker's expedition to Sorauren Park. I was amazed and pleased by how quickly they disappeared. Prior to the picnic, I'd been panicking over what to make. My inspiration in the kitchen has been waning, as of late, and I've found myself gazing blankly at items in the produce aisle, wishing recipe ideas would strike.

picnickin' basking in the shade summer picnic at Sorauren Park
it's all about the cookie Jasper, frisbee'd out frisbee in action
summertime in the park go forth and play frisbee

So I made cookies. They're my fail-safe, my not-so-secret weapon, and also happened to be perfectly acceptable picnic fare. After all, it's almost never inappropriate to show up anywhere with a box of cookies.

It was a beautiful day, and we lounged in the shade stuffing our faces with various awesomely delicious things, like Anna's espresso chocolate roasted almonds (which you should make, like, right now). Jasper spent much of the time in hot pursuit of frisbees, footballs, and soccer balls, and the rest of us watched in amusement and sipped on mimosas. It was a most wonderfully cliched summer picnic, and a hot afternoon well spent.

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Joy the Baker
These cookies are chewy, rich, with a deep toasted flavour. Whatever you do, don't skip on browning the butter! Not only will it make your kitchen smell divine, it will take your cookies to a whole new level of deliciousness.

1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour (all-purpose, spelt, or whole wheat)
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup whole almonds, toasted
1 cup chocolate chips

chocolate chip cookie dough more chocolate, always
hello childhood cookies, pre-oven

1. Preheat your oven to 350°. Spread the almonds out on a cookie sheet and toast 8 - 10 minutes, until slightly darkened in coloured. Set aside and let cool. Once cooled, roughly chop the almonds.

2. Melt butter in a small pot over medium heat. Continue to cook melted butter over medium heat until the butter browns, stirring occasionally. You'll know it's browned when it becomes fragrant - it will have a toasted, nutty aroma, and the butter will become extremely foamy. Remove the butter from the heat immediately and transfer to a clean bowl. Don't worry, the foam will subside after a few moments, leaving you with an amber coloured, divine smelling liquid. Let the browned butter cool for at least 10 minutes. (If you're extra impatient, like me, you can stick the bowl in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes.)

3. Whisk the sugars into the browned butter. It will look a little grainy, but that's okay, so don't worry. Beat in the eggs and vanilla.

4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

5. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and stir in until just combined. Stir in the chopped nuts and chocolate chips. (At this stage, you have the option of dividing the dough into logs, wrapping in plastic and storing the fridge or freezer. If you let the dough rest overnight, you'll get a chewier cookie. Once rested, simply slice the logs of dough into disks and bake them.)

6. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Form cookie dough into walnut-sized balls and place on the prepared cookie sheets, at least 1/2 an inch apart. Bake for 10 minutes, then let cool. They will keep well stored in an airtight container for up to four days.

cookie potential cookie architecture

2 comments:

  1. These cookies look absolutely divine! I love what an advocate Joy the Baker is for browning the butter -- and she's (of course) totally right. I used to bake the same way in university, and remember many late nights with the essay deadline ticking away, while instead I was in the kitchen, throwing together something sweet. Lovely post!

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    1. Thank you so much! Yes, I have much respect for Joy the Baker for introducing me to the wonders of browned butter. Glad to hear I'm not the only crazy baking student around!

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