Wednesday, January 30, 2008

January 30: Brown Sugar Cookies

I am not a big fan of fancy cookies. My favorite: plain chocolate chip cookies--no nuts, no fruit, no crazy additions. I like a simple cookie done really well, without sprinkles or frosting or any crazy flavors.

When I saw this recipe for brown sugar cookies in Cook's Illustrated, I knew they had something. Great big oversized cookies, with a crispy exterior and a chewy interior, it had the simplicity of a great sugar cookie with all the nuances of dark brown sugar.

One of the great things about Cook's Illustrated is that they do the work of finding the best recipe for you. They've tested and tasted and tried every variation by the time it makes it into their magazines or cookbooks or their PBS shows. By the time it gets to you, it's pretty much as good as it gets.

They hit the jackpot with these cookies. Wow. They are really something--full of great brown sugar flavor, chewy, complex and made from pantry staples. I think a plate of these with big bowls of coffee ice cream would make a great Friday night dessert, if you're a dessert person. Makes 2 dozen cookies.

Brown Sugar Cookies

14 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Heat 10 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue to cook, swirling pan constantly, until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter to melt; set aside for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. In shallow bakind dish or pie plate, mix granulated sugar and 1/4 cup of packed brown sugar, rubbing between fingers until well combined; set aside. Whisk flour, baking soda, and baking powder together in medium bowl; set aside.

Add remaining 1 3/4 cups brown sugar and salt to bowl with cooled butter; mix until no sugar lumps remain, about 3 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula; add egg, yolk, and vanilla and mix until fully incorporated. Scrape down bowl. Add flour mixture and mix until just combined. Give dough final stir with rubber spatula to ensure that no flour pockets remain and ingredients are evenly distributed.

Divided dough into 24 portions, each about 2 tablespoons, rolling between hands into balls. Working in batches, toss balls in reserved sugar mixture to coat and set on prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2 incues apart.

Bake one sheet at a time until cookies are browned and still puffy and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 12-14 minutes. They will still look raw between cracks and seem underdone. Do not overbake.

Cool cookies on baking sheet 5 minutes; using wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack and cool to room temperature.

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