December 20, 2010

Browned Butter White Chocolate Chip Cranberry Cookies

Let us talk about decadence. Let us talk about Christmas cookies. Let us talk about butter. Lots and lots of butter--browned butter to be exact.

These browned butter chocolate chip cookies have that caramelized, butterscotch-y taste that makes the most memorable chocolate chip cookies so memorable. They also have those crispy-delicious crunchy edges juxtaposed with a soft center. It is impossible to choose my favorite part of these cookies--it is the overall experience that makes them so grand.

These cookies, when made with white chocolate chips and dried cranberries, are not messing around. This is one rich, sweet cookie. But I contend that the holidays are a perfect time for this cookie. We all indulge a little this time of year, right? These cookies also involve two extra steps. When you are baking a lot for the holidays, maybe you are not inclined to make cookies that have two extra steps. Maybe you just want to get the cookies over with. Those regular cookies will taste good, I don't doubt it for a second.

BUT, I assure you these cookies will taste better. Like many things that take a little extra effort, it is worth it! First, there is the browning of the butter, which imparts a lovely depth and adds extra complexity. I actually really like this step because when I want to make cookies, I rarely remember to get butter out so it can warm to room temperature. Here you melt the butter, so it eliminates that problem altogether.

The second extra step doesn't take much effort, just a little extra time. You whisk the butter and sugars and then let them rest. Over an interval of about ten minutes, you repeat that process a few times. During this step, the sugars dissolve. To be honest, I don't know exactly how dissolved sugar helps these cookies. You'll have to ask Cook's Illustrated about that. Maybe it's a textural thing. All I know is that it works.

So bake a batch or two. Share some. Save plenty for you and yours. Curl up on the couch near the Christmas tree. Have your friends and family gather 'round and give everyone a cookie. To me, this is what the holidays are all about.

Browned Butter White Chocolate Chip Cranberry Cookies
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 28 tablespoons (yes, 3 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
  1. Put an oven rack in the middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. 
  2. Whisk the flour and baking soda together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  3. In a large heatproof bowl, cut 8 tablespoons (1 stick) of butter into a few pieces. Set aside. Heat 20 tablespoons (2 1/2 sticks) of butter in a light colored skillet over medium-high heat. (Do not use a non-stick pan if you can avoid it. You need to see the color of the melted butter to know when it has browned.) Once the butter is melted, continue cooking and stirring until the butter is a dark golden brown and has a nutty aroma, 2-3 minutes. (This will seem to take awhile, but change will happen quickly so pay close attention.) Remove the skillet from heat and our into the large bowl. Stir until all of the butter has melted.
  4. Add both sugars, salt and vanilla to the butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add the eggs and the egg yolks. Whisk until smooth. Let the mixture stand for 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times. The mixture should be thick, smooth and shiny.
  5. Stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Stir in white chocolate chips and cranberries, making sure no flour pockets remain.
  6. Spoon dough in 3 tablespoon portions spaced 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. (These cookies will spread, so I recommend 8 to a sheet for perfect cookies. 10 to a sheet if you don't mind the edges sometimes touching.) Bake cookies 1 tray at a time, rotating halfway through, until the cookies are golden brown and still puffy; the edges will have begun to set, but the centers will still be soft--10 to 14 minutes. 
  7. Cool cookies on the baking sheet placed on a wire rack until the cookies can be transferred to the rack itself to cool completely. (If you can wait that long.)
Makes 3 dozen cookies

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