Don't think I've gotten over my browned butter fixation just because it's been a few recipes since I've baked with it. I'm just biding my time. Every browned butter recipe catches my eye and there are more I want to try out. This cookie recipe reads almost like a recipe for Mexican Wedding Cakes but the two main exceptions are it doesn't contain nuts and it uses browned butter. I have to confess, until I read this recipe, I hadn't thought of browning the butter and cooling it back to solid form to use like regular butter. Brilliant! And so simple - why didn't I think of that before? I have more cookie recipes to try that I would love to use browned butter with and this just opened the floodgates to all of them to do a browned butter version. See, this is why I have so many recipe books and why I cast such a wide net of possible recipes to try. Even for a longtime baker like me, there's always something new to learn and enjoy.
This cookie does take some planning ahead since you have to brown the butter, let it cool to room temperature, re-chill it to solid form, then you can make the cookie dough with it. The main thing to watch out for in doing the melting, browning, chilling and then beating is not to use your butter when it's too soft. Make sure you do chill it solid, not just barely solid or a little soft. Because it'll soften further when you beat it in your mixer and you don't want it too soft when you start adding the powdered sugar or your dough will be greasy. You want the butter to be a creamy consistency after you beat it, not halfway towards melting again.
Add the powdered sugar and flour gradually. At first the mixture will look like a bunch of loose crumbs but as you mix it, it'll come together as a dough. I normally don't like to beat dough a lot once the flour is added since that'll develop the gluten and in cookies, that makes for a tougher texture. In this case, once you add all of the flour, if your mixture still looks like loose crumbs, increase your mixer speed slightly and let it beat until the dough forms (no more than a minute). When you roll the dough into balls, make them small. Browned butter makes it rich and you don't want large cookies. Once the dough was mixed, I made them into little dough balls, chilled them in the refrigerator for several hours to let the flavors develop (I'm trying that out after Joanne Chang's Chocolate Chunk Cookie recipe from Flour) then put them in the freezer to bake off later when I need them.
I actually timed these cookies (sort of) and took them out around 12 minutes since the directions warned that if they were overbaked, they'd be dry and crispy rather than melt-in-your-mouth. Turns out the warning was right. Even at 12 minutes, in my oven, that was too long for these cookies. I tried baking a second pan and took them out after 8 minutes. Better. I had the taste test cookie (rolled in powdered sugar) while it was still slightly warm. It did have that melt-y texture but I thought these were a bit too sweet, probably because I tasted the powdered sugar more than I tasted the browned butter. Actually, I thought the powdered sugar overwhelmed the browned butter taste that I was expecting. Also, honestly, I missed having toasted pecans in this type of cookie. I like Mexican Wedding Cakes and think I should stick to the traditional version - with nuts since nuts, preferably pecans, add the texture and taste that make this type of cookie so appealing. That's the flagrant exception to my no-nuts-in-cookies preference.
½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 ½ cups plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar, plus up to 1 cup for dusting, as needed
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1. A few hours before you wish to make the cookies, make the brown butter. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the solids separate and brown to a dark golden color, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool at room temperature, then chill it in the refrigerator until it is solid.
2. Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the brown butter on medium speed until cream colored, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle. Add the 1 ½ cups plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar and the salt. Cream on medium speed until it is smooth and lump free, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle.
3. On low speed, add the flour. Beat until just incorporated. Do not overbeat. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle. Remove the dough from the mixer, wrap it in plastic film, and chill for at least 30 minutes. At this point, the dough will keep nicely, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 1 month. (Thaw frozen dough at room temperature for about 30 minutes, or until you can pinch off pieces.)
4. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Adjust the rack to the lower third of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
5. Flour your hands. Pinch off pieces of dough and roll them into 1-inch balls. Place the balls 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Continue to flour your hands as needed to prevent the dough from sticking.
6. Bake one sheet at a time for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the cookies look dry and feel firm, turning the sheet front to back halfway through the baking. Do not overbake, or your cookies will be too dry and crisp. (Check after 8 minutes and see if they're baked enough.)
7. As soon as you remove the cookies from the oven, cover them completely with powdered sugar. The best way to do this is to place the powdered sugar in a strainer and tap it over the cookies on the baking sheet. Let the cookies cool completely before removing them from the sheets and serving. Store the meltaways in an airtight container for up to 3 days at room temperature. The cookies can also be frozen for up to 2 weeks.