Thursday, December 12, 2013

Brown Butter Snickerdoodles

Food is like a TARDIS - wait - stay with me is like a TARDIS in that sometimes, it can transport you to a certain time and place.  In college, there was a little bakery/cafe within walking distance of my apartment.  It had fresh roasted chicken sandwiches, great coffee, and rows and rows of pastries.

I tasted quite a few of them during my visits there, but my favorite were the snickerdoodles.  Calling them cookies feels like selling them short.  They were more like edible cinnamon sugar saucers - huge cookies with crispy edges, chewy centers and covered in so much cinnamon sugar it would stick to your lips when you took a bite.  I could munch on one with a cup of coffee and make my studying time much more bearable.

These snickerdoodles aren't quite as decadent as those, but they do have their own fancy twist - a little brown butter in the mix.  If you've never browned butter before, it's not hard, but it does require some attention.  You'll want to use a light-colored pan if you can, so it's easy to keep an eye on the color.  If you don't have one, trust your nose.  The nose knows.  Browning the butter gives it an extra depth of flavor - a sort of nutty sweetness.  Perfect for cookies.

Brown Butter Snickerdoodles (adapted from Baked Elements by way of Tracy's Culinary Adventures )

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
5 teaspoons cinnamon, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
1/2 cup packed brown sugar  (orginal recipe calls for light, but I used dark)
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon milk

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan or skillet over medium heat.  When the foam subsides, stir until tiny brown specks start to appear on the bottom of the pan, turning the butter golden brown with a sweet, nutty fragrance.  Be careful - the butter can go from brown to burnt very quickly. 

Transfer the butter to the bowl of your mixer to cool for half an hour.  Do some laundry.  Paint your nails.  Check your Facebook.  Alternately, you could mix it on low-medium speed for 5-7 minutes to help the butter cool more quickly, but I went the lazy way. 

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, 1 teaspoon cinnamon (not all 5!) and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Set aside.

Add 1 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 cup brown sugar to the brown butter.  Mix on medium speed 2-3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, until well combined.  Beat together eggs and milk in a small bowl.  With the mixer on low, add the eggs to the sugar mixture and mix until well combined.  Add the dry ingredients slowly in 3 additions until just combined.  Don't over-mix.

Cover the dough and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight. 

Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Mix the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar and 4 teaspoons cinnamon in a shallow bowl.  Scoop the dough and form into 2 tablespoon-sized balls with the palms of your hand.  Roll the balls in the cinnamon sugar mixture to cover.

Set on a parchment or silpat-lined baking sheet about 1 1/2  to 2 inches apart.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, just until the edges are set and the dough visible in the cracks of the top isn't wet-looking.  Don't over bake or these chewy cookies will turn crisp.

Cool for a few minutes on the cookie sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

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