Brown butter cookies

This was a spur-of-the-moment baking decision that came with…mixed results. The cookies are great, if not exactly what I was looking for, but the experience was not good, overall. Maybe snap baking decisions are not a good idea, especially on weeknights.
I’d been thinking about brown butter cookies for awhile, after having one at a cafe a couple years ago. I thought I remembered being told that it was a Martha Stewart recipe, so I went with that and, sure enough, Martha came through with a recipe:


  • 15 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup sanding sugar


  1. 1. Melt butter over medium heat. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until deep golden brown, about 11 minutes. Immediately pour butter into a large bowl, and let cool to room temperature, about 10 minutes. Stir in vanilla.
  2. 2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, granulated sugar, and salt. Gradually stir into butter mixture. Form dough into a ball, then roll into a 14-inch-long log (about 1 1/2 inches in diameter). Wrap in parchment, and refrigerate until firm, 1-2 hours.
  3. 3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush dough with egg wash, and roll in sanding sugar. Slice into 3/8-inch rounds, and transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until light brown and firm, 15 to 17 minutes. Let cool completely on baking sheets on wire racks.

Cook’s Notes

When Martha made these cookies on Martha Bakes, she wrapped the log of dough in parchment paper and slipped the wrapped log of dough into an empty paper towel tube that had been cut from one end to the other. Then she wrapped the ends with plastic wrap and refrigerated the dough.
So, I made the brown butter, as directed, which is different to how I’ve made it in the past – I normally used a much lower temperature, and it took much longer. This is fast, but requires quick reflexes to prevent burning. I let the first batch get a little too brown (and, yes, I said *first* batch.) I decided it tasted fine and I would go ahead and use it, so I mixed the dry ingredients, and added 1tsp of vanilla paste to the butter. The recipe calls for 2 tsp of vanilla, but I decided to use 1 of paste and 1 of liquid vanilla extract, just because I had both on hand. Opening the vanilla bottle, I banged against the spatula in the measuring cup of melted butter and suddenly had melted butter all over myself, the countertop, and the floor, and very little left in the cup. I’m talking almost 2 sticks of melted butter, at least half of which had landed on my apron and brand new dress. I dealt with the apron, first, (it’s still in the sink, bearing my shame and frustration), then the dress, washing the butter out with dish soap, hoping it would sufficiently counteract the oil that a later wash would leave the dress wearable in future. Then, the countertop, and lastly, the floor. Getting butter off the floor is a pain, especially when it’s also on the soles of my shoes, so everything is terribly slippery. I admit, I had a tantrum and literally stamped my feet a few times, and may have cried.
Eventually, I got it cleaned up. I started over with the butter, and made a less-brown batch, added it to the dry ingredients and got it in the oven. After an hour or so, in the fridge, I sliced it and baked the cookies for 15 minutes. Delish! I had been thinking something like brown-butter snickerdoodles, and these are actually more shortbread, but still really good. No egg in the batter, now I know what that does! I hadn’t read the comments on the recipe that indicate people had problem with the dough being too crumbly to slice, and suggesting adding the dry ingredients to the butter rather than the other way ’round, but mine came out OK. A little crumbly, but mostly sliced fairly well.
I won’t know if it was worthwhile until I get the dress cleaned and see if it’s salvageable. A batch of cookies is definitely not worth the loss of a nice dress (and a possibly un-saveable apron.)

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