I know what you're thinking... what makes these "the BEST brown butter chocolate chip cookies"? They are so chewy and have such rich depth of flavour, and it's all about proportions!
For chocolate chip cookies, I'm a purist. Really and truly, I prefer the classic chewy cookie with butter, brown sugar, really good vanilla and puddles of dark chocolate. With all of the browning and caramelization that happens with the brown sugar and the over-powering (yet DELICIOUS) taste of vanilla and dark chocolate chips, using brown butter is actually a bit of a waste of time...
I know, I know! Crazy right? But, everyone says brown butter makes things better?! It can... it's delicious stuff... but it needs to shine or it can just be over taken.
WHAT IS BROWN BUTTER?
Butter is made up of several components, namely milk fat, milk proteins and water with trace amounts of milk sugars (lactose). When heated to a certain degree, the milk proteins and milk sugars react in a process called "Maillard Browning" to create nutty and caramel-like flavour compounds as well as generate brown colour compounds.
This process occurs when there is no moisture present, which is why you need to cook butter until the water content is evaporated off in order to make brown butter.
HOW TO MAKE BROWN BUTTER
If you've never made brown butter, you MUST try it. It adds amazing complexity and richness in the form of nutty, caramel-like flavours that enhances many recipes.
- First melt your butter over medium heat in a small sauce pan.
- Once melted, let the butter come to a simmer. It will crackly as it boils. Stir the butter constantly as it melts to ensure it cooks evenly.
- As the moisture evaporates, the butter will start to foam. This is the point when the browning starts to happen. Keep stirring the butter. Keep a close eye on the butter and DO NOT WALK AWAY.
- Eventually the crackling will settle down and the foam on the surface will become very dense to the point that you cannot see the clear butterfat beneath it. The foam will turn golden and as you stir you should see little brown flecks coming up into the pan. This is the sign that you are done! The butter will turn a golden colour and you’ll know it’s done by the smell... it will have a toasted, nutty, caramelized aroma.
- Immediately pour it out into a clean bowl and let it cool before using it in the recipe.
HOW TO MAKE BROWN BUTTER CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
Making brown butter is simple! The key is to not let it burn, but do let it get golden brown.
- First melt the butter over medium-low heat in a saucepan and make sure to use a stainless steel saucepan so you can see what's happening. If you use a dark pan it may be difficult to monitor the change in colour.
- Continue cooking, letting it boil gently and crackle. This is the sound of the approximate 15% water that is in butter evaporating out. Once all of the moisture boils off, a dense foam will begin to appear at the surface and it will start to smell nutty as the milk solids brown.
- Stir the butter constantly so the brown bits don't catch at the bottom and so that you can stir them up to the surface above the foam to watch the colour change. When the foam subsides and you see the golden brown bits, immediately pour it off into a clean bowl. You should be left with golden yellow liquid butter and lots of nutty brown flecks. Let it cool until firm and set.
- Place the firmed up brown butter into a mixing bowl with the sugars and vanilla and beat for 2 minutes until slightly pale and fluffy. Beat in the egg and milk.
- Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and whisk to blend evenly. Add it to the butter mixture and fold it in until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
- Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 2-4 hours. Scoop up mounds of dough and roll into balls. Place them onto your lined baking sheets and bake until golden but still soft in the middle!
WHY IS THIS THE BEST CHEWY BROWN BUTTER CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE RECIPE?
As you learned above, brown butter has all of its moisture removed. So, if we just go on making cookies without taking this into account, they may be a bit more hard and crunchy rather than soft and chewy.
So... what can we do? We can simply replace the liquid! You could use water, but I use milk. Why? Milk contains protein and lactose (milk sugar) which will promote even more rich browning flavour reactions as the cookies bake, adding to the buttery, nutty flavour even more!
I’ve tested this recipe using another egg to replace the moisture, but then the egg flavour overpowers the taste of the brown butter, and well… frankly you might as well just make my Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies instead.
WHAT TYPE OF CHOCOLATE IS BEST FOR BROWN BUTTER CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES?
The best thing is to actually NOT use chocolate chips at all - for these Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies, use CHUNKS.
Chocolate chips are designed to hold there shape and don't melt as easily as bar chocolate (also called tablets). Also, chips are smaller and uniform in size so it can give a rather boring look to cookies.
I always prefer to use my favourite eating chocolate or good quality dark chocolate block and chop it up. This creates shards of chocolate of all different sizes to give the cookies more interest. It will also melt nicely so that you get some layers of chocolate in the cookie and it creates little puddles.
In this recipe I used a mix of milk and dark chocolate since the creamy sweetness of milk chocolate pairs well with the brown butter, but you can use whatever you like!
TIPS FOR MAKING BROWN BUTTER CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
- Be patient making the brown butter. It can very quickly go from this light brown to burnt, so make sure you take it off the heat as soon as it turns golden.
- Refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes. It will help the flavour develop.
- Don't skimp on the salt. Salt really helps enhance the flavour of brown butter.
Here is the chocolate I recommend for making Chocolate Chip Cookies: bittersweet chocolateCallebaut Belgian Dark Couverture Chocolate Semisweet Callets, 54.5% - 5.5 Lbs
SHOULD I USE SALTED OR UNSALTED BUTTER TO MAKE BROWN BUTTER CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES?
I like using salted butter for this recipe because it really adds richness in a way that just adding salt can't since it is blended and dissolved through the butter.
However you can absolutely use unsalted butter - just increase the added salt in the recipe to ½ teaspoon.
Ok, now stop everything and go make some Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies!
If you love chocolate chip cookies, check out my BEST EVER Chocolate Chip Cookies:THE BEST EVER Chocolate Chip Cookies – Bakery Style!
BEST Chewy Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
- 1 ¾ cups 250g all-purpose flour
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅔ cup 150g salted butter, browned
- ¾ cup 165g packed dark brown sugar
- ½ cup 100g granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon 5ml pure vanilla extract
- 1 large egg at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon 15ml milk
- ½ cup 85g milk chocolate chips
- ⅔ cup 113g dark chocolate (I also love these bittersweet callets)
- ½ cup 70g chopped macadamia nuts (optional)
- First make brown butter: place butter in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir until completely melted. Allow butter to come to a boil and then continue to cook while stirring occasionally while it bubbles and crackles as the moisture boils off. Keep cooking with frequent stirring until it reaches a deep golden colour. It will progress from golden yellow to tan and finally, brown. The crackling noises will fade, the bubbles will subside and a dense foam will form at the surface as the last bit of water squeezes out. Stir constantly until you see brown flecks come up through the foam. This whole process takes around 8-10 minutes. Immediately pour it into a large mixing bowl, then place it in the freezer for about 10 minutes until cool and thick. It should be cool enough that it is opaque and firm, but not hard. If you freeze it for too long, just leave it at room temperature for 10-20 minutes until it softens up.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.
- Beat butter with both sugars and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium-high speed for 2 minutes until creamy, lightened and a bit fluffy. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl halfway through mixing. Beat in egg until well incorporated and creamy. Beat in milk. Add flour mixture and mix on low just until mostly combined then mix in chocolate chunks and nuts (if you’re using them). Refrigerate the dough for 1-2 hours.
- Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Roll 2 tablespoons of cookie dough into balls and place them onto prepared baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart. Flatten them slightly with the palm of your hand and bake for 9-11 minutes until golden around the edges. Let cookies cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes before carefully transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.