Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies (And my quest for chocolate chips in Paris)

Once again, in my pursuit to find chocolate chips, I’m reminded how different the French baking style is from the American one. I know, crazy to think about given how much the French like their pastries, or so it would seem from the amount of patisseries on every street, yet somehow, simple chocolate chips are incredibly hard to come by. Every store I walk into, I check to see if they have any. Some have none, and the markets that do have them only have teeny bags! I think I’m going to seriously need to invest in some industrial size bags. I am also recruiting anyone who plans on coming to Paris soon to bring me some 😉

So I did finally manage to snag a pack of these chocolatey pieces the other day and decided, what better thing to make with them than chocolate chip cookies! Instead of the basic cookie, I decided to brown my butter. Something you should know about me is that I LOVE brown butter. Honestly, I think brown butter makes everything better. By heating up butter in a sauce pan, the liquids and the fats separate. As the fats start to toast at the bottom of the pan, it gives off the most amazing nutty smell, which corresponds to the nutty flavor it adds to baked goods. 

I also realized that since I don’t have a a mixer or my beloved KitchenAid with me, brown butter is much easier to blend with the sugars in the recipe if you don’t let it solidify again. Most recipes say the butter should be cooled completely before using, but I just let it cool to room temperature before I put it in with my other ingredients. I also was too impatient to let these cool for an hour in the fridge and was worried they might spread too much. I think the extra egg yolk acts as a glue though, so they stayed perfectly round, even when the dough was at a room temp. 

I popped these into the oven for just a few minutes and barely let them cool for a second before I grabbed for one. Quite honestly, I don’t think the brown butter made a huge difference, but they were still some very yummy chocolate chip cookies. They were puffy and cakey, just how I like them. I would definitely like to play around with the brown butter some more – maybe letting it solidify would have actually been a good idea – but either way, these certainly satiated my cookie craving. BROWN BUTTER CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

(Just your pretty basic chocolate chip cookie recipe with some brown butter)

INGREDIENTS: 

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS:

  1. To brown butter, heat in a saucepan over medium heat until the butter begins to simmer. Continue cooking, stirring, just until butter begins to turn golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes.
  2. Pour off into a measuring cup or bowl, leaving darkest sediment behind. Let the butter cool to room temperature.
  3. In a large mixing bowl with electric mixer, beat the browned butter and sugars until light and fluffy.
  4. Add egg and egg yolk, milk, and vanilla. Beat on low speed until well blended.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the egg and butter mixture, mixing on low speed, until a soft dough forms. Scrape the bowl a few times. Stir in the chocolate chips. Cover and chill for about an hour.
  6. Heat the oven to 375°. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat; spray paper with cooking spray.
  7. Using a cookie scoop, drop balls of dough onto the silicone mat or greased parchment, allowing about 2 to 3 inches in between the cookies.
  8. Bake for 6 to 10 minutes, until browned around the edges. Cool completely and transfer to an airtight container for storage.
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Brown Butter Pumpkin Cake

French baking is delicious. The croissants, the chocolate, the bread, etc…. That being said, it’s a different kind of baking than in what I’m used to in America. After making a list of all the things I was going to need for this cake and some other things goodies I plan on baking over my stay here, we realized that there were going to have to be a few changes to the recipes.

The idea of using baking soda in food was completely foreign to everyone I said it to. All of Charlotte’s family members said they might have some for cleaning or brushing their teeth with, but never for baking. After that, I realized that buttermilk was going to pretty hard to come by as well. But perhaps the most impossible of all was molasses. Even trying to describe it was difficult – brown, gooey, syrupy substance that is used in gingerbread (not the appetizing when you think about it in those words). Needless to say, I didn’t even bother looking for it and decided to substitute honey instead.

Being the “professional chef” that I am, I brought my own cake pans and measuring cups all the way from America! Some might make fun of me, but it was a good choice as they might have been hard to come by here, as everyone measures in grams and have my favorite cake pans in the world that I would bring with me anywhere if I knew I needed to make cake. I also brought some canned pumpkin with me to make the cake as Charlotte had all but guaranteed me that we would not find that here. Baking in a kitchen that is not familiar is always a challenge, but I was able to find everything I needed and I think the cake came out just as it would have had it been made on the other side of the Atlantic. I’ve made this cake three times before and I have finally decided that brown butter makes everything better and I shall now make it with every dessert I make in the future.

BROWN BUTTER PUMPKIN LAYER CAKE

(Adapted from Fine Cooking)

INGREDIENTS:

For the cake 

  • 6 oz. (3/4 cup) unsalted butter; more for the pans
  • 9 oz. (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the pans
  • 1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 3/4 tsp. table salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1-1/2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk

For the topping

  • 1-1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup pecans
  • 1/2 cup unsalted, raw, hulled pepitas (I used walnuts instead)
  • 2 Tbs. firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. table salt
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. chopped crystallized ginger

For the frosting 

  • 4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 5 oz. (1-1/4 cups) confectioners’ sugar

DIRECTIONS: 

For the cake

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans with removable bottoms (or butter two 9-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment, butter the parchment, and flour the pans).
  3. Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 1-quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally until the butter turns a nutty golden-brown. Pour into a small bowl and let stand until cool but not set, about 15 minutes.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and cloves.
  5. In a large bowl, whisk 1-1/2 cups of the pumpkin purée with the granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and buttermilk until very well blended.
  6. With a rubber spatula, stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Gently whisk in the brown butter until completely incorporated. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.
  7. Bake the cakes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 28 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto racks, remove the pan bottoms or parchment, and cool completely.

For the topping

  1. Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add the pecans and pepitas and cook until the pecans brown slightly and the pepitas begin to pop, about 2 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle in the brown sugar and salt and stir until the sugar melts and the nuts are glazed, about 2 minutes. Stir in the ginger.
  4. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool in the skillet.

For the frosting

  1. Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 1-quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally until the butter turns a nutty golden-brown.
  2. Pour into a small bowl and let stand until the solids settle at the bottom of the bowl, about 5 minutes. Carefully transfer the bowl to the freezer and chill until just firm, about 18 minutes.
  3. Using a spoon, carefully scrape the butter from bowl, leaving the browned solids at the bottom; discard the solids.
  4. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, cream cheese, and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light in color and the brown sugar has dissolved, 2 minutes.
  5. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar and continue beating until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.

Assemble the cake

  1. Put one cake layer on a cake plate.
  2. Spread 1/2 cup of the frosting on the layer. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the nut mixture over the frosting and top with the second layer.
  3. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting.
  4. Arrange the remaining topping in a ring 1-1/2 inches in from the edge of the cake and serve.