If you’ve been reading for awhile, you may be familiar with my favorite soft-baked chocolate chip cookie recipe. Many of you have made these cookies and are hooked too!
The secret behind the cookies is adding a bit of cornstarch, which softens and expands the dough making the cookies extra thick in the process. Think of how cornstarch thickens soups, gravies, and pie fillings – well, it does the same thing in cookie dough.
I’ve used this cookie dough base recipe with cornstarch in many of my cookie recipes, using all sorts of different add-ins like white chocolate and caramel. However, there is one thing that I have never done with this recipe: I’ve never changed the actual dough base. Why fix it if it ain’t broke?
Craving something salty and sweet, I decided to take a risk and make the cookies in a very different way. And boy, am I glad I did! I used pretzel pieces, M&Ms, and browned butter.
And can I just say… wow! What a combination. Brown butter is my secret little weapon in the kitchen. It adds so much more concentrated, deep flavor to your baked good than creamed or melted butter would. Think lots of caramel and butterscotch undertones paired with a nutty aroma.
Brown butter makes something ordinary… extraordinary.
Even though I love brown butter so much, I have always favored using butter in its solid state over butter in its liquid state for my cookie recipes. Comparatively speaking, creaming solid butter makes the cookie dough less greasy and prevents the cookies from spreading so much in the oven. My cookies are always thicker when I use creamed butter over melted/browned butter.
I decided to test my super thick chocolate chip cookie recipe with browned butter. Given the cornstarch and full teaspoon of baking soda in the cookie dough recipe, I figured using browned butter wouldn’t make my cookies flat like it usually does. After browning the butter, I cooled it in the refrigerator in a shallow dish so it became solid again. Then I creamed it into the dough like I usually do. Even though the brown butter was in its solid state after chilling it, it still is a bit more greasy than softened butter is. However, the cornstarch worked its magic and the cookies still came out super thick. Mission accomplished.
Let’s talk about the secrets behind browning butter.
It’s pretty easy to overcook and burn butter when you are browning it. Brown → Burnt is a VERY thin line, so you have to be very careful and watch it closely. First, melt 1.5 sticks of unsalted butter in a saucepan. I usually do this over low-medium heat. Constantly stir the butter around with a whisk. The butter will begin to bubble and get a bit foamy. Keep watching it and keep whisking it. After 2-3 minutes of bubbling action, you’ll notice the color of the butter change to amber brown. Once you begin to see brown specks in the butter, remove it from heat – you’re done.
Brown butter smells amazing – kind of nutty and almost like pancakes. Am I the only one who thinks it smells like pancakes? Anyway, if you brown your butter for too long (even just 10 seconds too long), you’ll wind up with burnt butter. You’ll know you’ve burnt the butter just by its smell. If you burn it, I suggest dumping it and starting over.
In short: browning butter is quite easy if you use visual cues like watching for the butter to turn an amber color with little specks of brown. Constantly stir it, constantly watch it. Use your nose and wait for that distinct nutty aroma.
The best part about using brown butter for this cookie recipe is that you don’t have to plan ahead and bring your butter to room temperature. You can use cold butter when you are browning it.
After you have your brown butter, be sure to chill it and allow the butter to become solid again – this step is mandatory to avoid your cookies from spreading too much in the baking process. I’ve made these cookies twice now and the first time, I did not chill the brown butter. The cookies were MUCH thinner than today’s.
Using a shallow dish, cooling the brown butter to a solid state will take about two hours in the refrigerator. Then, make the cookie dough as usual. Using a mixer, cream the solid brown butter with your sugars. I always like to use more brown sugar than white sugar, which keeps the cookies extra moist and soft. Then add the egg, vanilla, and the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, cornstarch, and salt. Isn’t that easy?
The nutty, caramel-y vibe from the brown butter pairs well with salty pretzels and chocolate. I used mini M&Ms for my sweet chocolate craving and pretzels for my salty craving.
Be sure to chill the dough again. Yes I know – chilling the brown butter and then chilling the dough?! Trust me on this. Chilling the dough will make it much easier to handle, produce a much thicker cookie, and allows the flavors to get nice and friendly. Chill the dough for 1 – 2 hours (or even overnight). I chilled my dough for 2 hours before scooping and baking. The longer, the better.
You’ll have to roll the balls of dough with your hands and not scoop them with a cookie scoop – the warmth of your hands will allow the dough to come together quite well. I rolled my balls of dough to be taller, rather than wide. See here for more details on a “tall” cookie dough ball.
The final result is one thick, flavorful cookie. The nutty, caramel flavor notes from the brown butter, the salty and crunchy pretzel pieces, the sweet chocolate M&Ms, the moistness from the extra brown sugar… everything just works. Brown butter is the ultimate secret ingredient and it’s something you already have in your kitchen.
The cookies get soft on day two and even softer on day 3, something you usually don’t find in cookie recipes. I think that’s the best part about them.
Give me a soft cookie over a dry, crispy cookie any day!
The cornstarch ratio with the baking soda and flour produces an extra thick and soft cookie. Chewy around the edges, soft and melty on the inside. The dough itself is fantastic! You’ll love the way it tastes, even without the extra sweet & salty add-ins. But those are mandatory, right?!
Do you like salty/sweet treats as much as I do?
makes approximately 2.5 dozen cookies
- 3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup dark brown sugar (or light brown sugar)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 large egg
- 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 pretzel pieces
- 3/4 cup mini M&Ms (or regular size)
- Place butter in a medium sauce pan and heat over low-medium heat. Allow the butter to melt and then begin to continually whisk it. Watch it carefully. The butter will begin to bubble and foam and brown specks will form in the pan. You will smell a nutty aroma. Once the butter turns an amber-brown color with specks (about 6 minutes), remove it from the pan. Butter will burn very easily and you want to avoid that, so watch it carefully. Once browned, pour the butter into a shallow bowl and chill in the refrigerator until it is solid; about 2 hours. Chilling it is mandatory. When you are ready to start the cookies, sit the solid brown butter out for about 15 minutes to allow it to soften up a bit again - do not forget to do this.
- In a large bowl using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream the solid brown butter in the mixing bowl for about 1 minute on medium speed. Get it nice and smooth, then add the sugars on medium speed until fluffy and light in color. Mix in egg and vanilla. Scrape down the sides as needed. On low speed, mix in flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt. Stir in the pretzels and M&Ms. Dough will be thick and sticky. Chill for at least 1- 2 hours, or even up to 3 days (covered). The longer, the better.
- Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
- Roll balls of dough with your hands (about 1.5 Tablespoons of dough per cookie) and drop onto the cookie sheet. Make sure the balls of dough are taller, rather than wide. Please see above for more on a "tall cookie dough ball." Press a few M&Ms or pretzels onto the tops of cookies for looks, if desired. Bake for 8-9 minutes, until barely golden brown around the edges. Do NOT bake them longer than 10 minutes. Remove and let cool for 3 minutes on the cookie sheet. If the cookies are too puffy, try gently pressing down on them with the back of a spoon. Transfer to cooling rack. Cookies remain fresh in an airtight container for up to 7 days.
*Do not drop dough onto warm cookie sheets. Allow cookie sheets to cool completely between batches.
*Cookies freeze well – up to three months. Unbaked cookie dough balls freeze well – up to three months.
Recipe source: The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie
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I like to use brown butter in recipes where I’m looking to add a little complex background flavor.
My favorite blondie recipe uses brown butter:
I used brown butter in a recent oatmeal cookie recipe, too. For those cookies, I made sure to chill the brown butter and bring it to a solid state before creaming it in with the sugars – just like what I did in today’s recipe. Works like a charm!
Pretzels and M&Ms are no strangers to my cookie recipes:
White Chocolate Covered Pretzel Cookies (using the same dough as today’s cookie)