Browning Butter and Other Glory Stories

Spoilers and disappointment: There aren’t any other glory stories. Browned butter is all glory stories.

ButterThe first time I browned butter I was trying to make a salted, honeyed browned butter spread recipe from Smitten Kitchen, my favorite food blog. I hadn’t ever done it before, but everyone has to grow up at some point.

I was home. Mug and the girls were sprawled around the dining room table, the kettle was on the boil for more tea, and I was probably playing the Civil Wars on the kitchen stereo. And in Iowa, the lights always glow warmer the later it gets. Home.

Now, butter on its own is glorious. It melted down, thick and frothy, into the pan and made luxurious swirls. The aroma had all the headiness of leather and all the sweetness of an orchard. At that moment, it was the best it could be.

And then, in a moment, something snapped and the butter and I entered a new dimension. It was falling off the peak of the roller coaster, it was hearing the Hallelujah chorus modulate, it was him looking at you for the first time. We were off road.

At this moment, I started moaning, yelling, and hopping around the kitchen while trying to bury my whole head in the pot. I was having an explosive emotional, ethereal and physical experience. I was in love.

Browned butter has a deep, rich flavor and nose reminiscent of nuts and caramel. It happens in a moment. And in that moment I learned that the best can always be better.

And you can learn that, too!

No, I’m serious.

GUYS, I’M NOT KIDDING, BROWNED BUTTER WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE.

So here are my three favorite recipes so far using browned butter, although I have my eye on Smitten Kitchen’s browned butter rice krispie treats. Crossroad of addictions, here I come.

Quick Butter Browning How-To: Melt butter in a saucepan over medium to medium-high heat. When butter first melts it will be foamy, and then will turn clear underneath the bubbles that will cluster on top. Stir constantly to keep butter from burning. Flecks will begin to gather at the bottom of the pan and will slowly turn a dark golden brown. Butter will gain a nutty aroma. Take off heat. Do a dance of happiness.

Smitten Kitchen’s Sally Lunn Bread and Honeyed Browned Butter Spread: I initially made this for the spread, which is divine, but the bread ended up being a surprising bonus and definite keeper. Try both.

Also, once I decided to whip up two dear, but seemingly foreign, recipes for a game night at a friend’s house, and that’s when I realized that the honeyed browned butter spread is a marvelous pairing with chocolate tea bread. I feared putting the two together would end up in a shouting match of flavors, but instead it was a well-balanced dance.

So, in case you want it,

Chocolate Tea Bread:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream 1/4 cup butter, 2/3 cup sugar and 1 egg. Mix 1 1/2 cup flour, 1/3 cup cocoa, 1 tsp. baking soda and 1/4 tsp. salt. Add flour mixture to butter and sugar alternately with 1 cup buttermilk.

Pour into a greased 8×4 loaf pan. Bake 55-60 minutes, or until a knife stuck into the center comes out cleanly.

The Novice Chef’s Brown Butter, Brown Sugar Cookies: I hope the name alone does it for you. It really should.

The first time I had these, Tim and I pulled into my parents’ house in Iowa to be met by my sister Jenna. “I made cookies for you guys,” she said sorrowfully, “but they ate all of them.”

Later, she made a second batch of these cookies. I realized two things as Tim and I each bit into one: (1) why there had been none left for us, and (2) that Tim suddenly seemed dangerously close to switching his choice of sister.

I learned how to make these, and Tim married me.

Cook’s Illustrated Best-Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies (adapted): Browned butter isn’t the only culinary development that changed my life. Cook’s Illustrated is first a significant publication with its relentlessly curious and scientific approach to cooking, and the resulting 2,000+ recipe cookbook is no less impressive.

So it’s no surprise that the good people at Cook’s Illustrated realize the infinite goodness of browned butter.

1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking soda

14 tablespoons unsalted butter

3/4 cup packed dark or light brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp. salt

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 large egg, plus 1 large yolk

1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

2. Mix flour and baking soda in medium bowl. Brown 10 tablespoons butter, and transfer to a large bowl. Add last 4 tablespoons butter and stir until all butter is melted.

3. Add brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt, and vanilla to melted butter, and mix well. Add egg and egg yolk; whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand for 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Cook’s Illustrated asks you to repeat this pattern of whisking and resting until mixture is thick, smooth and shiny–almost satiny. I didn’t want to do it, but I did and it was worth it. Stir in flour mixture until just combined, and add chocolate chips.

4. Roll into balls and place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. CI recommends 3-tablespoon increments; I just used heaping cereal spoon.

5. Bake 10-14 minutes, until cookies are setting at the edges but still soft in the middle. Be sure to rotate the baking sheets halfway through baking. Cool sheets on wire racks to get the most efficient cooling.

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