There is legitimately nothing homier than the crackling, popping transformation of browning butter. Now, as you know, I am very enthusiastic at the concept of transforming ingredients; I love experimenting with unique flavor profiles, but I will be the first to admit that we overcomplicate things. I think sometimes we let our piqued interests take away from the simplicity of it all. Like, how great is it that we can make the butter we use in our baked goods even more delicious with the use of a frying pan?
It doesn’t take very long; melt the stuff on low, and then watch in awe as it foams and turns to amber, all the while releasing little poofs and swirls of nutty, golden air. The butter transforms to its browned, nutty, counterpart so quickly, lending speckled complexity to our recipes. For something so simple, there’s actually a lot going on: we cook any water out of the butter (hence, the foaming we observe); we separate the butterfat and the milk solids; finally, we let those milk solids toast into gold. Normally, I despise fat talk, but there are exceptions to every rule, especially when it comes to butter.
There are a few things that can elicit a true thrill from the depths of my soul, and I am proud to inform you that a number of those things are simple. Of course, browned butter is one of them. But there are a few others, too: I am not ashamed to admit that I once followed a giant, magnificent white dog around Lake Calhoun here in Minneapolis purely because it looked like Falkor from Neverending Story. I also make no secret of the fact that really any dog can inspire such goon-like behavior. Also, really good coffee. And a perfect croissant (here and here = favorites). A well-written book. A good conversation. A strong hug. The kind of Ashtanga practice that feels like a breath of fresh air.
But, you know, some days, those things just aren’t enough. And those days, my friends, are meant for reinvented crinkle cookies. These ones-dense in their brown sugary, spiced character; speckled with browned butter flecks; rolled in rich smoked almonds and powdered sugar; baked until puffed and crackly-are a perfect representation of comfort.
Granted, I’ve only known them to have a very, very short shelf-life (most of the time, everybody has eaten all of them almost immediately after their creation). With that said, they have-100 percent of the time-provided general support, understanding, and, if nothing else, a mind-bogglingly delicious, albeit temporary boost in blood glucose levels. Which, let’s face it, is enough to give us a mild, sugary sense of euphoria. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! And all it took was a little brown butter.
One Year: Toasted Marshmallow Crispy Treats
Two Years: Pepper Jack Orrechiette Mac and Cheese
Three Years: Jumbo Banana Muffins with Coconut, Pecans, and Chocolate Chips
Brown Butter, Cinnamon, and Smoked Almond Crinkle Cookies
Adapted from Cookies and Cups
Makes about 2 dozen cookies
Note: This recipe calls for smoked almonds, but beware seasoned smoked almonds, as those contain a whole host of savory spices (onion powder, paprika, etc.) that we don’t really want in our sweets. Make sure the smoked almonds that you use are not spiced (I used this kind, available at Target). If you’re unable to find smoked almonds that fit the bill, roasted/salted will work just fine.
10 tablespoons butter, sliced
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup smoked almonds, finely crushed (see note)
Place the butter in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the butter melts and begins to foam. Continue to cook, whisking (or swirling the pan) frequently until the butter becomes an amber color, this should take 2-3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool slightly. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Set aside. Whisk the granulated and brown sugar. Pour the cooled butter into the sugars and mix on medium speed to combine. Add in the eggs and vanilla, mixing just until smooth. Slowly add in the flour mixture, beating on low until just incorporated. Cover the mixing bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 350°Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, if using. Set aside. Place the powdered sugar in a shallow bowl. Divide the chilled dough into 1- tablespoon sized balls. Roll each ball into the smoked almonds, pressing the almonds gently into dough to stick, then roll in powdered sugar and place onto the prepared pan, about 2- inches apart. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the cookies are set. Repeat for remaining dough. Allow the cookies to cool on the pan for a few minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to finish cooling. Cookies should be stored in an airtight container, and will last up to three days.