Sugar cookies are a ubiquitous part of the holiday cookie platter. Though fun to decorate, they are often bland and not very fun to eat. I'm not a big fan of eating food coloring icing anyway. But these brown sugar cookies are a whole another story. With hints of butterscotch, molasses, and caramel, these cookies are anything but ordinary. I really have to give it to Cook's Illustrated for coming up with such a delicious cookie using (as with many CI recipes) what may seem like a strange but ingenious technique. This cookie sounds deceptively simple, just take a regular sugar cookie and swap the granulated sugar with brown sugar, but this caused a variety of problems. In the end after much tweaking, the key step was using browned butter. Browned butter adds an amazing depth and irresistible fragrance to this cookie. It is a crucial step that should not be skipped.
Like a normal sugar cookie, the cookie is rolled in sugar and I chose to roll these in some raw sugar, which adds a delicious crunch to the exterior of the cookie. The fragrance of browned butter, the crunch of raw sugar, and a chewy interior bursting with brown sugar flavor creates a truly unique and addictive cookie. I adapted the recipe by getting rid of an egg yolk since I have too many egg whites in the freezer already and decreasing the sugar (originally the recipe called for 1 3/4 C) because otherwise the cookie is much too sweet. Remember to keep an eye on the butter because it will go from browned to burnt faster than you can say beurre noisette.
Raw sugar or turbinado sugar is unrefined sugar cane and comes in the form of pale golden crystals. You can buy it in packet form but I believe it also comes in larger box quantities. I really recommend using raw sugar, as opposed to the substitute sugar mix, because not only does it provide a better crunch, the bigger crystals also look great.
Brown Sugar Cookie
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated
1 3/4 sticks butter (14 tablespoons)
2 C AP flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 C packed dark brown sugar (use soft brown sugar; old and hard brown sugar will make a drier cookie)
1 Tbsp vanilla
1/3 - 1/2C raw sugar
or if you don't have raw sugar
3 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp dark brown sugar
In a small saucepan melt 10 tablespoons of butter, reserve the remaining 4 tablespoons and set aside, over medium low heat. Do not use a nonstick skillet or saucepan with a dark finish because you will not be able to gauge how dark the butter solids are. The butter will melt, then a white foam will appear onto of the melted butter. Continue to cook and stir. The white foam will disappear and pay close attention because pretty soon the butter will start to smell nutty and caramelly and the solids will start to brown at the bottom of the pan. It will take about 1 to 3 minutes. Once you see the solids start to turn golden brown, remove the pan from heat but continue to stir. The residual heat from the butter will continue to caramelize the butter solids. Once the solids are nutty brown (return the pan to low heat if you need to brown the butter a tad more) stir in the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter to slow the cooking process. Transfer the mixture to a heatproof bowl (like the bowl of a KitchenAid) and set aside for 15 minutes. To cool the butter faster, dip the bottom of the bowl in a pot of cold water.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a shallow dish pour out raw sugar or if you don't have raw sugar, make a mixture of white sugar and brown sugar. Set this aside for rolling later.
Add the 1 1/4 C packed brown sugar, egg, and vanilla to the melted butter in the bowl, and mix until everything is evenly incorporated. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix until evenly combined and no pockets of flour remain.
Form about 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoon balls of dough, making 24 cookies. Roll each ball of dough in sugar and space them 2 inches apart. Bake until the cookies are puffy and the edges have set but the centers are still underdone, about 12 to 14 minutes. Rotate the cookie sheet halfway through baking. Do not overbake.
Remove the cookie sheet and cool the cookies on the sheet for 1 - 2 minutes. Then remove to a rack and cool to room temperature.
Day 1: White Chocolate Cashew Macadamia Butter Cookies
Day 2: Shortbread Bars with Mango Jam
Day 3: Pumpkin Butter Thumbprints
Day 4: Butterscotch Cookies with Hazelnuts
Day 5: Best Oatmeal Cookies Ever with Chocolate Chunks, Pecans, and Dried Cherries
Day 6: Torta Sbrisolona
Day 7: Alfajores
Day 8: Orange Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti
Day 9: Brown Sugar Cookie
I will be submitting these to Susan for her Eat Christmas Cookies Event. This recipe is another one of my favorites! So head on over for even more Christmas Cookies!