Cute-As-Can-Be Brown Butter Buttons
These cookie nubbins pack a wallop of brown butter flavor. Even after you finish chewing, the nutty, rich flavor lingers on and on, much like a fine wine.
Their texture is surprising, too — extremely sandy and crisp, almost like a smaller, thicker version of a Chinese almond cookie.
“Nancy’s Brown Butter Buttons” is an heirloom recipe from the Swedish aunt of baker extraordinaire Nancy Kux, who used to own Nancy’s Fancies in San Carlos. Kux always will hold a special place in my heart because it was she who made my unforgettable almond-and-buttercream wedding cake.
The recipe is one of many gems in the new “Baking for All Occasions” cookbook (Chronicle Books) by Palo Alto baking expert Flo Braker.
Braker describes them in the book as “one of the most unusual cookies I’ve ever tasted.”
The cookies didn’t disappoint. The dough is very crumbly, so much so that you really have to work it with your fingers to make it come together for individual balls for the cookies.
The texture of the cookies after baking and cooling is quite surprising. It is very sandy, almost like a smaller, thicker version of a Chinese almond cookie in the way it shatters, then dissolves in your mouth. The nutty flavor of the browned butter is quite prominent. Indeed, the taste lingers on your palate long after the cookie is gone, much like a fine wine does.
There’s something familiar, homey, and comforting about these cookies. It’s a feeling and character that imbues the recipes throughout this book.
Nancy’s Brown Butter Buttons
(Makes about 3 1/2 dozen cookies)
8 ounces (2 sticks/225 grams) unsalted butter
2 cups (9 ounces/255 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (7 ounces/200 grams) granulated sugar
Before baking: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Following the directions for making brown butter, melt the butter in a heavy 1 1/2-quart saucepan over medium-low heat and heat just until it begins to turn a delicate brown, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour into a medium bowl. If you like, you can strain the butter through a fine-mesh sieve, but I prefer the golden specks in the batter. Set the butter aside to cool slightly, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, sift together the flour and baking soda onto a piece of waxed paper; set aside.
Add the vanilla to the butter, and then stir in half of the sugar, blending well before adding the remaining sugar. Add the flour mixture in two additions, blending well after each addition. Set the mixture aside for 10 minutes to allow the flour to absorb the ingredients.
To shape each cookie, measure about 1 1/2 teaspoons of the dough, or scoop up the dough with an ice cream scoop about 1 1/4 inches in diameter (#70). Work the crumbly dough between your palms to form cohesive balls, and place on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 1/2 inch apart.
Bake the cookies until they puff up, crack a bit on top, and are golden on the bottom, 15 to 18 minutes. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and let the cookies cool on the pan for about 5 minutes. Using a metal spatula, transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
Stack the cooled cookies in an airtight container and store at room temperature for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 1 month. Thaw in the refrigerator.
From “Baking for All Occasions” by Flo Braker