These delicious, one-bowl, no-mixer Sea Salted Brown Sugar Cookies have crispy edges and moist chewy centers!
The minute we finished the photo shoot for these Sea Salted Brown Sugar Cookies, I bagged them all up and stashed the bags in the freezer. I knew if the cookies were left out, we would eat far too many, as they are addictingly delicious.
So shhh... don't tell Scott, but I had to go and retrieve one (out of the freezer). You know, just so I could write this post and really explain how delicious these cookies are. See how much I like you?!
(Editor's note: Me too! I snuck two out late last night after the Olympics! Go figure!)
Seriously, these cookies are pretty crazy delicious. It's a wonderful recipe from the book, The Perfect Cookie by America's Test Kitchen. The ingredient list is pretty unremarkable, but a few little tricks by these genius chefs make all the difference in the world.
What is brown butter?
Butter is, of course, a common denominator in many cookie recipes, but this recipe calls for brown butter. Brown butter is a French cooking technique called beurre noisette. It might sound fancy, but it's simply regular old butter that's melted and then simmered until it's transformed to a deep golden hue and takes on a "nutty" fragrance. (Actually, beurre noisette, when translated, means hazelnut butter because it smells like hazelnuts and has a similar nutty color). Brown butter only takes a few minutes to prepare, but it is truly a culinary magic trick that enhances the flavor of both sweet and savory dishes.
Two other things that add lots of delicious flavor to these otherwise simple cookies are dark brown sugar and a triple dose of vanilla. 100% dark brown sugar in lieu of a mix of granulated and brown sugar as is common in many cookie recipes, gives these Sea Salted Brown Sugar Cookies a delicious butterscotch/toffee flavor. A whole tablespoon of vanilla helps mix and meld the other ingredients.
Cheating on Simplifying the old family recipe
- I did adapt the recipe a bit the second time I made these cookies. I know from our Café Reader Survey 2018, that most of you really like easy recipes that don't sacrifice flavor or quality. Me too! So I took the recipe from a one-pot, two-bowl recipe down to one simple bowl.
- I've been browning my butter in the microwave for some time now and it works beautifully, without any spattering on the stovetop. I decided to employ that trick with these Sea Salted Brown Sugar Cookies instead of on the stovetop, as the recipe directs. It worked quite well, and didn't change anything except for the number of dishes that have to be washed.
- Yes, I know I'm a bit of a renegade, but I don't believe it's always necessary to combine the dry ingredients separately, as called for in most baking recipes. I've been experimenting for a while now, with just sprinkling the dry ingredients evenly over the wet, then mixing well. Honestly, in recipes like this one, I really can't tell a difference. An extra bowl and a few additional minutes saved!
- The cookie dough is scooped up, rolled into balls, then tossed in sugar. I like to use sanding sugar for this. Sanding sugar is coarser than granulated sugar and gives the cookies a little shimmer. Sanding sugar can often be found in the cake mix area of most larger grocery stores or online. If you don't have sanding sugar, no worries, just use regular granulated sugar.
- One last adaptation was to give these cookies a sprinkle of flaky sea salt. Sea salt adds a nice little crunch and gives these cookies that wonderfully addictive sweet-salty flavor so many of us love. If you're watching your sodium intake, you can skip the salt, they will still be delicious.
So if you're in the neighborhood, stop by! I've got a double batch of these delicious Sea Salted Brown Sugar Cookies in the freezer. But don't tarry too long! I probably don't have to explain why... right?
Café Tips for making these Sea Salted Brown Sugar Cookies
- Since these are called brown sugar cookies, the brown sugar you use does make a difference. Look for dark brown sugar. And when buying dark brown sugar, I look for the one with the deepest, richest color. It doesn't have to be the most expensive or the name-brand. In fact, I prefer a store brand dark brown sugar in the area I live in, as it has a beautiful, deep golden brown hue.
- For the sea salt topping, I love Maldon Sea Salt. It's a flaky sea salt that is meant to be a "finishing salt". You don't use it in everyday cooking, but rather, to add a delicious finishing touch. To use it, just pick up a pinch and rub it between your fingers to crush the flakes a bit and bring out the fabulous flavor. It's more expensive than regular salt but, because it's only used for finishing, a box will last a long time.
- Don't overbake these Sea Salted Brown Sugar Cookies. That's one of the secrets to achieving the crisp-on-the-edges and chewy-in-the-center texture. Just bake the cookies till the edges are set, but the centers still soft, puffy and cracked. The cookies will look raw between the cracks and seem underdone but go ahead and remove them from the oven at this point. They will firm up as they cool. It's better to err on the side of underdone with these cookies!
- I like to use a cookie scoop for scooping up my dough. This ensures that all the cookies are the same size. A medium size scoop holds 1.5- 2 tablespoons and is perfect for making average size cookies.
- 14 tablespoons butter I use salted
- 2 cups packed dark brown sugar 14 ounces
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons about 10 ½ ounces
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon table salt
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- ¼ cup sanding sugar or granulated sugar
- flaky sea salt (like Maldon)
Place 10 tablespoons of the butter in a large microwave-safe bowl and cover with a lid, a plate or another bowl to prevent spattering. Microwave the butter on high power for 4 minutes. Check for color. You’re looking for a deep amber color with some chestnut-colored flakes of brown throughout. Continue cooking for 30 seconds at a time until a deep amber color is achieved. This can take anywhere from 4-7 minutes, depending on your microwave.
Once color is achieved, carefully remove bowl from microwave and stir in remaining 4 tablespoons butter until melted. Allow to cool for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large (18 by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper. Place sanding or granulated sugar in a shallow dish.
Add brown sugar and salt to bowl with cooled butter; whisk together until no sugar lumps remain. Add egg, yolk, and vanilla and whisk together until fully incorporated.
Sprinkle flour, then baking soda and baking powder evenly over the top of the sugar/butter mixture. Mix with a sturdy spatula or wooden spoon until all dry ingredients are incorporated.
Divide dough into 24 portions, each about 2 tablespoons, rolling between hands into balls about 1 ½ inches in diameter. Working in batches, toss balls in sugar to coat and set on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart, 12 dough balls per sheet.
Bake one sheet at a time for 10 minutes, then remove from oven and sprinkle with a pinch of flaky sea salt. Return to oven and continue baking until cookies are browned and still puffy and edges have begun to set, but centers are still soft (cookies will look raw between cracks and seem underdone), about 2-4 more minutes. Rotating baking sheet halfway through baking if cookies seem to be baking unevenly. Do not overbake.
Cool cookies on baking sheet 5 minutes; using wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack and cool to room temperature.
See Café Tips above for more detailed instruction and extra tips.
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