Remember Mall Cookies? Back when we could spend an entire day in the mall shopping, we would undoubtedly meander through the common area and be assaulted by the fragrant aroma of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies! If you can ignore that type of temptation, stop reading right now! If you were the type who gave in to the warm, chewy inside, crunchy edges, caramel flavored cookies packed with chocolate and a hint of salt, you probably wish you could make those in your kitchen. Why did those cookies taste so much better than the ones we could make at home? The secret is in the browned butter. Many people will abandon a recipe when it asks you to brown butter for fear of scalding it but I promise, if you will take the plunge, you will find the added flavor to be worth the additional step. Don't be afraid of browning butter!
Browning butter has four basic stages; melting, foaming, boiling, then browning. Knowing the steps makes us less apprehensive about boiling butter. Most of my cookie recipes call for softened butter, which is a cream product. I caution bakers not to put butter in the microwave to soften it because adding heat will turn it from a cream product to an oil product. This is a case where you have to turn butter into oil, because along with it comes the wonderfully rich, nutty flavor that is created when the milk proteins separate and sink to the bottom of the pan.
In your hot saucepan, the butter will immediately melt and begin to foam. Stir it but be careful to to let it overflow onto your stove top.
Next the butter will begin to boil. Continue stirring because a chemical reaction is taking place that is separating the milk protein from the oil.
In a matter of a few minutes, the liquified butter will turn a rich, amber color. If you move the little bit of foam away, you will see the browned bits of milk protein covering the bottom of the pan. You want to remove it from the heat and pour it into another bowl to cool. I don't let it cool in the saucepan because the pan is hot and will continue to cook (and possibly scald) your butter.
When pouring up the butter, make sure you get all the little brown pieces from the bottom of the pan because that is where the powerful, caramel-y, nutty flavor comes from.
I usually let my butter cool 15-20 minutes until it is cool to touch. Adding it while it is still warm could melt your chocolate chips, which is not entirely a bad thing but not the look we are going for. Once you have browned your butter, the hardest part is done. Now blend your dry ingredients with your wet ingredients. One of the things this recipe requires that I don't use much is dark brown sugar. I have about 15 lbs. of light brown sugar in my pantry at all times, but I have to get dark brown sugar for this recipe. The extra molasses is what provides the rich flavor not achieved by white sugar. This recipe also calls for a tablespoon of Cookie Nip rather than the teaspoon that most cookies require. Another secret is that this recipe involves both semi-sweet and milk chocolate chips! Notice how much darker the dough is when you use dark brown sugar and browned butter!
Roll the dough into balls and place on a parchment covered pan. Flash freeze for two hours. Don't skip this step. We need the butter/oil to become solid again and the flavors need time to marry. After two hours, you can put them all in a Ziploc bag and freeze for months (as if they will last that long!) Take out as many as you want and bake as needed. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Arrange on a baking stone about 2" apart because they will spread.
Bake for 10-12 minutes until the edges are golden brown. Right after they come out of the oven I grab a few more chocolate chips and arrange them on the top because it looks pretty and I don't mind chocolate. Finally, sprinkle with flaky sea salt.
It makes sense that these could be easily served in a mall because they are mixed up and frozen and shipped to the mall to be baked on site and served warm. From beginning to end these take a little more time but if you mix them up and freeze you can have them in about 15 minutes to take to an event. One bite and you will think you are mall shopping!
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