Finding the perfect sugar cookie is pretty difficult. In my opinion, the best ones are crackling with a sugary exterior but are chewy on the inside. Not at all puffy. You know, like the ones from the mall? Sometimes they can be a little boring though, even when a bit of lemon zest is added. I was looking for inspiration last month; a way to build a better sugar cookie. With autumn flavors creeping into the kitchen, I was leaning toward caramel, toffee or even Chai notes. I thumbed through one of my favorite reference guides, The Cook's Illustrated Cookbook for tips on achieving the perfect texture. I couldn't believe my luck when I saw they also had a recipe for the EXACT cookie I was craving! Brown Sugar Cookies made with browned butter, brown sugar and a lot of vanilla. The only thing I added was a sizeable amount of bagged toffee pieces. The browned butter gave a great depth of nutty flavor while the melting process adds to the chewy texture (as opposed to using a traditional creaming method). I've made this recipe a couple times using both light and dark brown sugar. The taste doesn't change much but I found the appearance of the light brown sugar cookies a little more appealing. They travel very well and would be a perfect addition to a cookie exchange!
- 14 Tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
- 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 3/4 cups packed light brown sugar, plus 3 Tablespoons
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons (about 10 1/2 ounces)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 bag English toffee pieces (about 5 ounces)
Heat 10 tablespoons butter in a stainless steel skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue to cook, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. You'll start to notice brown bits forming. Remove skillet from heat and transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter to melt; set aside for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with a silicone mat or parchment paper. In a shallow baking dish or pie plate, mix granulated sugar and the 3T packed brown sugar with a fork until well combined; set aside. Whisk flour, baking soda, and baking powder together in medium bowl; set aside. Add remaining 1 3/4 cups brown sugar and salt to bowl with cooled butter; mix until no sugar lumps remain, about 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula; add egg, yolk, and vanilla and mix until fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. Scrape down bowl. Add flour mixture and mix until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in the toffee pieces. Give dough final stir with rubber spatula to ensure that no flour pockets remain and ingredients are evenly distributed. Using an ice cream scoop (measuring about 2 tablespoons) to measure out the dough, roll each scoop between hands, forming into balls about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Working in batches, roll the tops of the cookie balls in reserved sugar mixture and set on prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Bake one sheet at a time 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; see photo below), 12 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Do not overbake. Cool cookies on baking sheet 5 minutes; using wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack and cool to room temperature.