Brown Butter and Dark Chocolate Cookies with Smoked Sea Salt
These cookies are rich, chewy, salty, sweet, with a hint of nuttiness.
Right around 3 p.m., a vanilla latté paired with a sea salt chocolate chunk cookie really seems to hit the spot. However, I’m venturing out less (and no longer working two doors down from a coffee shop) but that salty-sweet craving still shows up. Of course, I could ignore it and instead go through another three cups of coffee, but I’d rather have the cookie. So I decided to mix it up and bake some cookies with brown butter and top them with smoked sea salt, swapping semi-sweet chocolate chips for dark chocolate chunks.
Why brown butter?
Brown butter is a quick way to richen up whatever it is that you’re cooking. As the milk solids begin to brown, they develop a toasty, nutty, caramelized flavor, and scent. Be prepared for your kitchen to smell amazing! Brown butter has long been used to add richness to baked goods and dishes. Pair it with chocolate chunks in a baked good? Now you’re onto something!
Making brown butter
Browning butter is easy, but it can just as easily go awry. You’ll want to start with:
- One stick of butter at room temperature
- Pairing knife, run under hot water
- Medium-sized stainless or light-colored non-stick pan
- Wood or rubber scraper
- Heat-resistant bowl
Cut the butter into 6-8 pieces using the warm knife. This will keep any butter from sticking to the knife, allowing you to preserve and brown every ounce of butter. Place the pads of butter into a pan and set heat to medium-low. Continuously stir the butter as it melts to ensure that it heats up evenly.
You’ll see the butter go through a few phases. It will liquefy, then begin to foam, and then begin to separate. Once you notice the milk solids beginning to turn golden brown and settle to the bottom of the pan, remove from heat. Carefully transfer the butter to a ceramic or heat-resistant bowl so that it doesn’t continue to cook. Your butter can quickly go from brown to burnt. Notice the transition of butter to golden butter to brown butter.
Using brown butter in cookie dough
Once your butter has been sufficiently toasted, it’s going to be hot. If you have time, you can let the butter rest on the countertop at room temperature. Otherwise, place it in the refrigerator while you prepare your dry ingredients. You can stir the butter every few minutes, allowing it to cool, before using it to make your cookie dough.
Creaming your sugar with brown butter is pretty quick and easy. However, it’s important to make sure that your eggs are at room temperature before adding them to your creamed sugar. Nobody wants scrambled egg bits in their cookies! Typically, I pull the butter and eggs out in the morning, let them rest on the counter, and begin baking a few hours later.
Choosing your chocolate chunks
The choice is all yours when it comes to choosing the chocolate chips or chunks for these cookies. I happen to enjoy them with dark chocolate chunks (I think the chunks are just a bit fancier than the chips) but you can mix, match, swap, whatever you’d like! Try them with half semi-sweet chocolate chips and half dark chocolate chunks, or try them with milk chocolate chips.
Salty and sweet
I’m sure you’ve had chocolate chip cookies delicately topped with sea salt flakes, but how about smoked sea salt flakes? Smoked Maldon salt is great for this recipe. The taste of smoked sea salt, on its own, slightly resembles that of bacon. It’s salty, smoky, with a hint of sweetness. Yet, when added to the chocolatey goodness of these rich cookies, there’s no bacon-like flavor at all. Instead, there’s a decadence that can only be explained with a fresh batch of these cookies.
After rolling out your cookie dough onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet, you’ll want to slightly press into each cookie using your thumb. This allows each pinch of smoked sea salt to rest on the cookie without falling onto the sheet. You can use a mortar and pestle to slightly crush the larger pieces of salt flakes, or simply add a delicate pinch to each cookie before baking.
Baking your brown butter cookies
You might notice that your cookie dough is a bit looser than usual. Let the dough sit in a bowl for 15-30 minutes, allowing it to firm up a bit. This will make scooping your dough using an ice cream scoop much easier. These cookies will spread out, so it’s important to stagger your cookies on the parchment-lined cookie sheet. For best results, use two sheets and measure out 6 cookie dough balls on each sheet. Doing so will allow them to spread out without crowding, leaving you with a chewy and delightful cookie.
I find that baking these at 375º for exactly 9 minutes, 45 seconds is the ideal time. But your oven, circulation, and elevation will all play a part. Anywhere between 9 and 11 minutes is good. Once you’ve pulled them from the oven, be sure to transfer them to a drying rack immediately. A minute too long can cause the bottoms of the cookies to become too brown and you risk losing the chewiness of these heavenly cookies.
Grab the recipe and start baking!
Rich, nutty brown butter adds a caramel-like essence to these dark chocolate chunk cookies. Smoked sea salt flakes create a decadent finish for a cookie that’s unlike any other!
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fine kosher salt
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)
2 1/2 tablespoon white sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup dark chocolate chunks, chopped
1 teaspoon smoked sea salt flakes
- Bring egg and butter to room temperature by resting on countertops for at least an hour prior to baking.
- Start making the brown butter. For best results, cut butter stick into 6-8 pads before adding to your stainless or light-colored pan without heat. Run a paring knife under hot water to easily cut through the butter without sticking.
- Place butter in a pan and turn on heat to medium-low.
- Using a wooden spoon, continuously stir the butter as it begins to melt.
- Once the butter begins to foam, stir in a circular motion and keep the butter moving in the pan.
- Once the foam subsides, watch for the milk solids at the bottom of the pan to begin turning brown. Once they reach a golden brown, turn off the heat and remove the pan from the stove.
- Transfer brown butter to a heat-safe bowl and let rest in the refrigerator while you prepare your dry ingredients.
- Preheat oven to 375º.
- In a medium-sized bowl, sift together flour, salt, and baking soda.
- In a large bowl, whisk together brown sugar and white sugar. Remove the brown butter from the refrigerator and pour into the sugar mixture.
- Using a hand mixer, beat the sugars and butter until completely incorporated.
- Add the egg and vanilla to the creamed sugar and beat again for 30-60 seconds.
- Combine the dry and wet ingredients and carefully beat together until a dough forms.
- Let the cookie dough rest for 10-15 minutes and allow it to form together if the butter is still very warm.
- Add dark chocolate chunks, chopped, and reserve a few pieces to the side.
- Using a 1 oz. ice cream scoop, form 10-12 balls, and place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Add additional dark chocolate chunks to the last few balls of dough if needed.
- Gently press your thumb on the top of each cookie and sprinkle a pinch of smoked sea salt flakes on top. Do not press too hard; the cookies will spread out on their own.
- Bake at 375º for 9-11 minutes and immediately transfer to a cooling rack.
If the milk solids in your butter are extremely brown or even black, the butter has been burnt. Start over and lower the heat. Transfer the butter from its heat source, both the stove and the pan, into a heat-safe dish.
Keywords: brown butter, cookies, dark chocolate, sea salt, salt flakes, chocolate chunk, bake