Some things in life are too good to be kept to yourself. These cookies are one of those things. I've spent the past few days at home on the farm, and the day I got home I spent about 10 minutes extolling the virtues of this recipe, which I'd made the previous day. Finally, I just stopped talking and started assembling the ingredients. After all, tasting is believing, and I think everyone who tries one of these cookies will quickly become a convert.
Aside from baking and eating the world's best cookies, these days are full of small but important adventures.
In the morning, I sit on a wooden fence in the cow pasture, squinting into the sunlight, watching my mom coax our old milking cow into a harness and listening to the particular white noise of a late summer day on a farm: birds calling, a dry rustling of insects and crickets and bees, wind in the trees.
These days pass at a slow, easy amble. In the evening, I follow my mom to the field where she feeds our two Yorkshire pigs. They're fantastically huge. When they hear the clink of a dinner pail, they heave themselves up and walk with a gentle, rolling gait to their troughs, waiting to be fed. I like to sit and watch them eat. Our hens hover nearby, darting in and out to peck at the pigs' feed.
We come inside, pour glasses of wine, and make dinner together at the kitchen island. We have leftover pizza (more on that to come) and kale, ricotta, and butternut squash lasagna. There's always salad and earlier I made a Southern-style cornbread.
And after dinner, these cookies. Make these once, and you'll be forever ruined for regular chocolate chip cookies. The secret is a simple one: brown butter. Nutty and fragrant, brown butter transforms the cookie dough into something seriously addictive. Warning: Your kitchen will smell exceptionally good once you add the butter to the dough, and you will probably want to eat all the dough right then and there.
What gives the cookies such excellent texture is that you only brown half of the butter. The rest is creamed with brown sugar, as you would in a standard cookie recipe. This gives an airiness to your dough; if you used all melted browned butter, the batter wouldn't be as fluffy and thick. Adding the cooled liquid brown butter later intensifies the flavor without sacrificing that wonderfully light, creamy texture.
A pinch of sea salt on the top of the cookies balances out their sweetness and intensifies the bittersweet chocolate. I sometimes use smoked sea salt, but that's entirely optional.
Brown Butter + Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Joy the Baker
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon molasses
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (or use chocolate chips)
2 teaspoons flaky sea salt, for sprinkling
In a small saucepan (ideally with a light-colored interior), melt 1 stick of butter over medium-high heat. Once the butter is melted and is foaming, swirl it around pretty constantly. Continue to cook and swirl. The foaming will subside and the butter will start to brown, getting flecks throughout it. Cook for about 2 minutes until it smells fragrant and nutty and has lots of brown flecks.
Pour the browned butter into a bowl and set it aside to cool.
In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream the rest of the butter with the brown sugar until very light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add the vanilla and molasses and mix. Pour in the granulated sugar and the cooled brown butter and beat until light and fluffy, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Add the egg and egg yolk and mix well.
Add the flour, salt, and baking soda and beat on low speed until everything comes together, but don't overmix. Using a spatula, fold in the chocolate.
Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes to help it firm up. Just before you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment.
Scoop spoonfuls of dough onto the parchment-lined baking sheets. Leave a few inches between each cookie as they will spread. Sprinkle the tops of the dough generously with flaky sea salt.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until brown around the edges.
As soon as you take the cookies out (while they are still very hot), use the back of a spoon to tap gently but firmly on the top of each cookie. This will smoosh down any doming that happens and give the cookies that sexy, rumpled, bakery-quality look to them.
Let the cookies cool on a rack.