Brown Butter, Salted, Chocolate Chip Cookies - Part 2

I'm not sure that I'll ever have enough chocolate chip cookie recipes. For me, the chocolate chip cookie platonic ideal has remained unchanged: crisped on the outside, soft on the inside, with lots of caramel flavor and a touch of salt.

Each time I make a batch of cookies I learn something new. The other day I was helping my friend cater a small event and we were serving chocolate chip cookies as part of the desert. I am always picking up great tips from her, and she often figures out how to make recipes as simple as possible. She said she uses 3 sticks of 100% browned butter, and she mixes everything up without a mixer. I took a cue from her, and revisited my cookie recipe.  I used more butter (but also more flour), cut out any electric mixers, and I added some molasses (just a touch) to the batter to add another layer of caramel flavor. 

Here's a few things I've learned about making soft/crispy cookies:
  1. The darkness of the sheet pan matters. I prefer a lighter pan because it will keep the cookies from getting too hard/crisp. Darker pans make darker cookies (seriously).
  2. Don't over bake. Take these guys out as soon as they start to color but still look a little underdone.
  3. Let the cookies cool on the sheet pan for a few minutes, but not for too long... 5 minutes max.
  4. Using more brown sugar than white sugar helps with the gooey texture/caramel flavor. Molasses helps, too.
  5. Use really good chocolate... I like 60-70% dark or bittersweet chocolate Guittard or Guirardelli for chips... You could use a good quality dark chocolate if you want to do chunks instead.
I'm sure this won't be my last round of chocolate chip cookie testing... but for the time being this recipe will definitely do the trick.

Brown Butter Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes approximately 4 dozen cookies

cups unsalted butter (3 sticks)
1 cup light brown sugar
 ½ cup granulated sugar

2¾ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
 ½ teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons molasses
2 eggs
1 10-12 oz. bag chocolate chips (238-340 grams) different brands come in different weights
flake salt to sprinkle at the end

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Place the racks in the top 1/3 and lower 1/3 of the oven. Line your baking sheet(s) with parchment paper. This recipe will make about 4 sheets worth of cookies.

In a saucepan that is light in color (like stainless steel or ceramic... you want to make sure you can see the color of the butter) make the brown butter. Start by melting the butter over low heat. Once the butter is melted you can raise the heat to medium. The butter will start to get foamy, swirl it around or stir; this will help make sure all the moisture and bubbles get released. Watch the butter closely, once it turns brown with little sand-like flecks you have brown butter. It will smell very nutty and aromatic. Remove it from the heat, transfer it into a heat proof mixing bowl and add the sugar to the brown butter. Stir and let the mixture cool a bit while you prepare the other ingredients. 

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

Once the butter sugar mixture has cooled slightly, add the vanilla and molasses. Stir until incorporated. Add two eggs. Stir until the eggs are fully incorporated. Slowly add in the the flour mixture. Stir until the batter just comes together, be careful not to over mix. Add the chocolate chips and stir until they are evenly distributed. Let the dough rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or even overnight. You can also scoop out the dough, freeze it on the tray, transfer it to the bag, and save for when you're ready to bake cookies.

Using a 1½ tablespoon ice cream scoop, or using a heaping tablespoon, scoop out the dough onto the parchment-lined sheet pan. Make sure each scoop is at about 2 inches apart from each other. The cookies will spread as they bake. Sprinkle the dough with flake salt.

Bake for 11-13 minutes, or until the cookies just start to turn golden but still appear soft. Let the cookies sit on the sheet pan for 3 minutes, then carefully transfer them to a rack to cool.

Eat warm or at room temp and enjoy!

My grandmother's Borscht

As the child of Russian immigrants, beets played a big role in my culinary upbringing. Borscht is the king of all beet dishes, and no one makes it better than my maternal grandmother.

Borscht is beet soup.  Many Russians include meat in their borscht.  The kind that I grew up eating was vegetarian, and it is the kind I prefer.

My grandparents have very civilized meals.  Among other things, they begin every dinner with a bowl of soup. Borscht is in heavy rotation in a cycle of other great soups.

I have made borscht different ways.  I have also made non-borscht beet soups (creamy, with yogurt and dill). This recipe is the most classic version of this type of soup.  To me, it tastes like home and family. It tastes like sweet earth, bright with lemon and dill. A dollop of sour cream is an essential component. Extra fresh dill always helps. The soup does take a bit of work, but each step is easy.

To make this borscht especially good, I started by getting all of my ingredients at the Hollywood farmer's market.  I especially like going to the market when I have a specific recipe in mind; hunting for root veggies and cabbage couldn't be easier in February... even if you're not in agriculturally abundant California. These ingredients are also readily available at any grocery store.

From my experiences growing up bringing "weird" things to school in my lunchbox, I know this stuff isn't for everyone. But if you're into beets, and you're into soups, you'll probably enjoy Borscht.

Baba's Borscht
Serves 10-12

1 large onion, or 2 small onions, peeled and halved
3 stalks of celery
handful of fresh parsley
1 bay leaf
3 cloves garlic, peeled
3-4 medium sized beets, shredded
2 medium carrots, shredded
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups finely shredded cabbage
2 cups roughly shopped beet greens (optional)
1/4 cup freshly chopped dill
Juice of 1 lemon
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
Sour cream 

Fill a large pot with water.  Add your peeled and halved onions, celery stalks, flat leaf parsley, garlic and bay leaf to the pot.  Season the water with a generous amount of salt.  Bring the ingredients to a boil, lower to a simmer, and let the steep for 30 minutes.  

While your broth is simmering, peel your carrots and beets.  If you do not want beet-stained hands, use disposable gloves whilst peeling your beets.  To make life easy, you can shred your carrots and beets in a food processor.  If you don't have a food processor, or you want to work out your dominant arm's bicep, you can shred the beets and carrots with a box grater.  Add the olive oil to a large pan on medium high heat.  Add the shredded beets and carrots to the pan.  Season with salt and pepper. Sautee the vegetables until they are softened, about 15 minutes.

Once the beets and carrots have wilted and softened, and the broth has been simmering for a while, you can scoop out the onion, celery, parsley, garlic, etc. from the broth using a spider or slotted spoon.  Add the shredded cabbage and beet greens to the pot (I save the tops of the beets, wash them really well, and chop them up... if you didn't get your beets with greens, you can skip this ingredient).   Add the cooked beets and cabbage to the pot.  Bring the liquid to a boil and simmer for 45 minutes.  

At this point, the flavors will come together, and the liquid will become a brilliant red color. Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn off the heat and add the lemon juice and fresh dill to the pot. Ladle and serve the borscht with a generous dollop of sour cream.  I like to serve this soup hot, but you can also eat it chilled.

Borscht is best eaten with a chunk of hearty crusty bread.  If you're feeling really Russian, you can also eat your borscht with a side of raw garlic cloves, seriously.