Brown Sugar Is Beautiful


I’ve been on a cookie craze for the past few weeks. It didn’t necessarily mesh with the high heat and humidity we’d been experiencing until this past week, but it certainly proved useful for things like church picnics, afternoon snacks, and camping trips.

I was also in the mood to try something new. My cookie repertoire tends to get stuck in a rut. Chocolate chip ranks as #1 in our house followed by oatmeal raisin cookies. I was in the mood for a good chewy molasses cookie, but I’ve been out of molasses for a couple of months and continue to forget to put it on the shopping list. So, what about a sugar cookie? I wanted one that would be chewy–not crumbly and crisp like most of the recipes I have turn out.

I turned to my first reference, my Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook (2001-2010) and came up with nothing in the way of that white, sugar-coated, chewy cookie I was looking for (more on that later). However, leading the troops on p. 458, there was a brown sugar cookie recipe whose description summarized a desire for a cookie that, “like Mick Jagger, would scream ‘brown sugar’.” Hmmm… Intrigued? I was!

Think about it: when I say “chocolate chip cookie”, you can taste it. Peanut butter cookie. Molasses. Sugar. Oatmeal raisin. (Would you like a glass of milk?) But then I say “brown sugar cookie.” I don’t know about you, but I drew a blank. I know what brown sugar tastes like, but how would that translate into a cookie? Too sweet? Too bland? But never one to shirk at trying a new baking recipe just to see if it’s good, I thought I’d try it. And, as always, I figured it couldn’t be horrible if it came from my friends at ATK.

This is not your ordinary cookie recipe, and it requires a couple of additional steps that some might consider laborious, but I’ve learned that you don’t doubt the steps of an ATK recipe. And it isn’t difficult. After making the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie which utilizes a similar process, the technique was not unfamiliar. It involves browning butter and then a bit of waiting for the butter to cool versus the “whisk and wait” in the chocolate chip cookies (which are totally worth the extra minutes, let me tell you!). There’s lots of brown sugar and a whopping tablespoon of vanilla. Yum.

Let’s face it–this isn’t a bedazzling cookie. Humble, perhaps. Makes you think of something from “back in the olden days”, right? But remember: looks can be deceiving. Case in point: I had a lot of cookies left after our church picnic, so I sent some of these home with my mother-in-law. When I saw her the next week, she asked, “What were those cookies? I assumed they were ginger snaps [which she doesn’t really care for] and after a few days figured, Fine. I’ll try one. But they’re really good!” 

Bolder than a sugar cookie, reminiscent of a chocolate chip cookie without the chocolate, and lacking the bite of a molasses or ginger cookie, these cookies are hard to resist. They’d be awesome with a layer of good vanilla bean ice cream sandwiched between two of them. Beautiful.

And wouldn’t you know it, about a week after making these, I found the “Make Chewy Sugar Cookies with Bridget” on the America’s Test Kitchen Feed website. But that’s another story for another day… 🙂


Brown Sugar Cookies

from America’s Test Kitchen

  • 14 Tbsp (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups packed (14 oz.) dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups plus 2 Tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
  1. Melt 10 Tbsp. of the butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat, about 2 minutes. Continue to cook, swirling the pan constantly until the butter is dark golden brown and has a nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Transfer the browned butter to a large heatproof bowl. Stir the remaining 4 Tbsp. butter into the hot butter to melt; set aside for 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. In a shallow baking dish or pie plate, mix 1/4 cup of the brown sugar and the granulated sugar, rubbing the mixture between your fingers until well combined; set aside. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and baking powder together in a medium bowl; set aside.
  3. Add the remaining 1 3/4 cups brown sugar and the salt to the bowl with the cooled butter; mix until no sugar lumps remain, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula; add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and mix until fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. Scraped down the bowl. Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined, about 1 minute. Give the dough a final stir to ensure that no flour pockets remain and the ingredients are evenly distributed.
  4. Divide the dough into 24 portions, each about 2 Tbsp., rolling them between your hands into balls 12 dough balls into the baking dish with the sugar mixture and toss to coat. Set the dough balls on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart; repeat with the second batch of 12.
  5. Bake one sheet at a time until the cookies are browned and still puffy and the edges have begun to set but the centers are still soft (the cookies will look raw between the cracks and seem underdone), 12 to 14 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through the bakign time. Do not overbake.
  6. Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for 5 minutes; using a wide metal spatula, transfer the cookies to a wire rack and cool to room temperature.

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