I am going to put it all out there…I am not a fan of coconut. BUT, I am a fan of thin, crisp cookies and Browned Butter, so when my friend Helene Bludman posted a link to these Coconut Browned Butter Cookies from Smitten Kitchen (one of my favorite food websites), I took notice.
Browned Butter puts its pale yellow, insipid cousin to shame. It is butter that’s gone on a vacation…to the tropics…and it’s come home all tawny and burnished, and smelling goood. It’s a little wild, a little flirty and sputtery, so it needs to be watched carefully as you melt it down. First comes the foam and the sputter, and then comes the caramelization process and the “sun tanning” begins. Your kitchen begins to fill with a nutty aroma and just a second before it goes over the edge into burnt butter oblivion, you grab that hot sucker of a pan off the stove and pour everything (including the browned bits at the bottom) into a glass container (yes, anything plastic will melt).
“Browned Butter is butter that’s gone on a vacation…to the tropics.”
Browned Butter is a treasure. Once it’s cold, it can be beaten into submission with sugar and eggs and folded into flour to make a totally awesome cookie dough. It is not a one-trick pony, however…it can be tossed with pasta or spooned into risotto to make a savory dish that much richer. These Coconut Cookies should be crispy, not chewy, so bake them until they are a deep russet. And if, like me, you think you don’t like coconut, get over yourself. You will love these cookies! (BTW, it might be gilding the lily, but a handful of very bitter dark chocolate chips would be a great addition. Fold them in at the very end.)
COCONUT BROWN BUTTER COOKIES
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
1 cup (2 sticks or 225 grams) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (125 grams) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (145 grams) packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons (175 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
Slightly heaped 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt or 1/4 teaspoon table salt
4 cups (240 grams) dried, unsweetened coconut chips (if you can't find coconut chips, use sweetened coconut and decrease sugar quantities by 1 Tbsp. each)
1 cup dark chocolate chips (opt.)
In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. It will melt, then foam, then turn clear golden and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty. Stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom as you do. Don’t take your eyes off the pot as it seems to take forever (more than 5 minutes) but then turns dark very quickly. Once it is a deeply fragrant, almost nut-brown color, remove from heat and pour butter and all browned bits at the bottom into a glass measuring cup. Adding 2 tablespoons water should bring the butter amount back up to 1 cup. Chill browned butter in the fridge until it solidifies, about 1 to 2 hours.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Scrape chilled browned butter and any bits into the bowl of an electric mixer. Add both sugars and beat the mixture together until fluffy. Add egg and beat until combined, scraping down bowl as needed, then vanilla.
Whisk flour, baking soda and salt together in a separate bowl. Pour half of flour mixture into butter mixture and mix until combined, then add remaining flour and mix again, scraping down bowl if needed. Add coconut chips (and chocolate chips, if using) in two parts as well. Scoop dough into 1, 2 or more (a 2-inch wide scoop for bakery-sized cookies works best) balls and arrange a few with a lot of room for spreading on first baking sheet; use the back of a spoon or your fingers to flatten the dough ever so slightly. Bake first tray of cookies; 1 tablespoon scoops will take 10 to 11 minutes; 2 tablespoon scoops, 12 to 14 minutes, the 2-inch scoop used at the bakery, 14 to 16 minutes; take the cookies out when they’re deeply golden all over. If cookies have not spread as much as you see above, stir 2 teaspoons more water into cookie dough, mixing thoroughly, before baking off another tray. (See note below for full explanation.) This should do the trick, but if it does not, repeat the same with your next batch. Once you’ve confirmed that you have the water level correct, bake remaining cookies. Cool cookies on baking sheet for 1 to 2 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Cookies keep for up to one week at room temperature. Extra dough can be stored in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for a month or more.
About the water: When you brown butter, water volume is lost, but not all types of butter contain the same amount of water. Most standard American grocery store butters (any non-European style butter), 1 tablespoon of water per stick (1/2 cup) of butter is a sufficient replacement. However, should you find that your first batch of cookies is too thick, a little extra water is all you’ll need to get the texture right.