“Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
With a simple expression, kids are taught to look inwards, to the content and character of something or someone before determining its worth.
As a small child I took it literally, carefully examining each book I picked out, even if the cover “looked stupid” because I thought that’s what it took to be a good little girl. I had a tendency to take most turns of phrase at face value as a child. It made for some confusing times. “Don’t drink and drive” had me berating my mother for reaching for her can of root beer while on the road. “Don’t run across the road” had me traversing a crosswalk at a snail’s pace, the whole way, even as a car waited patiently at a stop sign for me to cross.
It can be hard to not judge food by its cover. Green plates of food scare off most children. Brown plates of food look somewhat dead. Baked goods not oozing with chocolate or studded with bright colours of fruit look… boring.
These cookies look boring.
Yet, I cannot stop eating them every time I make them.
It’s all about the levels of flavour this recipe manages to pack into a tiny brown disc. Brown butter, brown sugar, it’s all brown and all delicious.
They don’t look that much more appetizing while they’re being made, but they smell pretty amazing before they sneak away into the refrigerator. All sugar, fat and everything I like to put in my mouth. Sometimes the smell of a food could convince me to attempt to eat it as a kid, even if I thought it looked… questionable.
And similarly, I would try foods simply because I thought they were pretty. Sometimes this resulted in me completely hating them because they didn’t taste as “pretty” as I was expecting.
The first time I had grapefruit, I thought it looked like the most beautiful orange I had ever seen, all pink with large segments. In my brain, the pink meant that it must be a strawberry flavoured orange.
As I’m sure you know, it was not.
The utter sourness and complete opposite flavour to my expectations of that poor fruit has made me avoid them to this day. Childhood food trauma is serious business.
These cookies are the opposite. They set your expectations at dry, bland and grainy, with the only glimmer of hope shining forth from the crystals of sugar adorning its sides.
In actuality, they are flavourful, melt in your mouth, addictive little slices of wonderful.
Don’t judge a fruit by its pinkness.
Don’t judge a cookie by its plainness.
Brown Butter Brown Sugar Shorties
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar (preferably dark)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Demerara sugar (Sugar in the Raw) or sanding sugar for rolling (optional)
- Cut butter into four or five pieces and cook butter in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it has a nutty fragrance and flecks on bottom of pan turn a light brown, anywhere from 4 to 7 minutes. It helps to frequently scrape the solids off the bottom of the pan in the last couple minutes to ensure even browning. Transfer butter to a bowl and chill until just firm, about 1 hour.
- Beat together butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Beat in vanilla, then mix in flour and salt at low speed until just combined. Transfer dough to a sheet of wax paper or parchment and form into a 12-inch log, 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Chill, wrapped in wax paper, until firm, about 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Unwrap dough and roll it in coarse sugar, if using, and press the granules in with the paper you’d be using to wrap it. Slice dough into 1/4-inch-thick rounds, rotating dough log a quarter turn after each slice to avoid flattening one side of the log. Arrange dough discs 1 1/2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake until surface is dry and edges are slightly darker, 10 to 12 minutes. Let sit on sheet for a minute before transferring to a rack to cool. (Cookies will quite fragile at first, but will firm up as they cool.)
Makes approx. 32 cookies.
Note: Dough keeps, chilled, up to 1 week, or in the freezer, up to one month. Cookies keep in an airtight container at room temperature 1 week.