Culinary question: Does brown butter really make cookies taste better?

Photo of chocolate chips cookies
Maddie Fruman/Staff

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Now, we have all heard the sentiment, “Butter makes everything better,” which I wholeheartedly agree with, but what kind of butter makes the best cookies? Is it a notorious, browned butter with its caramel notes? Or just a regular, softened butter with its nostalgic ambiance? I put this question to the test this past weekend to finally answer the question — and also, to find another excuse to make cookies. 

For both kinds of butter, I went with a standard recipe as follows.

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks salted butter (softened or browned)
  • 1 cup brown sugar 
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 ½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking flour
  • ~2 cups of chocolate chips
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
  2. Add your softened or browned butter to a large bowl. Beat in sugars until combined.
  3. Add eggs and vanilla to the bowl and mix thoroughly. 
  4. In a separate bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda and powder).
  5. Slowly add the flour mixture into the butter and sugar mixture in two parts, mixing thoroughly after each addition.
  6. After the flour mixture is combined into the butter and sugar mixture, add chocolate chips, and mix until they are evenly distributed.
  7. Spoon the cookie dough onto a greased baking sheet 2 inches apart, and bake for 8-10 minutes.
Directions for preparing brown butter
  1. Cut two sticks of butter into cubes.
  2. Place the cubes into a small pot and turn heat on medium.
  3. Consistently stir as all the butter melts and foams.
  4. Heat until the foam subsides and the butter turns a caramel color (approximately five minutes).
  5. Turn off the heat and place into a heat-safe mug, allowing it to cool before mixing with the rest of the ingredients.

The results

As I pulled the last of the cookies out of the oven, my family and I crowded around the counter to taste one of each cookie. The cookies with brown butter were much nuttier and had a caramel taste, while the cookies with softened butter were more fluffy and had more of a sugar cookie flavor. Overall, my family was split between the two cookies, but we came to an overall conclusion: The cookies with browned butter were more formal cookies, with caramel notes for a more sophisticated bite. Moreover, the regular cookies were a crowd-pleaser, and more of the one-note nostalgic chocolate chip cookies we all grew up with. Both cookies were great but better fit for different occasions. 

What I learned

Brown butter cookies go well with both dark chocolate and milk chocolate chips, rather than just one or the other.

When making chocolate chip cookies with brown butter, add more butter. I ended up using ½ stick more in the end because the sugar absorbs the butter faster when it is melted.

The softened butter cookies were a bit sweeter and had less of a distinct flavor. I advise you add more vanilla and salt to make them more flavorful.

No matter what butter you choose, cookies are cookies, and they’re going to be great. Enjoy!

Contact Isabella Carreno at [email protected].