Monday, May 31, 2010

Brown Butter Shortbread Cookies

David, being the terrible person that he is, did a little bit of cleaning around the apartment yesterday afternoon while I napped, exhausted from our strenuous day of hotdog-eating, kite-flying, and sun-bathing at Pacific Beach.  Do you feel sorry for me yet?

I tell you this because he put a long-lost six-month-old issue of Real Simple on top of the toilet, the spine of which caught my eye as I was getting ready for bed that night.  Alongside the name of the magazine and month of distribution, there was a quote by Charles W. Chesnutt (whoever he is): "We sometimes underestimate the influence of little things."

It made me think of my friend Julia, who is in Atlanta right now as part of a program called Mission Year.  She and her teammates live in an inner-city neighborhood, and basically spend their time volunteering and trying to be good neighbors.  The ways in which they help, like tutoring and giving neighbors rides to the grocery store, may seem small to some, but I know that they make a real and tangible difference in their community.  Julia and her teammates have a limited food budget, so Julia asked me if I could send some cookies for her and her roommates/teammates.  Of course, I was happy to oblige.

So, in celebration of "the little things", I am sending them these Brown Butter Shortbread Cookies.  I took a basic shortbread cookie recipe, but browned the butter before making the dough.  This was a small change that resulted in a shortbread cookie with lots of oomph, so to speak.  I hope Julia and her teammates enjoy them.

Brown Butter Shortbread Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

Cut the butter into cubes and melt in a small saucepan.  Cook the butter, stirring occasionally, until it becomes a golden, amber color.  For more detailed instructions on how to brown butter, see my previous post.  When the butter has been browned, pour into a dish and chill in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours or until just firm.

Cream the butter with the powdered sugar and salt until fluffy.  Add the vanilla extract and mix until combined.  Beat in the flour.  At first, the dough may seem crumbly, and it may seem like it will never come together, but keep working at it until the dough is combined. 

Roll the dough into a cylinder with a diameter of 1 1/2 inches.  Chill in the fridge for three hours.

When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Take the dough out of the fridge and let soften for a minute or two, so that you can slice it without it crumbling.  Slice the dough into 3/4 inch thick cookies.  Place on cookie sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until slightly golden at the edges.  Cool on wire racks until it reaches room temperature.

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