Rich and nutty brown butter is a special ingredient with the power to make everything it touches taste a little more luxurious — including sugar cookies. With the addition of brown butter, the classic sugar cookie of our childhood takes on a deep, mellow richness with hints of toasted nuts in every bite. By simply browning the butter, we're giving everyone's favorite holiday cookie an instant upgrade for an extra-special touch on this year's cookie tray.
Make and Chill the Brown Butter
Brown butter is nothing more than butter cooked down over low heat on the stovetop until the milk solids eventually separate and cook until they take on a deep, nutty aroma.
Since brown butter takes on the consistency of oil when warm, plan to prepare the brown butter at least 30 minutes before making the cookie dough so you have time to chill it until it becomes firm again. Once solidified, it's combined with the sugar and creamed until fluffy for a cookie with an incredibly tender crumb.
Brown Butter Sugar Cookies
Makes about 24 cookies
2 1/2 sticks
(10 ounces) unsalted butter
packed light brown sugar
large egg yolk
Melt the butter in a light-colored, high-sided large frying pan over medium heat. Swirl the pan occasionally to be sure the butter is cooking evenly.
As the butter melts, it will begin to foam. The color will progress from lemony-yellow to golden-tan to a toasty-brown. Once you smell that nutty aroma, immediately take the pan off the heat and scrape the browned butter, including any browned bits, into a heatproof bowl. Refrigerate until solidified, about 30 minutes.
Arrange 2 racks to divide the oven into thirds and heat to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl. Place the browned butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. (Alternatively, use an electric hand mixer and large bowl.) Beat on medium speed until fluffy and combined, 1 to 2 minutes. Beat in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture on low speed until just combined.
Scoop tablespoon-sized pieces of dough from the bowl, and roll between your palms to form a ball. Place on the baking sheets about 1 inch apart.
Bake for 8 minutes. Rotate the baking sheets from front to back and between racks and bake until the cookies are set and the edges are lightly browned, 4 to 7 minutes more. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then use a flat spatula to transfer to them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Make ahead: The brown butter can be made 1 day in advance. The cookie dough can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 3 months.
Storage: Store the baked cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.