On the eighth day of Christmas … my true love gave to me … Heavenly Brown Butter, Lavender & Lime Cookies.
If you have been reading this blog over the 15 months of its existence, you probably know by now that I am very fond of two flavors to an inordinate degree: lavender and lime. You may even remember the Blueberry Lavender Limeade I created this past summer. That inspired flavor combination still lingers in my mind.
Now add to that the fact that every dessert cookbook I pick up seems to contain a lyrical, almost devotional testimonial to the magical properties of brown butter. Is it a sign? Is the Spirit of Christmas speaking to me?
I decided to find out by combining heavenly brown butter with, yes, you guessed it, lavender and lime. The result is, simply, quite out of this world.
The Trouble with Brown Butter
As it turns out, the unsalted butter I use (Trader Joe’s) contains about 20% water. The typical amount of water in butter is often said to be 15%.
When you make brown butter, you evaporate most of that water from the butter. Thus, brown butter is nearly all fat with hardly any liquid. It is the liquid in the butter that binds with the gluten in the flour to create a structure that holds together after baking.
If you use the same proportion of brown butter as regular butter in cookies that contain no other liquid, the resulting cookie will be so “short” and crumbly that you will barely be able to pick it up without it falling apart in your hands. The taste will be wonderful, but you will be eating a handful of crumbs rather than a cookie.
I learned this lesson the hard way this holiday baking season. After some experimentation, I determined that each stick (8 tablespoons) of Trader Joe’s unsalted butter loses about 1½ tablespoon of liquid during the conversion to brown butter. Thus, for cookies that contain no other liquid, you must resupply that 1½ tablespoon of liquid to every 6½ tablespoons of brown butter. The liquid can be anything that does not contain additional fat, such as water, cider, citrus juice, fruit juice, and so on.
To determine how much liquid is held in suspension in your particular brand of butter, simply make brown butter as described below, pour it into a 2-cup glass measuring cup, and determine the difference between the new liquid measure and the original 2 cups of melted butter. That difference must be resupplied with liquid, if no other liquid is called for in your cookie recipe.
Heavenly Brown Butter Lavender Lime Cookies
These delicate, crisp, crunchy, super buttery cookies are as good as cookies get in my humble opinion. The lime flavor is pronounced and underscored with the soft note of lavender. Cookies for the angels!
3 cups (13½ ounces) King Arthur unbleached, all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
16½ tablespoons (8¼ ounces) chilled brown butter (below)
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon dried culinary lavender
finely minced zest of 2 limes
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons cold water
½ teaspoon lime oil (or 1 teaspoon lime extract)
colored sanding sugar
raspberry jelly, melted, stirred until smooth, cooled to room temperature, and put into a piping bag fitted with a fine tip
- In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour and salt. Reserve.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the chilled brown butter and sugar.
- Add the lavender and lime zest, and incorporate.
- Add the lime juice, cold water, and lime oil, and incorporate.
- Add the flour mixture and mix very briefly on very slow speed, just until a dough forms.
- Using a #70 scoop (1 tablespoon) with a release mechanism, scoop balls of dough, leveling each ball with the edges of the scoop. (Thus each ball will have one flat surface.)
- You can arrange the dough balls closely together on a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for as long as a couple of days, or proceed immediately to baking.
- Coat a baking sheet lightly with vegetable spray. Arrange 12 cookie balls, flat sides down, 2 inches apart, on the baking sheet.
- Lay a sheet of waxed paper over the cookies and using a meat pounder or other heavy, flat object, gently flatten each cookie ball to a ¼-inch thickness.
- If desired, impress each cookie with a skewer or other implement to create a design. Sprinkle colored sanding sugar over each cookie to emphasize the lines of your design. Create a small indent in the center of each cookie and pipe a small dot of jelly into the indented space.
- Bake each sheet of cookies at 350° for about 13-14 minutes, rotating the pan at the halfway point to ensure even browning.
- Remove from the oven, loosen each cookie with a thin spatula and let cool for 3-4 minutes on the pan. Remove cookies from the cookie sheet and place on a wire rack and cool completely.
- Store airtight, in layers separated by wax paper rounds, in a cookie tin, in a cool, dry place. These cookies improve with age. They keep for 3-4 weeks. Cookies may also be frozen.
Makes about 6 dozen, 2¼-inch diameter cookies.
As long as you are making brown butter, make enough to have on hand for a week or two.
1 pound unsalted butter (4 sticks)
- In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.
- Continue cooking butter at a slow simmer (don’t worry about the foam), until the butter turns a light caramel color and you smell a nutty aroma.
- Remove from the heat immediately and pour through a triple mesh strainer into a 1-quart measuring cup.
- Let cool to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until hardened.
Also, check out last year’s collection, Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Deck the Halls.