Sometimes, the only thing that separates good cookies from bad is the use of butter. Oil and butter are both fats, and while they both elevate the flavor and texture of baked items like cookies and give them structure, they cannot be used interchangeably. Butter reigns supreme since it provides a richer flavor to the cookies. Now, imagine all that creamy, buttery flavor amplified.
Butter doesn't really need anything extra to taste good, but browning it can be a game changer. When you use browned butter for baking, not only will your kitchen smell incredible, but the flavors will be more intense with a rich, nutty taste. The French call it beurre noisette, which means hazelnut butter. The name alludes to the deep brown color of hazelnuts. It is extensively used in French baking and makes for an incredible sauce that amplifies the flavor of dishes that call for butter.
Butter helps cookie dough spread while baking due to its water content. Butter and sugar create air pockets when creamed which helps leaven the cookies. When you use brown butter, the dough will not spread as much since it has a lower water content. You will still get a soft and tender texture overall, but it may not be so crispy on the outside.
It's Not The Same As Clarified Butter Or Ghee
Brown butter and clarified butter are both made by melting butter, but they are not the same thing. Brown butter is made by heating up butter until the water evaporates. The butter will eventually turn brown and the milk solids land on the bottom of the cookware. From there, ghee can be made by filtering out the browned milk solids. Clarified butter, on the other hand, is butter without water or milk solids. Once you have made brown butter, it can be bottled and stored in the freezer for a few months.
When baking cookies with brown butter, add a little water to avoid it from getting too greasy when fully baked. The water will also reintroduce the moisture lost from browning the butter. Using liquid brown butter instead of solid can also make a difference in the cookies' texture. It can make the cookies chewy and dense.
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