It’s no secret that butter is crucial to so many recipes, especially baked goods. It provides flavor, affects texture, and sometimes even aids in leavening. I could sing the praises of butter all day long—and browned butter, well, that’s a whole other level. And thanks to its deepened, nutty flavor, it can take your baking to another level too.
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Browned butter can be used in both savory and sweet applications, but I especially love it in cookies—like the Browned Butter Snickerdoodles from ATK Kids’ latest book, The Complete Cookbook for Teen Chefs. Snickerdoodles are already an all-time classic, but the use of the browned butter in this recipe makes the flavor of these cookies something extra special. The nuttiness of the butter is the perfect complement to the sweet, cinnamony flavor that snickerdoodles are known for.
Browned butter owes its complexity of flavor to the Maillard reaction. As you melt butter in a hot skillet and then let it bubble, its amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) react with its sugars to create new, nutty-flavored, brown-colored (and very delicious) compounds that add even more flavor to the classic snickerdoodle.
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How to Brown (Not Burn!) Butter
Browning butter is easy to do—just make sure you keep a careful eye on it so that it doesn’t go too far and burn. Using a light-colored skillet is key; a dark-colored skillet makes it difficult to see when the butter has reached the correct color.
Here’s how it’s done:
- Melt the butter on medium heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low as the butter browns.
- Continue to cook, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pan with a rubber spatula until the butter solids turn the color of milk chocolate, 4 to 8 minutes.
- Once the butter has reached the correct color, make sure to turn off the heat and use it immediately or transfer it to another container. Otherwise, the residual heat from the skillet might burn it.
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