Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Brown Butter Banana Bread Cookies

Anybody familiar with the phenomenon of slowly browning bananas? You know, the ones that have passed that 'perfect to eat' stage and as days pass they continue to sit on your counter and become more brown, until the point comes where you decide to either make something with them or give them the toss. That's almost  what happened to me here. 2 lonely bananas had just passed the perfect stage when I saw a post on Tracey's Culinary Adventures for Brown Butter Banana Bread Cookies, and I knew they'd have to be saved for this recipe. The name does give a perfect description of what these cookies are: soft and fluffy cookies that have a spiced banana bread flavour and texture, while being topped with a delicious brown butter frosting. If left sitting out, these cookies will be gobbled up in no time, unlike your poor brown bananas sitting in the corner :(.

This was my first try at browning butter, and I was a bit nervous. I'd never even seen it done before, and after my multiple failed attempts at caramel sauce, I was almost certain I would fail. What resulted was me hovering over the saucepan, my nose 2 inches from the butter (probably not a smart idea), trying to catch a waft of that unmistakable 'nutty' aroma that is supposed to occur when the butter has browned. In the midst of that, I was running back and forth to my laptop rereading the instructions over and over, to the point where I finally brought my laptop into my kitchen and started googling other instructions on how to brown butter. Can you say slightly neurotic and over-anxious? I can't defend myself... I'm not perfect in the kitchen and it kills me to have to throw out butter, having done it more times than I can count on various occasions.

Yield: About 2-3 dozen depending on the size
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 cup mashed bananas (about 2 medium bananas)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 cups powdered sugar
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon half-and-half (or evaporated milk)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk the flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves together in a medium bowl. Add the butter to a medium skillet set over medium heat and let it start melting. Continue cooking, swirling the pan occasionally, until the butter becomes golden brown and smells nutty (be patient and watch carefully, it can go from brown to burnt quickly). Remove the skillet from the heat and pour the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Allow the butter to cool for a few minutes. The butter will most likely have flecks of what you think is burnt butter. Don't worry about these.

Add the sugar to the mixer bowl and beat on medium for 1-2 minutes, or until well combined. Mix in the egg until completely incorporated. Combine the mashed bananas and baking soda in a medium bowl, then let sit for 2 minutes. Add the banana mixture and vanilla to the mixer bowl and beat until completely incorporated. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl in 3 additions, mixing until just combined before adding the next batch.

Use a small cookie scoop to drop balls of the dough (about 1 tablespoon each) onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches in between them. If you don't have a cookie scoop, like myself, simply use a spoon or even your hands if it's not too sticky. Make sure that you flatten the cookies down a bit- if not they will stay in the same original round shape, which is not what you want. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the cookies are golden brown around the edges, and the centres spring back when lightly pressed. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and let the cookies cool for a few minutes before removing them to the rack.

To make the icing: Add the powdered sugar to a large heatproof bowl. Put the butter in a small saucepan, set over medium heat and let it start melting. Use the same process as before to brown the butter. Once done, remove it from the heat and pour it over the powdered sugar, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan as well. Add the half-and-half and vanilla and stir until the icing is smooth. If you don't have half-and-half, a slightly lesser amount of milk will do. I had heavy cream and milk, so made a mixture of the two. Using a spatula or knife, spread icing on each cookie. If the icing stiffens up too much before all of the cookies are frosted, add a little more cream to lighten it up.

Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.

Source: slightly adapted from Tracey's Culinary Adventures, (who slightly adapted from Iowa Girl Eats, who adapted from Simply Recipes) Brown Butter Icing from Martha Stewart's Cookies

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