Transcendent – meaning extending beyond the limits of ordinary experience.  The December 2005 write up and recipe of these cookies, by Celia Barbour, started out with…”Once a year, at Christmastime, I make the best cookies in the world.  It very nearly kills me.”  The article was beautifully written and it was so very clear how much she loves these cookies.  I do too!  So does my friend Shari who just the other day said “What about the butter cookies?!”   They are so special that I actually searched for a word (besides delicious, yummy, amazing, or soo good) to describe these transcendent cookies.  If you follow the blog, you may know I like to add chips, nuts, textures and just more to my cookies.  But these – these simple little nuggets are absolutely flawless.  Rich flavor and what seems like a nutty texture (but nut allergies no fear, no nuts here – or eggs btw if you happen to have issue) – I can’t recommend them more.  They are a labor of love in the sense that each cookie has to be pressed by hand and carefully scooped out.  But it is the kind of work I personally find oddly relaxing especially with music playing or a friend chatting and assembling alongside.  My friend Beth often says she really cannot multitask when baking – even talking on the phone – which is true for me too, but with these, you really can stick that phone on speaker and catch up with family and friends while you work away.  My friend Jodi says she likes a “no frills” cookie.  Well, with just butter, sugar, vanilla, flour, baking soda and salt – this is it.  Simple but absolutely transcendent.  Enjoy!  (Oh, and these are best a few days after you bake them :))

brown butter cookies:
2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (please check in baking tips for good quality vanilla)
2 cups all purpose flour (look to baking tips on measuring flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup fruit preserves (flavor of your choice)

for the dough

First fill a big bowl, or the sink with about 2 inches of ice water (this is where your pan of brown butter will land to stop it from continuing to cook, even off the heat).

To make the brown butter, melt it in a small to medium sized saucepan and cook swirling the pan occasionally.  Keep cooking the butter on moderate heat until the butter starts to turn a golden brown and has a nut-like fragrance.  Once brown, take the saucepan and place it in the cold ice water.  The whole process should take from 8-12 minutes.  Next paragraph has more detail if you need it…

At first the butter will foam, and then dissipate but later, the butter will foam again right before the butter browns.  Don’t walk away from the butter.  You need to stand, and swirl and watch.  It can easily burn.  First step is a pale brown (beurre noisette), then it will turn to a tea-leaf brown (a beurre noir) – and then it will burn and turn black.  Yuck.  Aim for a nice caramel color somewhere between the pale brown and the tea-leaf brown especially when you start out.  After some practice you can shoot for the darkest butter without burning it.  This is half the fun and the most tasty.

Again, once brown, immediately place pan in ice water bath to stop the butter from cooking.  Stir the butter for 3-4 minutes while it cools.

Remove from ice bath and mix in the sugar and vanilla.  Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt and then stir that into the butter mixture too until a dough forms.

Form the dough into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap and let sit for 1-2 hours at a cool room temp.  You can also make the dough and place in the refrigerator and assemble the cookies the next day – just remember to bring the dough to room temperature for about 35 minutes so it will soften a bit.

form and bake cookies

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line cookie sheets with parchment.  Take a deep teaspoon or I like to use my teaspoon or 1/2 tablespoon measurer – and press a piece of dough into the spoon – flattening the top while you push the dough into the spoon.  The dough will feel crumbly and short, but as you press it will come together.  Gently guide the dough out of the spoon…this can take a few tries…and place carefully flat side down on cookie sheet.

Bake the cookies until just pale golden around 11-17 minutes.  Cool the cookies before you fill.


Heat the preserves until just runny and if you like, strain through a small sieve.  Really depends on the jam you use.  But press hard on the solids to extract all the liquid.  Let the jam cool.

Once cookies and jam are cool, gently lift (these are delicate) and with flat side up, drop a little jam onto the cookie – and sandwich with another cookies flat side.  Making  little yummy balls of goodness.

Continue with all cookies and let sit and harden for about 45 minutes to an hour.  These cookies taste best after 1-2 days of sitting.  They are good now… but if you can, wait.  Pack carefully (they are delicate) in an airtight container and then mmmm….enjoy!

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