Monday, April 13, 2009

Brown Butter Chocolate Pecan Cookies, Gluten Free


Brown Butter Chocolate Nut Cookies, Gluten Free

I think there are as many variations of chocolate chip cookies as there are snowflakes. This one is courtesy of Cooks Illustrated with variations thrown in for amusement and to make sure they are gluten free.

The interesting deviation from this traditional recipe takes place by melting and browning the butter and letting the sugar rest in the warm butter to completely melt the crystals. I really enjoyed the brown butter flavor, but the process to whiz, wait, whiz, wait and whiz, wait with the sugar butter mixture might take a back seat next time.

As you can see, the vultures muses mistook my kitchen cookie making for their own treats. I make their cookies the same way, and of course, they had to check it out to see firsthand what I was doing. Phoebe looks disappointed and bored, but Lulu seems to be beaming her glowy evil eyes at me. I will be sleeping with my eyes open tonight - or making them some cookies.

I be watching you

These are worth making - the browned butter makes them taste like toffee chocolate chip cookies. One warning. Do not over bake them! You want the centers to be soft and chewy and the outside edge crisp. Over baking even by a minute or two will make the whole cookie crispy. These came out a bit crispy, but quite delicious anyway. However, I would watch the time more carefully next time.

a cookie or two, or more with a double espresso


  • a regular (not nonstick) saucepan or fry pan for browning butter
  • a scale for weighing ingredients (they say it is more accurate) but only if you want to use one, measuring will do fine
  • a mixer or a strong whisk and a spatula and wooden spoon
  • heat proof mixing bowl
  • baking sheets and parchment or silpats (2)
  • ice cream scoop for measuring dough

cookie cast of characters in the new kitchen


  • 1 3/4 cups gluten free flour (or 8 3/4 oz.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 14 tablespoons butter (unsalted)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar (or 3.5 oz)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, light or dark (or 5 1/4 oz)
  • 1 scant teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 large egg plus one yolk (and some white for gluten free)
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (get the best you can afford, it matters)
  • 3/4 cup toasted chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup heath bits are optional


Preheat oven to 350 degrees for gluten free cookies. Preheat to 375 for non gluten free cookies.

Measure out all the ingredients. Add the baking soda and xanthan gum to the flour and mix. Measure and mix the sugars together with the salt. Measure and mix together the nuts, chips and optional heath bits and set aside.

weighing the sugar, 3/4 is not quite 3/4!

Put 10 to 11 tablespoons of butter in the sauce or fry pan and melt on medium high heat. Keep swirling the pan around to keep the butter melting and moving. In about 2 minutes it will turn nutty brown. Immediately take it off the heat and pour into a metal or other heat proof mixing bowl. Get every little bit using a spatula. Add the remaining butter and stir until melted in.

melting the butter

butter, swirling and now a nutty brown

Dump the sugar mixture in and using the whisk, or the whisk on your stand mixer, whiz the sugar butter until blended. Add the vanilla, egg and yolk and whisk until incorporated.

mixing in the remaining butter

whisking in sugar, vanilla, salt and eggs

Let the mixture set for a few minutes. Whisk again. Do this three times so that almost 15 minutes has gone by. Your sugar butter mixture should look thick and shiny like a good ganache or frosting.

waiting and whisking again

Finally, add in the flour mixture and stir until no flour bits remain. Add in the fun stuff (chips, nuts etc.) and mix until incorporated.

adding the gluten free flour

stirring in the goodies

ready to scoop

Scoop out just 16 cookies. I used an ice cream scoop that measured about 3 tablespoons. Place 8 on each cookie sheet.

8 to a cookie sheet

For non gluten free cookies, don't press them down. For gluten free cookies, you have to help the batter a bit by pressing them somewhat flat with a fork.

Place one sheet at a time in the oven and rotate about halfway through is what was recommended. I would put both sheets in and rotate them next time. No need to do one at a time if you rotate the cookie sheets.

14 minutes later

Bake for about 13 minutes total time. You want them to look a bit puffy and cracked in the center, and crispy light brown on the edges. Gluten free cookies never look quite like regular cookies so better to under bake than over bake. They continue to bake/set as they cool.


a pile of warm cookies


I thought this batch was too crispy so I made another batch today. Here are the changes:

1) I used dark brown sugar
2) I reduced the flour by 1-2 tablespoons
3) I included the other egg white, or most of it
4) used dry roasted chopped macadamia nuts
5) baked in a 375 degree oven, but only for 10-11 minutes
6) removed from oven when the centers were not brown, but they were baked thoroughly, just soft in the center and crispy on the edge
7) I mixed the brown butter, sugars, vanilla and eggs and let it set for about 10 minutes then whisked again and let it set for a few minutes. Easier!

The dark brown sugar intensified the toffee flavor. The reduced baking time, increased oven temp made them bake faster. The other egg white, or part of it, and the reduced GF flour helped make them less cake-like. This batch is a keeper!
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