Red Wicket Market Farm is a small farm 25 minutes from downtown Columbus, Ohio, near Slate Run Metropark. Breeding Black Copper and Blue Copper Marans to the Standard of Perfection.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Browned Butter; Oh, Yeah!

If you know me, you know I'm a fan of butter. Growing up on a dairy farm, I never did understand why someone would opt for water, vegetable oil, and flavorings (margarine) instead of wonderful, delicious, butter.

As much as I love butter, there is a way to make it better. Butter by itself is good, but brown the milk solids in butter and you have something extaordinary. Browned butter is amazing in lots of things. I like to brown my butter and pour it over Brussels sprouts, and you haven't lived until you've browned the butter to make your mashed potatoes. 

So as I was cleaning the kitchen today, I saw these poor, sad, forgotten bananas sitting on my counter.
Too ripe for eating (my family likes a bit of green on them), they were being totally ignored. I realized that what they needed was just a bit of help, and my family would love them again. Time to make banana cookies! And not just any banana cookies. Banana cookies with Browned Butter Caramel Frosting.

These banana cookies are very homely. They will never win any beauty contests. These aren't like some cookies that are simply little lumps of banana bread, although they are a cake-type cookie. These are their own thing and very delicious. You can add a hint of nutmeg and eat them plain,or you can add some chocolate chips. But you seriously have to try them with the fabulous and super easy browned butter caramel frosting. The frosting is super sweet and rich, which is why it complements the more mild cookie so well.

I do use a couple of ingredients in these cookies that I don't use very often. After much trial and error, I've found that I need to use vegetable shortening instead of butter, and a hint of imitation banana flavoring to make these cookies just right. The reason to use shortening instead of butter is that the butter was making the cookies so rich that the banana flavor was being hidden by the butter flavor. Also, butter has water in it, and the texture of the cookie was just too soft. You can leave out the banana flavoring, but it does make the cookie just a bit more banana-y. I have to restrain myself and NOT add extra banana to the batter, the way I often do for banana bread. The extra banana has too much water and wrecks the texture of the cookie.

That being said, these are some of the easiest cookies out there. First, you cream together the shortening and the brown sugar.

Ready for creaming.
Next, you mash your bananas. I find that the easiest way to mash them is to put my bananas in a zip-top bag and squish them with my fingers. Add that goo to the creamed fat and sugar, along with an egg, vanilla extract, and a hit of banana flavoring.
Added egg, banana, and flavorings
After you mix all this together, the batter will look curdled. Don't worry, it will all come together after you add the flour, salt, and baking soda.
Finished batter.
Drop this by tablespoonfuls. This will seem pretty small, but the cookies will come out about 2" across (yes, you should measure, or at least eyeball so that all the drops are mostly the same size. Otherwise, the cookies will bake unevenly). Please remember that I use a half sheet pan, which won't fit in most ovens. You won't be able to get this many cookies on a regular sized cookie sheet.

Ready for the oven.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the bottoms are golden brown but the tops haven't started to color yet. Cool on a wire rack.

See, totally homely.
While your cookies are cooling, prepare the frosting. Measure out your brown sugar and heavy cream, because you will be browning butter for this recipe and once the butter is perfectly browned, you'll need to add the sugar and cream immediately so the butter doesn't burn.

To brown the butter, put half a stick of butter in a medium saucepan, and begin to melt it over medium-high heat.


Once that butter is melted, it's time to take it past melted to browned. This is not difficult, but things do happen quickly. DO NOT WALK AWAY FROM THE PAN while you are making browned butter. Don't text anybody, don't check your email--just watch the butter.

First, the butter will begin to boil all over as the water begins to evaporate. You don't need to stir while this is happening, but you might like to swirl the pan every once in a while.

All the water is cooking off.
Next, the butter will begin to foam up all over, making it difficult to see the bottom. This is when you want to start swirling the pan every few seconds, because once it starts to foam, it's almost done.

The foam hides what the milk solids are doing; be careful!

You'll see little specks of golden brown milk solids start to appear on the bottom of the pan as you swirl it. You want your specks to be somewhere around golden brown to mahogany brown. Immediately add your brown sugar, then the heavy cream. You have to work fast--the butter will continue to cook and darken until you get something in the pan to stop the cooking. In fact, in the few seconds it took me to take the photo below, the butter got darker than I'd like. If it gets too dark, you'll have to scrub out your pot and start over, because instead of nutty and wonderful, it will taste like charcoal. This is about as dark as you can get it and still have it be tasty:

Too dark, but still edible.
Cook the browned butter, brown sugar, and heavy cream on medium high heat, stirring all the time, until the mixture simmers for one minute. Remove from heat and add some salt. This will have to be to your taste--but don't burn yourself tasting the mixture! Once you have it salted properly, pour it into a glass or metal bowl; don't use plastic, the mixture is hot!

Needs powdered sugar.

Beat powdered sugar into the butter mixture, and correct the consistency by adding more cream. This frosting will set up quickly, so you want it to be thinner than you would expect. If you pull your spoon (or, let's be real, your finger) through the frosting, the line should close up almost immediately.

Use a spoon to put a dollop of frosting on each cookie. If your consistency is right, the dollop will spread out and cover the cookie for you. If it's too thick, you'll have to smear the frosting on. Either way, it still tastes great.

Add as much as you like. It's rich!

And there you have it. Your poor, unloved bananas have been transformed into little morsels of joy. The cookies might still be as homely as an overripe banana, but what they lack in looks they make up for in flavor. Enjoy!

Red Wicket Banana Cookies with Browned Butter Caramel Frosting

3/4 cup room temperature shortening (not butter)
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 ripe bananas, mashed (no extra banana)
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon banana flavoring, optional but good
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 350°F. Combine 3/4 cup shortening and 3/4 cup brown sugar in large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Add mashed bananas, egg, vanilla and banana flavor; continue beating until well mixed. The mixture will look curdled at this point. Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt; add to liquid ingredients and beat at low speed just until combined.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls, 2 inches apart, onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper or Silpat. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool completely on a rack.

Browned Butter Caramel Frosting
1/2 C butter
3/4 C brown sugar
1/2 C heavy cream
2 tsp. vanilla
salt to taste
4 C powdered sugar

Melt butter in medium saucepan. Watching carefully and swirling often, cook until butter is golden brown. Immediately add sugar and heavy cream and cook until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Add salt to taste, starting with 1/2 tsp. and working up. Pour mixture into a bowl and add powdered sugar. Beat with mixer until creamy. Correct thickness with powdered sugar or more cream. It will set up quickly, so a bit creamier than you expect is good. Spoon onto cooled cookies. This frosting makes a ton, so there will probably be some left over after you're done with your cookies. Halving the recipe doesn't work well, though... so you'll have to suffer through eating the extra frosting on vanilla wafers or graham crackers. Sheer torture.

NOTE: If you don't want to use the frosting, you can add some cinnamon or nutmeg with the dry ingredients, or some chocolate chips right at the very end. All these variations are yummy.