I adapted my recipe for these cookies from this peanut butter cookie recipe. Most of the substitutions I do on recipes are either ingredient or technique and this one is no different. I’ve tried two iterations of the almond butter and the cashew butter was a last-minute decision.
You’ll notice there are fewer than 100 words in that recipe’s directions of 3 easy-to-follow steps with an add all to list button showing what’s on sale at major chain grocery stores nearby contrasted with more than 1,500 words (plus another 100 or so of my charm) in 14 steps requiring skilled techniques, precise timing, intuition, and several stops or tribal knowledge to get all your ingredients. That’s the difference.
These things are rich. Like, 250-300 Calorie rich depending on the nut used. So if you lose all willpower over sweets after 5pm or you keep your Calorie intake in a delicate input/output balance like I do, make sure you have an event where others can help remove the temptation for you. Or give some to the people from whom you get or learn about the ingredients.
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 2 ½ tbsp buttermilk
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 cup creamy nut butter
- 1 ½ cup raw nuts
- 1 cup white sugar (or vanilla sugar)
- 1 cup loosely packed light brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 ½ tsp baking soda
- 1-2 vanilla beans
You can get all of this from your local supermarket, just mix it up, and bake at 375ºF for 10 minutes if you want generic, off-the-internet cookies for which the effort is appreciated but the taste, texture, and experience are completely immemorable.
If you want to blow your own mind and the minds of those for whom you’re baking, don’t do that. At the very least, get your butter and eggs first from someone you know with a cow and chickens if you can, second from your local farmer’s market.
And no, just because you got the ingredient at Trader Joe’s for 2x the price doesn’t make them better. It just makes them cost more. Organic labels don’t intrinsically add to the taste either. In fact, they rarely mean anything at all. It’s like a Type-R sticker on an import car.
There is, however, a remarkable taste difference in same-day-fresh eggs, 2-3 day fresh eggs, and chain grocery store eggs with several shades between these three stops.
And for Asgard’s sake don’t substitute an artificial sweetener for any of this. They’re not the same chemical composition and it just doesn’t work—plus you’re playing tricks on your brain’s chemistry. Commit and have a plan with these.
For the nut butter, use a lighter taste like cashew, almond, or macadamia. Walnuts and probably hazelnut are going to be too strong and drown the vanilla. I’d think this would go without saying, but match your raw nuts to the butter for maximum consistency. Or you could make some mixed nut cookies. Your choice; I haven’t been adventurous enough to try the latter yet.
I listed ½ cup more nuts than you actually need. This is because when chopping them it’s hard to get really consistent chunks and this gives some margin of error. If you’re a 5th-degree black belt with your santoku or are being frugal, you really only need 1 cup.
With the vanilla beans, I put 1-2 depending on how thick they are. Some vanilla beans I’ve worked with are lechon baboy-fat and some are like those mechanical pencil lead refills. Use the former or compensate with more of the latter. Your hands should smell like vanilla for a few hours; if not then they are too dry. This is one of the best lingering effects of cooking these—the other being the aroma of browned butter in the house for hours.
You can use water instead of buttermilk to offset the liquid loss in browning the butter because technically that’s what you lost. I found buttermilk to give a better end texture. If you find the dough is still too dry, use more buttermilk/water.
Oh, and don’t use table salt; use pink Himalayan salt, sel gris, or red alaea salt. I used Alaea salt for this latest run. Yes, it makes a difference. In fact, once you start playing with gourmet salts, you’ll likely never go back to Morton’s.
Technique and order of operations are important here.
Cut your butter into chunks and melt it in the microwave just enough so you can accurately measure 1 cup. Keep adding chunks as needed until all the butter has melted and filled in the air pockets so that you have one cup of liquid butter.
Do not over-heat it in the microwave. It should still be cool/room temperature to the touch.
I used two different non-stick pans to toast the nuts and brown the butter. Heat the pan you intend to use for the nuts over medium heat (I used 5.0/10 on an electric range) and the pan for the butter to medium-high (7.0/10). Let the nut-toasting pan heat for 5m before starting the fire under the butter pan. Add the melted butter right away and wait an additional 5 minutes.
Add the nuts to the nut pan and make sure you constantly toss them. It’s really easy to scorch nuts toasting them on the range and even easier in the oven. Watch them and toss them; you want brown, nutty, complex flavor not altered carbon. It may take a few times of trial-and-error to get your perfect toasting and this is why I am not putting a duration on this. Use your eyeballs and nose.
All the while, the butter should be browning. It’s going to go through a few phases. Liquid, boiling, frothy, clear, brown. If you need to, blow on any foam that forms on the top so that you can see the liquid below.
This is another one you have to watch and be careful. You want browned, aromatic butter not black charcoal droppings in rendered fat. Again, use your eyeballs and nose and this step may also take some trial-and-error.
As soon as both of these finish (they may finish at different times), pour the nuts off onto a cutting board or chopping block and arrange them so they’re just one layer thick. Pour the butter off into whatever bowl you intend to mix your dough in. Make sure you get a rubber/silicone spatula and scrape every single one of the little brown flecks out of the butter. All of them.
Let them both cool to room temperature, then chop up the nuts. You’re going for consistency in chunk size here. If you used something like slivered almonds, skip this step. I prefer to use the whole nut, toast, and then chop. Pick out one cup of your most consistent chunks and proceed. Use the remainder however you like.
Cut open the vanilla bean pods and scrape out the seeds into the butter. Keep the pods to make some vanilla sugar and use that instead of the white sugar to really make these cookies pop. Add all of the ingredients to the bowl except the nuts and nut butter. Make certain to add the powdered ingredients evenly; sift if you must. Using an electric beater, beat the shit out of it until evenly mixed. The more consistent you get this mix, the better they turn out and yes, it takes a while. I think I spent 10m on this between the two phases.
Make sure you use an aesthetic knife so your progress pictures pop.
At this point you have options. You can either proceed or you can split your dough and make a few different kinds of cookies. It was at this point that my last batch became both almond butter and cashew butter cookies. Just remember, if you split your dough you only need a portion of the nuts and nut butter so plan accordingly. You could even go chocolate chips at this point but that’s not what we’re doing here.
Roll the dough into 1 ½ inch diameter spheres and try to make these as perfect as you can. If you need help eyeballing the diameter, make an ok sign with your index finger and thumb and the ball should fit snugly. Spread out several rectangles of aluminum foil on your countertop and space the dough balls at least 3 inches apart. You don’t need to use any non-stick spray, oil, or butter. The butter in the dough is more than sufficient to keep them from sticking.
Using a fork, squash the balls in a crosshatch pattern like you would with peanut butter cookies. Put these sheets of foil in the refrigerator for an hour.
About 20m before that hour expires, pre-heat your oven to 375ºF with a cookie sheet in it. This is part of how we keep the bottoms consistently browned. Once the oven is pre-heated and the dough has cooled for an hour, start baking.
Stage the sheets of foil so that you minimize the amount of time the oven is open. Open the oven, carefully place the foil on the cookie sheet, and close it. Start a 10 minute timer.
After the 10 minutes expire, it’s up to your eyeballs. It’ll take a bit of trial and error, but you’re looking for a ring of browning around the outside and a slight color change to the top of the cookie. If your dough balls and fork press were consistent enough you can also use the rise as an indicator. Note the shade and the ring width and/or the amount that they rise and then match all subsequent batches to this desired outcome.
Once the browned ring and color meet your goal, remove from the oven without removing the cookie sheet (just grab the foil with your hands, it’s not hot after 1s contact with the air) and place to cool. Make sure that you keep tension on the foil with your hands until you set it down so that the warm cookies stay intact.
For best results, cool each batch on a granite countertop or a slab of stone and make sure you use a different spot on the countertop for each batch so that the cookies don’t warm the stone.
Insert the next batch and repeat. Subsequent batches will take longer than 10m because you’re allowing the oven to cool every time you open it.
Total time, start-to-finish, is about 3 hours and you’re working for 2 of those. It’s worth it.
All this for cookies? You betcha. There are cookies and there are cookies. These are the latter. For maximum enjoyment, pull a shot of espresso to enjoy with them.