brown sugar cookies

Do you know where the name for my blog came from? I mean, besides Dave kind of just blurting it out and me realizing it was perfect. I was looking for something that at least somewhat related to my science background – I kind of wanted to be discussing not just the outcome of recipes, but also the way (get it?! huh huh huh do you?) things worked.

Plus, I had a professor in graduate school who used to bring us cookies, and in fact, he spent a portion of his first lecture talking about crumbly cookies. It all related to gravity and physics and stuff, but mostly I remember the cream cheese chocolate chip cookies he brought that day.

So now I’m the professor, and I bring my students cookies. Is that weird? Probably, but I need someone to offload treats to, and who better than college students? I kept to safe, familiar recipes in the beginning, chocolate chip cookies, snickerdoodles, brownies, but now I’ve started to get a little experimental.

It’s also nice to get feedback from a larger audience besides, you know, myself and sometimes Dave. Not that you want to be telling the person who grades your exams that their cookies totally suck or anything, but I can generally get a vibe.

I actually wasn’t completely sold on these cookies. Oh, they were good, of course – what’s not to like about brown sugar and butter? And they were pretty difficult to resist, but still, I think I was expecting something transcendent. I actually think the one seemingly insignificant place I went wrong was rolling the doughballs too thickly in the sugar coating. Too much raw sugar!

My students though, gave rave reviews – more so than normal, so I’m guessing they’re not just trying to get on my good side. So what do I know. Other than a whole lot of sciencey stuff, that is.

One year ago: Pan-Roasted Asparagus
Two years ago: Almond Biscotti (and Hazelnut Dried Cherry variation) – Dave’s favorite biscotti recipe

Printer Friendly Recipe
Brown Sugar Cookies
(from Cooks Illustrated)

Makes 2 dozen cookies

CI note: The most efficient way to bake these cookies is to portion and bake half of the dough. While the first batch is in the oven, the remaining dough can be prepared for baking. Avoid using a nonstick skillet to brown the butter. The dark color of the nonstick coating makes it difficult to gauge when the butter is sufficiently browned. Use fresh brown sugar, as older (read: harder and drier) brown sugar will make the cookies too dry.

My note: I made the cookies smaller, about 1-inch round balls. I baked them for 7-9 minutes. Even with the smaller cookies (and therefore more surface area), I still had far more of the sugar coating mixture than I needed.

14 tablespoons (1¾ sticks) unsalted butter
¼ cup (about 1¾ ounces) granulated sugar
2 cups (14 ounces) packed brown sugar
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (10.625 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon table salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1. Heat 10 tablespoons of the butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until its melted, about 2 minutes. Continue to cook the butter, swirling pan constantly until it is dark golden brown and has a nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and transfer the browned butter to a large heatproof bowl. Stir the remaining 4 tablespoons of the butter into the hot butter to melt; set aside for 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. In a shallow baking dish or pie plate, mix the granulated sugar and ¼ cup (1.75 ounces) packed brown sugar, rubbing between fingers, until well combined; set aside. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and baking powder together in a medium bowl; set aside.

3. Add the remaining 1¾ cups (12.25 ounces) brown sugar and the salt to the bowl with the cooled butter; mix until no sugar lumps remain, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula; add the egg, yolk, and vanilla and mix until fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the bowl. Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined, about 1 minute. Give the dough a final stir with a rubber spatula to ensure that no flour pockets remain and the ingredients are evenly distributed.

4. Divide the dough into 24 portions, each about 2 tablespoons, rolling between your hands into balls about 1½ inches in diameter. Working in batches, toss the balls in the reserved sugar mixture to coat and set them on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart, 12 balls per sheet. (Smaller baking sheets can be used, but it will take 3 batches).

5. Bake one sheet at a time until the cookies are browned and still puffy and their edges have begun to set but the centers are still soft (cookies will look raw between the cracks and seem underdone), 12 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Do not overbake.

6. Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for 5 minutes; using a wide metal spatula, transfer the cookies to a wire rack and cool to room temperature.


  1. I wish my geology professor would bring us cookies! These look fantastic.

  2. Another blogging friend and I were discussing how it’s hard to find a good audience for food who knows you want feedback, not just praise (not that praise hurts, but it’s not always constructive) for your culinary adventuring.

    So what kind of science class do I need to sign up for?

  3. I had no idea you were a science professor – how cool! I’m doing my postdoc now and would like to be a professor eventually too. Where do you teach? Do you have a lab too?

    The cookies sound super yummy and addicting too!

  4. I read your blog all the time – sorry I don’t comment more! But I MUST throw my two cents into this recipe: I also wasn’t a huge fan of it. My cookies were too dry. I made them again though and used larger balls of dough, and found that it took care of some of the dryness. Still. I think to get a similar taste I’ll try making brown butter the next time I bake chocolate chip cookies or something.

  5. Actually, I have wondered about the name of your blog 🙂

    Backing up to your first-ever post, I need to know, with all of the chocolate chip cookies you’ve tried, what do you think now of the cream cheese ones? Are they at all cheese-cakey? Because I think the idea of a cheesecake-choco-chip cookie sounds pretty fantastic.

  6. bridget says:

    Kerstin – I teach at a community college, so there’s no research component to my job. That’s fine with me, as I could never get as excited about research as I do about teaching.

    Wiggs – Check out Cook’s Illustrated’s Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies. A portion of the butter in that recipe is browned, just like in this recipe. Which actually makes me think that what I wanted when I baked these was something that was halfway between what these Brown Sugar Cookies ended up being and a chocolate chip cookie sans chips.

    Cara – Man, I just don’t know. I haven’t made those cookies again since then, although I’ve been wanting to. (Too bad I only have a couple class sessions left this semester, and I already have all of my treats planned out for them!) But I remember them having a pretty standard chocolate chip cookie texture – a good one, chewy and soft – but with a delicious cream cheese flavor.

  7. I’ve been wanting to try these because I love brown sugar so much. I’m always unloading baked goods on others- at church, work, family- anywhere!

  8. Ohhh, I have to say, these are my all-time favorite cookies: the browned butter, the brown sugar, the gooey inside yet crisp outside. I make them all the time.

  9. Wow! You have some lucky students. These cookies look so yummy! I agree anything with brown sugar and butter has to be good. Have never seen these before. Thanks for sharing.

  10. yum! something I actually have all of the ingredients for…I’m going to make these right now!

  11. These look really great, Bridget. I love the flavor of brown sugar, so I’m putting these only list. Thanks!

  12. I’m sure your students love you – AND these cookies – what’s not to love about b. sugar? Too easy to make…. think I’ll try them now!

  13. Starring these! They look absolutely delicious and brown sugar is one of my favorite flavors in desserts, funny enough. 🙂

  14. You’re a professor? That brings cookies to class? Wow. Why aren’t such professor’s around me? I’d be the best student!

  15. We’re a house w/a chocolate allergy, so these cookies were a huge hit! I made about half of them the first go round and put the remaining dough in the fridge. The next day the cookies had been gobbled up! I let the dough sit out until about room temp. They turned out just like the 1st batch. The only thing I would do different is make them all at once!

  16. Hmm, these look really interesting. Do they taste more sweet? or savory, like a tea biscuit? I’d think with the browned butter and low level white sugar they’d have a deeper, caramely flavor, but I could be wrong.
    Also, I wish more professors brought their students cookies! I do the opposite, since I’m a student, I’ll bring my professor and the class my baking creations!

  17. bridget says:

    KitchenChaosGirls – They’re definitely sweet. More caramely than white sugar cookies for sure, but still very sweet.

  18. unique recipes,
    I have tried at home and my children very loved it & can’t stop eating.
    Thanks for your recipes