Toasted milk powder (extra-strength brown butter) chocolate chunk cookies

toasted milk powder cookies

Everyone has opinions about chocolate chip cookies. For me, it’s always been about the dough. If I’m going to the effort to make cookies, the cookie dough itself should be full of flavor and well-seasoned, worth eating with or without chocolate. I don’t like cookies that are more chocolate than cookie — if I want that much chocolate, I’ll just eat a chocolate bar.

My go-to base is in my cookbook, Baked to Order. I use brown butter, a mix of flours (including rye), and a hit of espresso powder for an extra flavorful cookie. I still make that recipe often, but lately I’ve been tinkering with it a little to really focus on one particular element: brown butter.

Brown butter has been the darling of the culinary world for…I don’t know, decades now? I’m sure you’re familiar with it. Browning butter is the process of heating butter until the water evaporates and the milk solids (which make up about 3-5% of the butter content) brown. In French, brown butter is called beurre noisette, or “hazelnut butter”, because the aroma resembles toasted hazelnuts. It’s a beautiful thing.

But what if you want to add more brown butter flavor? You can’t just add more brown butter, or the ratio of fat to everything else will result in a very end product. Enter: toasted milk powder.

Milk powder is essentially a concentrated powder of milk solids, made by preheating, evaporating, and reheating milk. It’s a staple in my baking kit; I use it most often in my enriched sourdoughs to make extra tall and soft loaves (by increasing the protein and lactose without adding extra liquid). I first came across the concept of toasting milk powder on Francisco Migoya’s blog, where he talks about adding it to financier batter. It’s brilliant — by toasting the milk powder, you’re adding more of the tasty brown bits that give brown butter its flavor and aroma!

There are a number of ways to toast milk powder. If you want to make a large batch to have on hand, try the microwave method or the pressure cooker method. For these cookies, I decided to just toast the milk powder directly in the browning butter.

Baker’s notes:

  • When toasting the milk powder, keep the heat down and whisk constantly to avoid clumping. Normally I crank the heat up once the butter has melted, but I got more consistent results with the milk powder keeping the temp around medium-low. If your milk powder is clumpy, definitely sift it / break up any lumps before adding to the butter.
  • You can make these cookies straight from the melted butter stage, but these days I prefer the texture of the final cookies when the butter is brought back to a spreadable consistency. Creaming the butter also helps break up any bits of clumpy toasted milk powder that may have formed during the browning process.
  • I’ve added in a touch of liquid (usually coffee) to make up for the moisture loss from browning the butter. It helps the cookies spread more predictably, especially if you’re refrigerating/freezing the dough for more than a day.
  • To get perfectly round cookies, you can scoot them with a round cookie cutter just larger than the baked cookie or use an offset spatula or spoon to nudge them into shape IMMEDIATELY after the cookies come out of the oven. Totally optional; it’s just for looks.

Toasted milk powder (extra-strength brown butter) chocolate chunk cookies

Makes 12-14 cookies | Adapted from Baked to Order

Ingredients:

  • 113g unsalted butter, cubed
  • 45g nonfat milk powder
  • 100g light brown sugar
  • 65g granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3g (3/4 tsp) Diamond Crystal kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp espresso powder (optional)
  • 1 large egg, cold
  • 1 large egg yolk, cold
  • 18g coffee or milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 175g all purpose flour
  • 140g good quality dark chocolate, chopped (I like a mix of 55% and 70%)
  • Flaky sea salt, for garnish (optional)

Method:

Make the extra-strength brown butter: In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Once the butter has melted, whisk in the milk powder. Continue cooking on medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until the milk solids darken and the butter takes on a toasty, nutty smell. Remove from heat and scrape the butter and all the toasty bits into a heatproof container. Refrigerate until spreadable, about 45 minutes. (You can speed up the process by stirring the butter over an ice bath or sticking it in the freezer, stirring every 5-10 minutes.) You can make the extra-strength brown butter up to a week in advance; bring to room temperature before mixing cookie dough.

Make the cookie dough: In a medium bowl, combine the softened extra-strength brown butter, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and espresso powder. Using an electric hand-held mixer, mix on medium speed until well combined, 2-3 minutes (the mixture will be a bit crumbly). Scrape down the beaters and sides of the bowl. Add the egg and egg yolk and mix until smooth, then add the coffee or milk and vanilla. Mix until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the flour and mix on low until the flour is mostly mixed in, then add the chopped chocolate. Switch to a spatula and mix just until the chocolate is evenly distributed and no streaks of flour remain. Cover and refrigerate for BARE MINIMUM 1 hour, but preferably at least four hours (or up to 3 days).

Bake the cookies: Preheat the oven to 350F with a rack in the middle and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Portion the dough into golf-ball sized portions (weigh them if you want perfectly even cookies — I usually make mine around 55g each, which gives me a baker’s dozen). Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets about 2½ inches apart and sprinkle the tops with flaky sea salt.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time until the edges are set and the centers no longer look wet, about 12 to 14 minutes. Rotate the sheet in the oven halfway through baking. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store leftovers in an airtight container.

toasted milk powder cookies

Related recipes and resources:

Triple Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

triple chocolate peppermint cookies

Apologies to the half can of pumpkin still sitting in my fridge: I have moved on to candy canes and gingerbread. We’re normally a “Christmas starts in December” family, but it’s 2020 and anything goes. We picked out our tree and hung the stockings; the kids are busying themselves cutting snowflakes and making garlands.

These triple chocolate peppermint cookies made their first appearance in our annual treat boxes last year, and I think they’ve earned a permanent spot in the holiday baking rotation. They’re simple but festive — a great option for making with kids and for munching on during tree trimming or a favorite holiday movie.

A few notes:

  • If you’ve hung around here much you’ll know I like a bit of rye in my chocolate baked goods — its earthiness helps enhance the chocolate flavor. You could also swap out the rye for buckwheat — also delicious! But if you don’t have those flours on hand, just replace the rye with an additional 50g all purpose flour.
  • These cookies do best after a rest in the fridge to help hydrate the dough and prevent excessive spread. But I understand the need for instant gratification — if you just HAVE to have a cookie right away, stick the preformed dough in the freezer while you preheat the oven to quicken things along. They’ll likely still spread a little more than if you wait the full 3 hours, but it’s not the worst thing ever.
  • While I’m typically a dark chocolate lover, I really enjoy the mix of chocolates in this cookie. Using all dark chocolate can be a little intense — the pops of milk and white bring a little hit of extra sweetness. But as always, adjust the ratios to your tastes!
  • Peppermint extract varies in intensity from brand to brand, and too much can make your baked goods smell and taste like toothpaste. I used Club House pure peppermint extract here and this level was perfect for me, but if you have an especially potent brand you may want to start with a little less.
triple chocolate peppermint cookies hand

Triple Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

Makes about 12 cookies | Adapted from Baked to Order

Ingredients:

  • 113g (1/2 c) unsalted butter, cubed
  • 4g (1 Tbsp) finely ground espresso (or 1 tsp espresso powder)
  • 80g chopped bittersweet/dark (70%) chocolate, divided
  • 100g (3/4 c plus 1 Tbsp) AP flour
  • 50g (1/2 c) whole rye flour
  • 25g (scant 1/4 c) Dutch processed cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
  • 90g (scant 1/2 c) light brown sugar
  • 68g (1/3 c) caster sugar
  • 1 large egg, cold
  • 1 large egg yolk, cold
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
  • 30g (1 oz) chopped semisweet/milk chocolate
  • 30g (1 oz) chopped white chocolate
  • Crushed peppermint candies/candy canes, for garnish

Method:

  1. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. You’re not trying to brown it or drive off any moisture, so don’t let it boil — pull it off when there are still a couple unmelted bits left and let the residual heat finish the job.
  2. While the butter is melting, place the espresso powder and 50g of the chopped bittersweet chocolate in a large bowl. Once the butter has melted, pour it over the espresso-chocolate mixture. Whisk until the chocolate has melted. Let cool for about 5 minutes.
  3. Whisk the sugars into the butter until smooth and combined, followed by the egg and egg yolk. Whisk in the vanilla and peppermint extracts.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and fold together until just combined. When just a few streaks of flour remain, add the remaining 30g dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and white chocolate. Mix just until evenly distributed.
  5. Portion the dough into ping-pong sized balls, about 55 grams (3 tbsp) each, onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. (If the dough is too soft, cover and chill for about 30 minutes before scooping.) Cover and chill at least 3 hours, or up to 3 days.
  6. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) with a rack in the middle and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets about 2½ inches (6.4 cm) apart and sprinkle the tops with crushed peppermint candies.
  7. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time until the edges are set but the centers are still soft and barely set, about 11 to 14 minutes. Rotate the sheet in the oven halfway through baking. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store leftovers in an airtight container.

Three years, and Everyday Chocolate Chunk Cookies

chocolate chunk cookiesHappy New Year, folks. We’re in Seattle visiting my family for a couple weeks. Despite a long travel day due to weather, we got to wake up to a white Christmas — possibly my first ever! All of my brothers eventually made it in town and we spent the day opening gifts, eating our fill of prime rib and cookies, watching Marcus race his new fire engine toy all over the house, and falling asleep to “Jingle All the Way.” So basically, a perfect Christmas. Since then, we’ve been keeping it pretty low key — catching up with old friends, trying old and new coffee shops and bakeries, and going to sleep long before midnight.

And guess what? Cook Til Delicious is turning three years old! I’ve never celebrated this blog’s birthday before because I’m generally too lazy to blog while on vacation. But in reality, CTD was started as sort of a new year’s resolution to document recipes and become a better baker. When we first started out here, I had never made a layer cake, let alone a wedding cake; I had yet to bake a good sourdough loaf, choux pastry was far out on the horizon, and I didn’t own a tart pan. My to-bake list is still a mile long, but progress has been made — one bake at a time.

One of the things I’ve been focusing on more this past year (and hopefully into the next) is building a library of solid “base” recipes — go-to scones, everyday brownies, and the like. And, of course, chocolate chunk cookies.

I definitely believe in different recipes for different occasions. My “special occasion” chocolate chunk cookie is a riff on Sarah Kieffer’s now-famous pan-banging chocolate chip cookie recipe. But this recipe here is my everyday go-to. You don’t need to soften butter, and you don’t need a mixer. This is the recipe I turn to when I want to make cookies for a crowd (I actually made dozens of these for my brother’s wedding), or just need to refill the cookie jar at home.

Notes:

  • For the gooiest, chocolatiest cookies, I definitely recommend using chocolate callets or chopping up chocolate bars — unlike chocolate chips, they melt into puddles, which is definitely a good thing. I like Callebaut 70%, but I often just use good quality chocolate bars.
  • I love experimenting with different flours in this recipe. My favorite combination is to use 1/3 AP flour, 1/3 spelt flour, and 1/3 bread flour — the spelt adds some wholesome nuttiness and the bread provides height and chew. But all AP definitely works, if that’s what you have on hand — the cookies will just be flatter.
  • I love subbing a little bit of turbinado sugar for some of the brown — it adds a delightful crunch (I learned this from Not Without Salt’s recipe, which I also love.); espresso powder or finely ground coffee adds a slight bitterness that offsets the sweetness beautifully.
  • If you keep the total add-ins to ~240-300 grams, you can certainly make this cookie your own by adding in toasted nuts, dried fruit, toffee bits, etc. The base itself is plenty sweet so I sometimes cut both the sugars by a couple tablespoons if I am adding sweeter add-ins, or just feel like being slightly healthier.

Everyday Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Makes 26-28 cookies | Adapted from Tara O’Brady, with a HT to Not Without Salt

Ingredients

  • 225g unsalted butter, chopped
  • 415g all-purpose flour (see note above)
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp espresso powder, or very finely ground coffee (optional)
  • 300g light brown sugar (optional: swap out 50g for turbinado sugar)
  • 100g granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 240g chopped semi or bittersweet chocolate (I recommend at least 55%)
  • Flaky sea salt for sprinkling

Method

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and espresso powder/coffee (if using). Set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over low heat, stirring occasionally. Use the lowest heat possible — you don’t want to boil or brown the butter or lose any more moisture than necessary.
  3. Pour the melted butter into a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar all at once and whisk until combined. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, mixing just enough to combine. Whisk in vanilla.
  4. Pour in the dry ingredients and stir to combine, using a silicone spatula or wooden spoon. When the flour is almost all incorporated, stir in the chocolate. Mix only enough to combine, scraping down the sides of the bowl and scooping from the bottom of the bowl to make sure all the flour is incorporated.
  5. Chill the mixture for five minutes while you line three cookie sheets with parchment or Silpats.
  6. Portion cookie dough into golf ball-sized rounds (~50 grams or 3 Tbsp) and place on prepared cookie sheets (I can fit 9 cookies on a normal sized cookie sheet). Sprinkle with flaky salt.
  7. Place cookie sheets in the freezer and preheat the oven to 360F (yes, 360!) with an oven rack in the middle. If you don’t have enough room in your freezer for all three sheets, put all the pre-shaped cookies on one sheet and remove 9 at a time to bake, using a cold/room temperature sheet for each batch.
  8. Bake each sheet one at a time for ~10 minutes, rotating halfway through. The cookies should be lightly golden and cracked, but still soft in the center.
  9. Sprinkle on a little more flaky salt, if desired (I like to sprinkle some on any large chocolate puddles), and allow to cool on the sheet for 2-3 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Cookies keep well for up to 5 days in an airtight container.