Baking is all about science.
This could be good or bad news for you. Both in professional and home kitchens, people usually enjoy either baking or cooking. I believe the reason for this can be simply explained with our characters. People who are more carefree likes cooking more because cooking can be spontaneous; it doesn’t have to require precise measurements and techniques and if you make a mistake on the way, there is usually a way to fix it up.
On the other side, baking is for intense people, it requires the mostly same type of ingredients in different measures and a standard sequence of steps. If you follow a recipe step by step, you will reach the same product every time ( just like in a science experiment ).
Following exact recipes and reaching the same success with your baked goods can be fun. But if you want to create your recipes or adapt the ones that are already created into your taste, you should understand the science behind ingredients. Eggs, flour, sugar, leavening agents… They all give unique flavors into food but they also have special functions to bring the recipe together. I will be only talking about butter and its function to carry flavors by infusions.
What is an infusion and how does it work?
An infusion is a process of extracting flavors from food into a liquid. This is usually done by mixing the food in the liquid for a long period of time. The liquid is typically oil, alcohol, vinegar, or water, and the food to infuse is typically herbs or spices. The infusion also works oppositely, with the food taking on some of the flavors of the liquid. These two components are combined for a certain time period, leaving a flavored liquid or food behind. The amount of time might vary depending on the ingredients you chose to use or the temperature of the liquid you used to infuse in.
You could think of a simple tea brewing or thyme flavored olive oil as infusions. Infusions are used in baking mostly for enhancing flavors by extracts like vanilla, almond, or lemon zest. While you could use an alcohol-based extract in your recipes, you could also infuse the fat or oil that is originally included in the recipe. This way you can control exactly how dominant the flavor is in your baked products. It is also important to avoid adding any extra liquid into some recipes like butter-based cookies and sponge cakes. Even a small amount of additional liquid might spoil the texture of the batter and make you end up with a disappointment.
An infusion in itself: Brown Butter
Brown butter is a miraculous ingredient that is made of only 1 ingredient, butter; and it is a staple in French cuisine. You can use it in your scrambled eggs in the morning, in your pasta sauce in the lunch, and your desserts in your special dinner parties. In short, it could be used and encouraged to be used in any type of recipe that involves salted or unsalted butter 🙂
French call it “beurre noisette”, or “hazelnut butter,” as that is the exact taste you will have when you taste it. It improves the dish that is cooked by giving a nutty, caramelized flavor. Browning butter is simply the process of melting on a low heat until the milk solid starts toasting and releasing its caramelized flavor into fat. Butter is a semi-solid emulsion consist of fat and protein components of milk or cream; when you change the heat it will be separated from its milk solids and butterfat.
How to Brown Butter?
- Use a wide heavy-bottomed pan and place it over medium-low heat.
- Add the butter. As it melts, continuously swirl the butter around the pan. The butter will go from browned to burnt quickly, so make sure you have an eye on the pan continuously.
- Keep swirling the butter over the heat until it is light brown and smells nutty. Take it off the heat and let it cool down for 15-20 minutes.
- Using a fine strainer, strain the butter to remove the brown solids and store it in the fridge for up to 2 months.
Lately, I have been experimenting with different recipes for having a strong coffee flavor in my sweets. Using a granulated coffee was not an option and espresso powder left its grounds on the batter which I did not like in the end as well. After a few tries, I was happy with the result of this recipe where I used grounded coffee powder to infuse the butter in the original cookie recipe. More experiments on this will be coming but these cookies are worth trying for the ones who are obsessed with coffee like I am 🙂
Coffee-Brown Butter Cookies
- 120 grams brown butter
- 130 grams caster sugar
- 15 grams molasses or dark maple syrup
- 1 large egg
- 200 grams all-purpose flour
- 10 grams grounded coffee powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- Pinch of fine salt
- 160 grams chocolate/ dark or milk
- Sea salt
- Place the brown butter in a saucepan and let it melt on low heat for 10 minutes. Take off from the heat and add the coffee powder in the melted butter. Cover the pan with a lid and let it sit in the room temperature for at least 1 hour. After the coffee is infused into butter, strain the coffee powder from the melted butter.
- Place melted coffee-butter infusion in a bowl and add sugar, molasses, and egg. Stir until smooth.
- Add flour, baking soda, and fine salt and stir until soft cookie dough forms. Add roughly chopped chocolate and stir until combined.
- Chill cookie dough in the fridge for at least one hour.
- Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F) standard / 160 C (320 F) fan-forced. Line baking tray with baking paper.
- Roll balls of cookie dough, approximately 1.5 tablespoons each, using your hands or a scoop, leaving room for the cookie to spread. Sprinkle some sea salt on the top of each cookie.
- Bake cookies for 10-11 minutes. While the cookies are still warm, add a few extra chocolate chips on top.