Brown-butter mint chocolate chip cookies

By | May 16, 2012

This recipe and story appeared in the April 23, 2012 edition of “From Tali’s Kitchen,” my biweekly cooking column in Binah magazine. For this one-year anniversary edition of the food section, Binah had each columnist talk about her personal background and how that led to food writing. 

I’m sharing this recipe now because these cookies are the perfect treat to keep on hand for Shavuos. People often tell me they can’t be bothered to bake dairy cookies — they’re too limiting with all those fleishig meals on the calendar. For Shavuos, though, there are no excuses not to make butter cookies!

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I’ve always loved food. But I never thought I could make a career of it.

Well, except for that time I was six. That was when I made up my mind to be a waitress when I grew up. Specifically, I wanted to move to Florida and work at Sara’s Pizza, the restaurant we always ate at during trips to visit my grandparents.

I had long been fascinated by the epic menu at Sara’s, and I checked off each dish I tried on my photocopied version. I imagined that working there some day would be the key to trying every last dish.

It was around the same time that I developed an interest in writing and editing. My father has authored many books over the years, and I remember hearing snippets of conversation about manuscripts being accepted or turned down or about editors choosing certain titles over others. I liked the idea of being an editor, and at age eight, I started telling people I wanted to work as an editor of fiction books in the children’s department of a publishing house.

I kid you not. Those were my exact words.

The years went on, and my goal of becoming an editor always seemed the more practical idea. That’s why I worked so hard as a reporter, and then editor, of my high school newspaper, and then as one of three editors-in-chief of my high school yearbook.

When I returned to the States after my year of seminary in Israel, I began a four-year journalism program at the University of Maryland. And that’s when things got confusing.

Yes, there were some things I liked about my journalism classes. But the further I got into the program, the more I realized I didn’t want to be a news reporter. I dreaded making interview calls, dreaded waiting for a call back that too often came perilously close to deadline.

I usually thrive on structure, but news writing was so structured that I felt I had no room for creativity — no space to make a piece truly mine. And it didn’t help that I wasn’t really interested in the news. I had never been a news junkie, but now I found myself spending hours a day cramming my brain with bits of information so that I’d pass my news quizzes. It just wasn’t adding up.

So I let my mind wander back to my first love: food.

I thought about leaving journalism for culinary school; I thought about interning with a kosher catering company instead of the local paper. One of my little brothers suggested I become a food critic, an idea I loved but deemed impractical: I mean, who would ever hire a kosher vegetarian food critic?

So once again, the idea of channeling my interest in food towards a career was pushed aside.

I finished my degree, admittedly picked up some great skills along the way, and completed several news-related internships. By that point, I was starting to feel that I’d found my little corner in the world of journalism.

But it wasn’t enough. I was 23, and I wanted more than anything to fulfill two personal dreams: The dream of finding someone I wanted to spend my life with, and the dream of living that life in Israel.

I was extremely blessed to fulfill both those dreams at about the same time — I met the man who would become my husband exactly one month after landing at Ben Gurion.

And as it turned out, getting married led me right back to my passion for food.

As I became more comfortable in my own little kitchen, I started branching out — adapting recipes, trying new ingredients, experimenting with different flavor combinations. I watched cooking videos, read my cookbooks cover-to-cover, and talked to everyone I knew about cooking.

Over this last year-and-a-half, I’ve learned how to sauté an onion and caramelize an onion, how to brown butter and when to cut the butter in half; I’ve learned how to get a stubborn dough to rise, how to make perfect pizza sauce, and how to bake homemade crackers that taste better than anything from a store. And of course, that’s only the beginning.

As I cooked and baked (and cooked and baked and cooked and baked), I gained confidence. I started realizing that my love of food really meant something — and that I could do something with it.

I started blogging, and soon afterwards, began my column for Binah’s food section, Relish. It’s incredible to me that thousands of people are reading my recipes and stories and seeing my photos. Writing about food has been the perfect way to combine these two things I’ve loved since I was a little girl.

Cooking, food writing, and food photography have granted me more freedom and creative expression than news writing ever did, and all of it has led to new projects, too. Recently, I started selling baked goods on our yishuv, and a neighbor hired me to make one Shabbos meal for her family each week.

At 25, I can’t yet say I’ve got decades of experience. But I feel so lucky to spend my time doing things I genuinely love, and I can’t wait to see what the coming years will bring.

In my earliest cooking days, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to create something as unique as a brown-butter mint chocolate chip cookie. But if you’re a fan of mint chocolate chip ice cream or the famous Girl Scout thin mints, this flavor combination is a no-brainer.

I love the refreshing smell and taste that peppermint extract adds to these cookies, and to take the chocolate factor up a notch, this recipe has you top each ball of dough with roughly chopped nonpareils. Putting three or four chocolate chips on top of a cookie before baking makes it look twice as delicious, and adding nonpareils gives these cookies extra personality.

But even all that wasn’t enough until I added browned butter. This is one of those great baking tips that yield amazing results without adding prep time. You’ll be melting butter anyway, so just leave it over the heat for a minute longer, and you’ll get that complex, nutty aroma that transforms these from “hey, those look like fun” cookies to absolutely-must-bake cookies.


8 Comments

Abigail on May 16, 2012 at 5:38 pm.

Are there left overs?? Are these a fresh batch you made today?? (Fancy a late night visitor to help polish them off?) These were the best cookies ever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Reply

Abigail on May 16, 2012 at 5:46 pm.

Saw the pics, left a comment then read the blog :)
So now the question is, when are you making your next batch?? Maybe a sale?? (You will def have 1 customer ;) )

Reply

Tali Simon on May 16, 2012 at 5:51 pm.

I usually feel like only pareve cookies will sell, but a pre-Shavuos dairy cookie sale could work. Hmm…

If not, I’ll tell you when there’s a fresh batch. :)

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Malka on May 16, 2012 at 10:11 pm.

OMG!! You didn’t!!

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Yiska Ben Avraham on August 19, 2012 at 6:59 pm.

I know this is a terrible thing to say, but what if you are desperately fleishig from Shabbos leftovers and browned margarine instead of butter? I know it wouldnt; be the same, but would it be worth trying? Has anyone done this?

Reply

Tali Simon on August 19, 2012 at 7:48 pm.

I honestly don’t think it would be worth trying. Butter is made from milk fat, which turns into something amazing when you let it go a bit past the early melting point. But margarine’s got chemicals to imitate the qualities of butter. Wait for tomorrow. :)

If anyone has advice to the contrary, I’d love to hear it…

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Yiska Ben Avraham on November 5, 2012 at 4:51 pm.

I would just like to say that these cookies are wonderful. Thank you!

Also, may we have butter measurements also listed in Israeli package size, cause tablespoons are a bit hard with butter?

Thanks for your food inspiration (making eggplant stacks tonight)!

Reply

Tali Simon on November 5, 2012 at 7:49 pm.

Maybe I should do a separate post on this and link to it whenever I mention butter in an ingredient list…

But basically, here’s what I figured out: 200 grams butter = 1 cup = 16 Tbsp. So 100 grams butter = 1/2 cup = 8 Tbsp. For this recipe, you can use 3/4 of a 100-gram block of butter to get the 6 Tbsp.

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