Brown butter chocolate chip cookies get a twist in this simple yet innovative recipe. The brown butter chocolate chip cookie dough balls are baked in a muffin tin, resulting in perfectly round and thick cookies with an extremely fudgy center—jump to the recipe! To pack in extra flavor, the chocolate chip cookie cups are made with salted butter from my sponsor, Land O’Lakes. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own, and thank you for supporting the sponsors that keep Hummingbird High up and running!
What are chocolate chip cookie cups?
Back when I lived in New York, a famed pastry chef began selling cookie “shots”. He molded chocolate chip cookie dough into the shape of a small shot glass and filled the inside with a shot of milk. People went crazy for them! I remember walking by the bakery and seeing a line of people waiting to try the cookie shot for hours (in the freezing cold, I might add).
But truth be told, I was a little confused by the hype surrounding them. Maybe that’s because cookie cups had long been a thing in my little corner of the internet? For years prior, I’d seen several home bakers using special molds or pans to bake cookie dough into little cups and fill them with milk, ice cream, whipped cream, and even caramel sauce. I wanted to shout at the line that the treat they were waiting for could easily be made at home, all without having to wait for four hours in the dead of winter. I was too polite to do that (but not polite enough to avoid calling them out in this blog post, I guess, lol).
How to make cookie cups
Although you can get special molds to make cookie cups that look more similar to those famed cookie shots, you can also make them with a pan that you likely already have in your pantry: the humble muffin tin.
I’ve seen some bakers flip the muffin tin upside down and mold cookie dough over the cavities of the muffin tin to make cookie bowls. The bowls are then filled with a generous scoop of ice cream, making the actual cookie secondary in the entire dessert. It’s a neat idea, but I love chocolate chip cookies so much on their own that I wanted them to be the star in my chocolate chip cookie cup recipe.
An acquaintance of mine had the genius idea of baking her famed tahini chocolate chip cookies in the muffin tin itself. Specifically, she placed each cookie dough ball in its own individual cavity to bake them. In the oven, the cookie dough balls spread to fill the muffin cavity, resulting in perfectly round cookies. The centers of the cookies would then sink a little, giving them the appearance of little cookie cups.
When I tried her method for these brown butter chocolate chip cookie cups, I was HOOKED. Because the cavities of the muffin tin constrain the spread of the cookie dough, the resulting cookies are incredibly thick and fudgy. It was a TOTAL gamechanger. In fact, my initial plan was to fill the divet of each cookie cup with milk, similar to that famed pastry chef’s cookie shot. But honestly, these brown butter cookie cups don’t need it—they’re SO good on their own.
To be fair, aside from the trick of baking the cookie dough inside the muffin tins, a lot of the credit should go to the actual flavor of the chocolate chip cookie dough too. These chocolate chip cookie cups are made with the chocolate chip cookie recipe from my cookbook, Weeknight Baking, but with one major change: I used brown butter instead of traditional butter.
How to make brown butter chocolate chip cookies
In the baking world, many bakers and pastry chefs talk about brown butter with a kind of reverence. That’s because when made right and used in the right recipes, brown butter can really take your baking and cooking to the next level. But first, let’s learn more about what it actually is:
What is brown butter?
Brown butter is made by cooking butter until the water in it evaporates and you’re left with a speckled, amber-colored liquid with a rich flavor and a wonderfully nutty aroma. Brown butter is typically used in recipes in liquid form, but can be chilled back to a solid form like regular butter.
How to use brown butter
You can use brown butter in both savory and sweet recipes. Traditionally, brown butter is used with ingredients that go well with nutty flavors. In desserts, brown butter is often used in traditional chocolate chip cookie recipes, brownie recipes, and even loaf cakes with “strong” flavors like banana or pumpkin.
When making a recipe with brown butter, you’ll need to use the very best butter available. That’s because butter is going to be the predominant flavor profile of the final dish—you want it to be the very best quality it can be. For these types of recipes, I rely on both Land O Lakes® Unsalted Butter and Land O Lakes® Salted Butter, which I love for their clean and fresh flavors.
Okay, now that we’ve got the basics down for brown butter, it’s time to talk about its role in this recipe for brown butter chocolate chip cookie cups and why I use salted butter.
How to brown butter for the brown butter chocolate chip cookie cups
Real talk: it took me almost three years to figure out that I was browning butter wrong. I never cooked the butter long enough for its milk solids to caramelize—I was simply melting the butter! Oops.
But browning butter is actually very easy; you just have to do it with confidence, lol. What I mean by that is knowing how long to cook the butter—long enough for the milk solids to caramelize, but not so long that you end up burning the stuff. To that end, it’s worth investing in some equipment to help guide you: a light-colored stainless steel pan will help you brown your butter to the right color.
To brown butter, melt the butter in a light-colored saucepan over medium heat, swirling the pan occasionally to help the butter melt evenly. Keep a heatproof rubber spatula nearby to scrape down the bottom and sides of the pan occasionally to help prevent the milk solids from sticking and burning. Depending on how high the heat is and how cold your butter was to begin with, browning butter can take anywhere from 5 and 15 minutes. To speed up the process, you can slice the butter into smaller pieces so it will melt faster.
As the butter melts, the mixture will begin to foam. It can be a little difficult to see what’s going on at this point, so it’s best to use the spatula to push the foam to the sides of the pan as best as you can to help you see the color underneath. If you’re having trouble seeing the color of the butter, use a spoon to scoop a small amount of the butter onto a white plate to see its color more clearly. The color of the butter will progress from a bright lemon yellow to a golden tan and finally to a dark amber brown. The longer you cook the butter, the darker and more flavorful it will be, but note that there’s a fine line between toasted and burnt. There’s no salvaging butter once it’s burnt, so be sure to watch it like a hawk as it browns.
If you’d like to see a step-by-step picture essay of how to brown butter (including photos showing the butter turn from yellow to tan to amber), be sure to check out my cookbook, Weeknight Baking.
Can I use salted butter for the brown butter chocolate chip cookie cups?
Most baking recipes instruct you to use unsalted butter; that’s because different brands add varying levels of salt to their salted butter. That means that the flavor of your dessert will vary depending on whatever brand of salted butter you happen to use.
That being said, I prefer the flavor of salted butter (and it lasts longer in the fridge, too). For these brown butter chocolate chip cookie cups, I used Land O Lakes® Salted Butter. In general, I use salted butter in baked goods with “strong” flavors like chocolate, peanut butter, and whatever else. But I don’t recommend doing so for vanilla-flavored recipes, or anything delicate like frosting or cream recipes.
Can I freeze the cookie dough for the brown butter chocolate chip cookie cups?
Using brown butter in cookie dough does not affect its ability to freeze; you can freeze the dough for these brown butter chocolate chip cookie cups similar to how you can freeze the dough for my regular chocolate chip cookie recipe.
But head’s up—using brown butter does affect the texture of the dough. Be sure to check out the baker’s notes below for some of my best tips and tricks for this brown butter chocolate chip cookie cup recipe!
Best Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Cup Recipe Tips
- I mentioned earlier that using brown butter can affect the texture of cookie dough. That’s because when browning butter, you’re literally cooking away moisture. That means that a cookie dough made with brown butter will be drier than a cookie dough made with regular butter. So, don’t be surprised if this cookie dough comes out a little dry, especially if you’re making these on a cold day. The cookie dough will still bake as expected but might be harder to work with. It helps to scoop them with a cookie dough scoop to mold them into perfect cookie dough balls. If you find that your dough is still too dry and crumbly even with the help of a cookie dough scoop (you’ll be able to tell if it’s too crumbly after adding all the dry ingredients in), add an extra egg yolk to the dough and beat it in before mixing in the chocolate chips.
- For the fudgiest brown butter chocolate chip cookie cups, I recommend you use chocolate from baking discs, fèves, or even your favorite chocolate bar chopped into ½ to 1-inch pieces. This type of chocolate melts really well when baked (as opposed to chips, which hold their shape when baked), leaving puddles and pools of chocolate throughout each chocolate chip cookie cup. It’s worth the extra trouble of finding the specialty chocolate, I promise!
- I am the worst at this, but when making these brown butter chocolate chip cookie cups, it’s especially important to wait for the cookies to cool to room temperature completely before unmolding them from the muffin tin. If you try and unmold them while the chocolate is still warm and melty, you’ll end up leaving some of the chocolate behind in the tin!
Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Cup Recipe
- Special Equipment: 2 muffin tins
- ½ cup 4 ounces Land O Lakes® Salted Butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1⅔ cups 7.5 ounces all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¾ cup tightly packed 5.65 ounces dark brown sugar
- ¼ cup 1.75 ounces granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 8 ounces dark chocolate at least 70% cocoa, from whole fèves or a high quality chocolate bar, chopped into ½ to 1-inch pieces
For the Easiest Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter the bottom and inside of the muffin tin cavities with Land O Lakes® Salted Butter and set aside.
- In a light-colored saucepan, melt the Land O Lakes® Salted Butter over medium-low heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until it starts to foam. Use a heatproof rubber spatula to scrape the bottom and sides of the pan occasionally to prevent the milk solids in the butter from burning. Cook for 5 minutes, or until the butter smells nutty and is amber with dark flecks at the bottom of the pan. Remove from the heat and immediately pour the brown butter into a liquid measuring cup. Set it on a wire rack to cool while you prep the other ingredients.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugars.
- Pour the brown butter over the sugar in the mixer bowl and beat on low until just combined. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until just combined. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl. With the mixer on low, gradually add the dry ingredients and beat until just combined. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl once more, and beat on low for an additional 30 seconds. Increase the mixer to medium- low, add the chocolate in three portions, and beat until the chocolate is evenly distributed throughout, about 1 minute.
- Use a 3-tablespoon cookie dough scoop to portion the cookie dough into balls and place each cookie dough ball in its own cavity in a muffin tin. Bake one muffin tin at a time for 10 minutes, or until the edges have set but the centers are still gooey. The cookies will look puffed when you pull them out of the oven, but will fall and crack into the perfect cookies as they cool. Cool the cookie cups completely in the muffin tins on a wire rack. Repeat with the remaining cookie dough (or freeze it to bake later). When cool, run an offset spatula around the outer rim of each cookie and use it to pop each cookie cup out of the muffin tin. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container or zip-top bag at room temperature for up to 3 days.