June 14, 2017

Fleur De Sel Cookies



There is a darling little French sandwich restaurant in my neighborhood called Vert Kitchen.  It's very quaint and has the feel of a casual French bistro with a cozy patio, and the food is all inspired by traditional French cuisine.  It feels like an understatement to say that everything is such great quality. The food is simple, but little things elevate it to feel more elegant.  For instance, fried eggs and bacon are served over a mixed greens salad with tomato buttered toast, and the arugula steak salad comes with a walnut pesto.  The French bread tastes truly legit, and they always show such creativity using seasonal ingredients.  If you take something to go, they put in a paper bag and tie it with a green ribbon--the extra touches just make it a neighborhood gem!

They have plated towers of decadent, huge cookies.  Their Fleur De Sel cookie is unlike any cookie that I've had.  It has hints of butter, caramel, and brown sugar, and it is topped off with sea salt.  How can you not love that?  Everyone raves about the cookie.  There was a review that described it as a "buttery love bomb" and as a cookie that "haunts your dreams"!

My friend Mary Katherine and I have been trying to figure out what is in this magic cookie.  We googled, but neither of us could find anything like it online.  I decided to play around and try to recreate it.

To bring in the caramel flavor, I browned butter.  Browned butter is just one of those magical ingredients that just transforms anything from good to spectacular.  Since this cookie is darker brown and has a more caramel, almost toffee-like, taste, I used dark brown sugar.  Dark brown sugar has a slightly more complex flavor than light brown sugar, but you could use light brown sugar, too.  I added in some cinnamon to help bring out the butter flavor, and the vanilla and almond extracts helped to round out the nutty buttery flavor.  When I'm really baking something special, I like to use vanilla paste because it just adds a more intense punch of vanilla than regular vanilla extract, so I used some of that in these cookies.  (My sister and brother-in-law gave me a share of vanilla paste from Tahiti!) Finally, before baking, I sprinkled with some fleur de sel.

Let's see...a few other things that I did: I find that cookies always taste better after the dough "marinates" overnight in the fridge.  I think it helps the butter flavor ripen. ;-)  The cookies have a crunchy crust but are so soft on the inside.  I also used cornstarch.  Adding cornstarch to cookies helps keep the interior of the cookie soft.  Cornstarch softens the proteins of flour to keep the cookie more tender.

For my first attempt at making these cookies, I was pretty impressed.  These were a little softer and chewier than the Vert versions, which was a plus for me.  The flavor is so good and different from most cookies.

Make these buttery love bombs, and let me know what you think! :)

Fleur De Sel Cookies
Yields about 20 cookies

Ingredients:
240 grams (2 cups) all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
170 grams (3/4 cup) salted butter
240 grams (1 1/4 cups) dark brown sugar
1 egg
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract (note, I did one 1 tsp. of vanilla paste and 1 tsp. vanilla extract)
1/2 tsp. pure almond extract
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Fleur de sel, for sprinkling

Directions:
In a small saucepan over medium heat, add the butter.  Swirl the butter as it melts to ensure the butter cooks evenly.  As it begins to melt, it will start to foam.  The color will go from a sunny yellow to a golden tan and then to a caramel brown.  As the butter begins to brown, you will start to smell a nutty aroma.  Once that happens, remove the butter from the heat and allow it to cool for about 20 minutes.  

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cornstarch, and salt, and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, add the browned butter and the brown sugar.  Mix on medium speed until no climbs of sugar remain.  Then, add the egg and mix until combined.  Add the vanilla and almond extracts along with the cinnamon, and gradually incorporate the flour mixture.  Mix until a cohesive dough is formed.  Then, lay a large sheet of wax paper, parchment paper, or even plastic wrap onto the counter and transfer the dough to it.  Wrap the dough in the paper and transfer to the fridge for an overnight rest.

When ready to to bake, preheat oven to 350ºF.  While the oven preheats, remove the cookie dough from the refrigerator and allow it to soften.  Line baking sheets with silpats or parchment paper.  Take 2 tablespoons of the dough, roll it into a ball, and place it on the cookie sheet and make sure you leave a few inches around the dough so that it has room to expand.  Sprinkle with fleur de sel and bake for 10-12 minutes until the top starts to crinkle and become slightly darker.  Do not want to bake them for too long because you want the cookie itself to remain soft.  Remove from oven and allow the cookies to rest on the baking sheet for about five minutes before transfer to a cooling rack.

A Simply Sweet Justice Original, inspired by Vert Kitchen

2 comments:

  1. Mmmmm, these sound amazing! When I was reading your "challenge", I thought of the Cook's Illustrated recipe for "perfect chocolate chip cookies", which also uses browned butter and dark brown sugar to get that caramel flavor, so it was fun to then read that you did the same thing! The cornstarch idea sounds great too.

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