Brown Butter

FALL IS HERE!! Or was here two weeks ago that is. Regardless, I'm pretty excited. Excited to be able to wear a jean jacket, chunky sweaters and boots comfortably again. To overindulge on honey crisp apples. To step on crunchy sidewalk leaves. To have delicata squash as my main dinner fixture. And to feel the pull towards the outdoors no matter the time of day. But perhaps my favorite aspect of fall is the feeling it brings of rebirth and new beginnings. I've never identified with the traditional calendar New Year--how anybody is inclined to make any major life changes in the dead of Midwest winter is beyond me--so I view the coming of Fall as my own personal celebration. A time marked by a sense of possibility and the chance to start fresh.

To clear the path for these new experiences, I feel inclined to organize and discard unnecessary fluff in my life. The past two weeks have been spent stripping away heaps of perpetually unworn clothes, discarding overaged bags of spices, and, most notably, sifting through the reading list on my computer. This section of my sidebar is a black hole more than anything, a place where archived recipes from all my favorite food blogs get sucked in and quickly become outta sight outta mind. Hoping to rescue these recipes from the void, I went on a major organizing spree, filing all of them in a “To Make” folder, ready to reference in uninspired mealtime moments. During this mission, I noticed a particular trend in my recipe selection. Of the upwards of fifty food projects catalogued, nearly a 1/4 of them contained the word "brown butter" in the title. See evidence below:

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Brown Butter Banana Bread with Peanut Streusel 

Brown Butter Spice Cake 

Brown Butter Blondies 

Profiteroles with Tahini Brown Butter Cream, Sesame Cashews, Caramel and Halva 

Salted Brown Butter Crispy Treats 

Green Lentil Soup with Curried Brown Butter 

Oatmeal Cookies with Brown Butter Frosting and Hazelnut Praline 

Brown Butter Espresso Chip Muffins 

Brown Butter Apple Pie Bars 

So we're all on the same page, brown butter is just regular butter melted and cooked over low heat until the milk solids caramelize and give off a nutty/toasty aroma and flavor. I can't exactly say where my obsession with brown butter began but I think it may have been last summer when I found this recipe for thick cut heirloom tomatoes topped with brown butter and flaky sea salt. The dish blew me away both in its decadence and intensity of flavor, two adjectives  I can pretty much always get behind when it comes to food. 

The tricky thing about brown butter is that despite its simplicity, it requires both attention and mindfulness to come together successfully. In the blink of an eye, your butter can go from beautifully browned to flat out burnt, which unfortunately has happened to me too many times to count. There are a few tips I've discovered though that help troubleshoot this problem and give you pristine brown butter every time. 

-Maintain a low heat on the butter throughout the process. Browning butter is not something to rush. The whole thing hardly takes any time to begin with so giving it those few extra minutes to slowly caramelize will help prevent burning.

-After the butter is completely melted, give the pan a few gentle swirls in order to evenly brown all of the butter and break down some of the milk solids. 

-Use a metal pan rather than a cast iron or non-stick skillet. This will allow you to see the color of the butter change from light yellow to deep amber/chestnut. As soon as it reaches this point, the brown butter is done and should be pulled from the heat immediately.

While brown butter can easily be applied to dishes year round, for some reason it just screams fall to me. I don't know if its the chestnut color, the warming effect, or the swoon-worthy scent, but regardless, it magically elevates any recipe, sweet or savory, from good to pretty f***ing spectacular. 

Take raspberries for example. Drizzled with a mixture of brown butter, vanilla, and crunchy sugar, you get the ultimate, unfussy taste of fall that comes together in less than 5 minutes! 

One piece of advice with this dish, when pouring the vanilla extract into the brown butter, make sure to take a good, long inhale of the emanating aroma. Just trust me on this. You won't be sorry. 

Brown Butter Raspberries

Slightly adapted from Amanda Hesser 

16 oz raspberries

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cane sugar, for finishing 

Divide the raspberries among 4 shallow bowls. Drop the butter in a small saucepan and place over medium heat. Melt the butter and let it bubble and boil. When the butter begins to brown on the edges, give the pan a light swirl so the butter browns evenly. Remove the pan from the heat as soon as the butter begins to smell nutty and takes on a light amber color. Add the vanilla. 

Spoon the brown butter over the raspberries and sprinkle with sugar--amounts will vary depending on how sweet your raspberries are and your personal preference. Dig in immediately!

Serves 4