Brown Butter Banana Bread Cookies

For the past week or so, I’ve been watching the two lonely bananas sitting on my counter as their skins slowly got darker and more spotted. I knew I needed to use them soon or they’d wind up in the trash. The simple solution would have been to just eat them as is, but I never have bananas like that – they’re always either for smoothies or baking. I was leaning toward baking with them, but as usual was being super indecisive about the recipe. Until I remembered these brown butter banana bread cookies. As desserts go, banana bread really doesn’t excite me at all, but for whatever reason (it probably had something to do with the brown butter :)), I could not get these cookies out of my head after I saw them. And luckily, when I checked the recipe, I was pretty sure I had enough bananas. Our neighbors are huge fans of banana bread, and it’d been ages since I’d shared anything I baked with them, so after setting aside one or two for myself, I earmarked the rest of the cookies for them. I just love when I can not only remove the temptation of treats from my house, but make someone else’s day brighter with them!

Brown Butter Banana Bread Cookies

These cookies are moist and fluffy – like little pillows almost – with lots of flavor, especially from the spices. The nuttiness of the brown butter is a background player, you won’t necessarily detect it, but you’ll know there’s something special about these banana cookies. You could absolutely leave the cookies just like that and be perfectly happy. I wanted more brown butter flavor though, so I added brown butter icing to the tops. I’ve made this icing once before, and it is to die for. Nutty and rich with little flecks of brown butter visible, it takes these cookies to another level. Put a loaf of banana bread in my house and it’ll linger for days (weeks, months??), but if I hadn’t shared these cookies, they may not have lasted 2 days!

Brown Butter Banana Bread Cookies
slightly adapted from Iowa Girl Eats (who adapted from Simply Recipes)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 cup mashed bananas (about 2 medium bananas)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Brown Butter Icing
from Martha Stewart’s Cookies

4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon half-and-half (or evaporated milk)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Whisk the flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves together in a medium bowl. Add the butter to a medium skillet set over medium heat and let it start melting. Continue cooking, swirling the pan occasionally, until the butter becomes golden brown and smells nutty (be patient and watch carefully, it can go from brown to burnt quickly). Remove the skillet from the heat and pour the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Allow the butter to cool for a few minutes.

Add the sugar to the mixer bowl and beat on medium for 1-2 minutes, or until well combined. Mix in the egg until completely incorporated. Combine the mashed bananas and baking soda in a medium bowl, then let sit for two minutes. Add the banana mixture and vanilla to the mixer bowl and beat until completely incorporated (your batter will probably look curdled – don’t worry, it’ll come together when you add the dry ingredients). Add the dry ingredients to the bowl in three additions, mixing just until combined before adding the next batch.

Use a small cookie scoop to drop balls of the dough (about 1 tablespoon each) onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches in between them. Bake for about 10-12 minutes or until the cookies are golden brown around the edges, and the centers spring back when lightly pressed. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and let the cookies cool for a few minutes before removing them to the rack.

To make the icing: Add the confectioners’ sugar to a large heatproof bowl. Put the butter in a small saucepan, set over medium heat and let it start melting. Continue cooking, swirling the pan occasionally, until the butter becomes golden brown and smells nutty (be patient and watch carefully, it can go from brown to burnt quickly). Remove it from the heat and pour it over the confectioners’ sugar, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan as well. Add the half-and-half and vanilla and stir until the icing is smooth. Using a small offset spatula, spread about 1 teaspoon of icing on each cookie. (If the icing stiffens before you get them all frosted (it probably will), add a little more half-and-half and stir vigorously to lighten it up.)

Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies