Brown Butter Cocoa Fudge Sandwich Cookies

Here’s something I never thought I’d find myself saying: I’m becoming a cookie person. For the longest time I’ve been pretty meh about cookies (except whoopie pies, but I don’t really consider them true cookies). If we were checking out a new bakery I’d never think about ordering a cookie, and similarly, if I was heading into the kitchen to bake, cookies would pretty much be last on the list of things I’d consider.

But I’m starting to come around. Cookies are usually pretty low maintenance – one, maybe two dirty bowls and, assuming you’re lining your baking sheets with parchment, no pans to wash. Plus, you can have the dough ready in literally just a few minutes and you get to snack on it while your first batch of cookies bakes :) I’ve also found I’m really good about portion control with cookies. I grab one or two and wrap the rest immediately, usually throwing them in the freezer – out of sight, out of mind!

Brown Butter Cocoa Fudge Sandwich Cookies

These brown butter cocoa fudge cookies are the definition of simplicity. The dough is made entirely in one saucepan with just a spoon – no fancy mixer required. And they bake for less than 10 minutes so it’s as close to instant gratification as you can get with baking from scratch. The recipe calls for yogurt, which is a little bit of an unusual ingredient for cookies, but it keeps the cookies moist. I’ve heard in the past that yogurt can replace some of the butter in baking, and I’ve done it with muffins, but never cookies until now.

Brown Butter Cocoa Fudge Sandwich Cookies

It’s in my nature to make things more complicated than they need to be so of course I had to go and brown the butter and then make a filling to sandwich the cookies, but feel free to skip one or both of these steps. The cookies can definitely stand on their own; they’re fudgy and chewy, in many ways sort of brownie-like. You may be thinking I tinted the filling red and pink in a nod to Valentine’s Day, but the truth is I wasn’t in my own kitchen when I made them and those were the only two colors I’d brought with me (in anticipation of making other V-Day treats, of course). You could leave it white or even make it team colors if you want to serve these at your Super Bowl party!

Brown Butter Cocoa Fudge Sandwich Cookies
cookies slightly adapted from Cooking Light, January 2002, filling from Smitten Kitchen (originally from Retro Desserts)

{Note: I used half nonfat Greek yogurt and half light sour cream in place of the yogurt called for below. Also, as I noted above, if you want to simplify things you can just melt the butter and skip browning it.}

Cookies
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
7 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Filling
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add the butter to a medium saucepan and set over medium heat. The butter will melt then begin to bubble and foam (I usually just swirl the pan a few times as I’m browning the butter, no need to stir). Eventually it will start to turn brown and smell nutty – be patient and watch carefully, it can go from brown to burned quickly. Remove the pan from the heat and add the cocoa powder and both sugars to the pan and stir to combine – the mixture will look like wet sand. Mix in the yogurt and vanilla until incorporated. Add the dry ingredients and mix until completely combined (the mixture will be thick).

Using a small cookie scoop (mine measures about 1 1/2 inches across), portion the batter onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing the cookies about 1 inch apart. These cookies won’t spread much so if you want flat cookies, press them down until they’re about 1/3 to 1/2-inch tall discs. (If you don’t press them down, they’ll look more like this. The taste and texture will be the same, but I preferred the appearance of the flat cookies.) Bake for about 7-8 minutes (rotating the baking sheets halfway through), or until the edges of the cookies are just barely set. Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and let the cookies cool for just a few minutes then use a spatula to transfer them to the wire racks to cool.

To make the filling: Add the butter and shortening to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until smooth and well combined. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar (I did 1/2 cup at a time) and then the vanilla. Increase the mixer to high, and beat the filling for about 2 minutes, or until light and fluffy. If you want to color the filling, divide it into separate bowls and stir in gel food coloring until you achieve the color you want.

To assemble: Match the cookies in pairs by size. Transfer the filling to a piping bag (or bags if you’re doing multiple colors). Pipe filling onto the flat side of one cookie of each pair. Sandwich the cookies together, gently pressing the filling to the edge.

Makes about 12 sandwiches