Today is kind of a big day. Today is what I like to (jokingly) call my Dad’s “Old Man Birthday.” That’s right….today my Dad is turning 70 and Fiancé and I are in town to help him celebrate. And yes, Boyfriend is now Fiancé and since I feel so weird and even a little pretentious typing out the word fiancé all the time – he will now be referred to as “Dude” (per his request). So as I was saying, Dude and I made a special effort to make sure we were able to spend my Dad’s birthday with him. For me, it was especially important to be there. I mean this is the man who taught me how to bake and has in so many ways shaped the person I am today. While most girls like to say, “I’m turning into my Mother” – the phrase you’re more likely to hear out of my mouth is, “Holy crap, I’ve turned into my Dad.” I usually say this about once every couple of months to Dude, who whole heartedly agrees with my statement.
For the past month, I’ve been trying to come up with a cool and unique gift for my Dad’s birthday. I was having trouble thinking of something and whenever I asked him what he wanted, his inevitable response was “a big bottle of Scotch.” Magnums of Scotch are awesome and all, but it wasn’t quite what I had in mind. Luckily, a couple weeks ago the idea for the perfect gift came to me. My Dad and I are known to discuss recipes at length and he mentioned a recipe he was trying for Butterscotch Cookies. He then went on to tell me about these amazing cookies he would get as a kid from a local bakery and how he was hoping this recipe would be similar to them. Turns out, the recipe was terrible and not even close to what he wanted. And that’s when I realized what I would give my Dad for his birthday……I would put my baking skills to use and recreate his favorite childhood cookie and give him the recipe he’s been looking for all these years.
Okay, so my super awesome, best daughter ever gift was settled upon. But then came the hard part……recreating and developing a recipe for a cookie I’d never tasted and never even seen. And since I wanted to keep this gift a surprise, I had to be careful when asking my Dad for a description of the cookies. Basically, this is what I had to work off of – it’s a butterscotch cookie that doesn’t contain any butterscotch chips, it’s soft, it has nuts in it, and the tops have some cracks on them. Sooooo totally easy to figure out, right????
My first course of action was to go through my vintage cookbooks. I figured since it was a cookie my Dad had back in the 1950’s that this would give me a good starting off point. Wrong. While those recipes gave me a decent base, the cookies were mostly bland and flat and, honestly, not very good. I had to rethink my approach. Based on my Dad’s description, the cookies almost sounded like a butterscotch flavored Snickerdoodle. So I started looking online for a butterscotch cookie that had a bit of a twist to it and more closely resembled a Snickerdoodle recipe. That’s when I came upon this recipe. I decided to give it a shot and the flavor was perfect, but the texture was completely off. The cookies were more crisp than soft and chewy. So I reworked the recipe and tested what feels like a gazillion variations. But finally I got it right and the resulting cookie was everything my Dad described. It has a deliciously intense butterscotch flavor enhanced by brown butter and toasted pecans and is insanely addictive.
So Dad, on your “Old Man Birthday” I just want to say thank you……for being an amazing father, for teaching and instilling in me a love for baking, for always coming through when I need you most, for loving me even when I tell you things like Rocky is going to be a doggy supermodel and I’m going to retire and be a dog stage-mom, for making me your legendary Sticky Buns when I’m being a brat and not so subtly hinting that I want them, for not hanging up on me when I call just because I’m bored and have nothing to say, and, most importantly, for helping me become the person I am today. I love you Dad and I hope you enjoy your gift…..and oh yeah, Happy Birthday!!
Butterscotch Cookies for My Pops
Makes about 18 cookies
Adapted from Simply Recipes
12 tablespoons butter, cut into small cubes
1 ½ cups firmly packed dark brown sugar (do NOT substitute light brown sugar)
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup pecan halves, toasted and coarsely chopped
For the Sugar Dredge:
2 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Maldon salt (optional but adds a nice finishing touch)
Preheat oven to 375°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicon mat.
Place 10 tablespoons of the butter in a small saucepan. Cook butter over medium heat, until it smells nutty and fragrant and is a lightish brown color. Remove pan from heat and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Pour the browned butter into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and set aside to cool for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium-sized bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set bowl aside.
In a small prep bowl, make the sugar dredge by whisking together the 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar. Make sure the sugars are well combined and the mixture is clump free.
By this point your butter should be cool enough to make the cookie dough. Add the dark brown sugar into the bowl with the butter and beat at low to medium speed until well combined. Add in the eggs, one at a time beating well after each addition. Stop mixer, scrape down bowl and add in the vanilla. On medium speed, beat mixture for roughly 30 seconds or until the mixture looks nice and shiny. On very low speed, mix in the flour until it is partially incorporated. Then add in the pecans and mix dough until only just combined.
Take roughly 2 tablespoons worth of dough and, using the palms of your hands, roll into a ball. Then take the ball of dough and gently roll it in the sugar dredge, making sure the dough is well-coated. Place on prepared baking sheet and, if using the Maldon salt, crush the tiniest little pinch of salt on top of the cookie dough. Continue this process with remaining dough.
Bake cookies for about 9 to 11 minutes or until they look puffed and very lightly browned. They will look underdone, but this is okay. Cool cookies on the baking sheet for one minute and then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.