Before I begin, here’s wishing all my Muslim readers Ramadhan Kareem, and may we have a blessed and most meaningful Ramadhan ahead!
We are well into our first week of the fasting month here in Singapore, and as always, baking (and blogging) usually takes a step back in this month, as schedules take a different turn, and the daily spreads of good food during iftar take on different palate sensations, most of which are not exactly in dire need of bakes. However, considering that this is the first year that I’ve decided not to conduct a Hari Raya (Eid ul’Fitri) cookie bakesale, I had received several e-mails over the past two weeks, requesting for cookie / cake recipes to try out either for Ramadhan or for the Hari Raya to come.
While I’m not exactly the go-to person when it comes to quintessential Hari Raya bakes (think pineapple tarts, biskut suji, kuih makmor), I do know that if there’s one thing almost synonymous to Hari Raya, it would be that quintessential festive ‘aroma’, more specifically that heavenly butter scent wafting through the air as we walk past Malay/Muslim homes busily baking away in the last week of Ramadhan. And when my mother exclaimed, “Smells like Raya!”, upon a batch of these cookies baking in the oven, I knew this would be perfect for the first installment of Ramadhan Baking.
When I was much younger, I always looked forward to the baking period during the last week(s) of Ramadhan. My two elder sisters would be pored over my mother’s thick handwritten recipe book, with the busy churning of our white Kenwood mixer in the background, while random toppers in the form of dried cherries, rainbow sprinkles, chocolate rice would be placed in small bowls, and colourful little paper cases lined up neatly on baking trays. More often than not, we would turn on the local Malay radio station for the Hari Raya songs they’d be playing, or if the deejay babble proved to be too annoying, the brother and I would don the annoying hat instead and sing what little songs we knew ad nauseam.
I’m not entirely sure whether it’s the fact that I was fasting, and with the omission of my taste sense, inadvertently everything smelled better, but thinking back on all the Hari Raya bakes, it had always been the baking aroma that was enticing, one that I actually looked forward to, interestingly more so than having a taste of the actual cookies. Baking these brown butter cookies definitely brought me back to those days filled with the festive air.
The key to that quintessential festive aroma, as I had learnt, lies in the amount of butter frolicking away in the batter, or in this case, the alluring nutty scent of butter slowly melting and browning over the gentlest touch of heat. Thanks to the browned butter, the resulting cookies had a crunchy texture with a grit of sandy and crumbly. They may not look like much, but trust me, if you love your cookies with a crunch, yet not too dry, then I assure you these will be a hit, just like it was in my household.
Nancy’s Brown Butter Buttons
(adapted from Flo Braker’s Baking for All Occasions)
225 grams butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup sugar
- Brown the butter: Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium-low heat, stirring carefully and heating until the mixture begins to brown. This takes about 8 – 10mins.
- Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment.
- Sift flour and baking soda into a medium-sized bowl, set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the browned butter and vanilla. Stir in half the sugar, blending well, then stir in the remaining sugar.
- Add the flour in two additions, stirring until just combined each time.
- Set aside for 10 minutes to allow flour to absorb moisture.
- Form dough into small balls, about 1″ in diameter. Place about 1/2″ apart on baking sheet. Bake for 15 – 18mins, until cookies crack across the top and brown around the edges. Let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, before transfering onto wire rack.