BROWNED BUTTER SOURDOUGH MOLASSES COOKIES

Published Date: December 2, 2022 | Last Updated: December 5, 2023
A few years ago, our then home-teacher brought us a plate of these and I about died at how yummy, soft, and chewy they were! My neighbor Brittany gave me her recipe, which I have adapted. We love them! 
Browned butter sourdough molasses cookies
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These cookies hit all the bases! Chewy. Soft center. Crispy edges. The browned butter, sourdough discard, and molasses all join forces to make these cookies the most chewy and delightful cookie of the season! 

Browned butter sourdough molasses cookies

INGREDIENTS

SALTED BUTTER, MADE INTO BROWNED BUTTER (Directions below!) I use salted butter for this recipe, and then turn it into flavorful browned butter! (Directions below!)  

WHITE SUGAR. Just regular white granulated cane sugar is great for this recipe. 

BROWN SUGAR. Just regular old brown sugar is fine. My personal preference is to always use dark brown sugar when possible, but use whatever you have. 

EGGS. Two large room temperature eggs are best!

MOLASSES. Use whatever molasses you have access to! Molasses not only adds that fantastic flavor but also makes the cookies dark brown in color, cuts the sour flavor from sourdough, and makes a chewy cookie.

SOURDOUGH DISCARD. You’ll want sourdough discard that’s not over fermented or smelling extra sour. It should be discard, meaning it should be flat and runny. (More notes below). 

SALT. I always use Redmond Real Salt

CINNAMON. For flavor.

GROUND GINGER. Flavor.

GROUND CLOVES. Flavor.

BAKING SODA. To help the cookies lift!

FLOUR. I like to use all-purpose flour for this recipe!

Browned butter sourdough molasses cookies

How to make browned butter?

Browned butter provides flecks of flavor and carmelization that only make the cookies more delicious. Browned butter also goes great with sourdough because the process of browning the butter also evaporates some of the extra water in the butter. Since the sourdough starter also contains water, this helps the dough be less water-wet and therefore helps avoid a puffy, cakey cookie texture. 

TO MAKE BROWNED BUTTER:

  1. Add the 3 sticks of butter to a sauce pan.
  2. Turn on the flame to medium high and allow the butter to melt. 
  3. After the butter melts, it will start to foam. Keep going. 
  4. Stir the butter over a medium flame as it continues to cook. While stirring,  you’ll notice that the liquid under the bubbles starts to turn brown, and will develop brown flecks. Once the liquid is overall a brown color, remove it from the heat and let it cool.  
  5. Once the browned butter is cooled (at least 30 minutes) it’s ready to be used for this recipe. It can stay at room temperature for up to 24 hours before adding it to this recipe. 
  6. If needed, you can store the browned butter in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to three days. Just let it come to room temperature before adding it to this recipe. 

Why sourdough?

Ok, I’ll be honest. Not every baked good is better with sourdough. One time I made sourdough brownies and I had to throw them away, nobody liked them. Another time I made a sourdough cake and it was so crumbly and dry it was hard to eat. So adding sourdough to just anything isn’t always guaranteed to make it better. But occasionally, when combined by specific recipe tweaks, it can improve the baked good. And this cookie is the prime example of something being improved by adding sourdough to it!

This is what sourdough discard does for these cookies:

  • Improves the texture, making the cookies more chewy.
  • Makes the cookies taste more buttery!
  • Provides a good way to use up some sourdough discard!
  • Ferments the flour making the cookies easier to digest
  • Provides some prebiotics to the cookies
Browned butter sourdough molasses cookies

What kind of sourdough starter should i use?

For this recipe you are going to use DISCARD. 

DISCARD is unfed, flat and runny starter. It will have no bubbles in it, and in texture it will resemble heavy whipping cream. 

This recipe won’t work very well with active starter, since that will thicken the cookie dough too much. 

For more information on sourdough starter, I have a whole blog post dedicated to how to care for one and what it is.

How do I prepare my sourdough starter?

For this recipe we are using DISCARD starter.

Remember that starter is either in one of two states: Fed (active) or unfed (discard). If your starter is fed and active, you will need to leave it at room temperature and wait for it to deflate and become flat and runny before you use it for this recipe. 

If you have some discard starter, but not enough for this recipe, then feed it so that the total volume is at least 1 + 1/4 cup. After the feed it may activate, fill with bubbles, increase in volume, and then as it sits longer at room temp it will deflate and become runny…. turning into “discard” after about 20-24 hours. You will use 1 cup of discard for this recipe and then you will have 1/4 cup for your reserve starter that you can feed when you need it again for you next sourdough baking adventure. 

If the starter that you have has been neglected for a while in the back of your fridge, or if it smells super sour, or like acetone nail polish remover, then it needs to be freshened up before you add it to this recipe. Otherwise, your cookies will taste too sour! You can “freshen” your starter simply by feeding it. To feed, take 2 tablespoons of your unfed starter, and feed it 1 heaping cup of flour and 1 cup of water. Mix together, cover, and let it sit at room temp for 24 hours. During the time the starter may or may not activate, fill with bubbles, double in volume, then deflate and become flat and runny. Then it will be freshened up, not too sour, and ready to be added into a discard recipe! 

What if you don’t have any sourdough starter?

If you do not already have some sourdough discard, then some ways of obtaining one are:

  • Asking a friend for some starter (no really, get on social media and tell your friends/family that you just need a couple tablespoons of starter. I bet someone will give you some! Then take the couple tablespoons that they give you and feed it flour and water which will multiply it’s volume!)
  • Buy some starter online or from a bakery (there are so many sources online to buy one! Google it!)
  • Make your own starter (the process takes anywhere from 2 to 5 weeks with 2 minute daily feedings.)

Perfecting the cookie’s texture

Are you team cakey cookies? Or team chewy cookies? To me, the chewy factor is of super important!

Remember, you don’t want to add too much flour. 

Too much flour = a cakey, puffy cookie.

Just barely enough flour = a chewy cookie

Not enough flour = extraordinarily flat cookie 

 It’s a delicate balance! 

It’s helpful to bake a single cookie after you make the dough to make sure it’s got the right amount of flour! 

Browned butter sourdough molasses cookies

My cookie tips

  • THIS IS A SEMI WET DOUGH, know going into it that the dough may feel different than other cookie doughs. 
  • DON’T ADD TOO MUCH FLOUR. Adding too much flour will make a dry, cake-y cookie.
  • TEST BAKE A SINGLE COOKIE. If you really think the dough needs more flour, before adding any, do a test bake on a single cookie. If it comes out extraordinarily flat, then you can add 1/4 cup more flour to the remaining dough. Most of the time, the dough turns out great even though it feels a little more wet than most doughs. 
  • CHILL THE DOUGH. Chilling the dough will help the dough 1- help the sourdough discard ferment the rest of the dough, 2- improve the texture of the final baked cookie, and 3- Prevent flat cookies. You *can* skip the chilling step, but I recommend chilling if possible.
  • REFRIGERATION TIPS: The dough can stay in the fridge for anywhere from 1 hour to 3 days. Keep in mind that since there is sourdough in the dough, it will become more sour as time goes on. 4-24 hours is the sweet spot!
  • YOU CAN FREEZE THE DOUGH right after it has been made! Just roll the dough into balls, flash freeze on a baking sheet for one hour, then put the dough balls into an airtight ziplock bag and back into the freezer for up to three months. You can even bake frozen dough balls, just reduce the temp to 325 and bake for an extra 2-4 minutes, but keep an eye on them!
  • 1/4 CUP DOUGH BALLS ARE A GREAT SIZE. This will yield 24 cookies.
  • BAKE 6 DOUGH BALLS AT A TIME. If using a 13×18 inch cookie sheet, six of these large cookies can bake at once. 
  • DON’T OVERBAKE!  While baking, as soon as the cookies “crinkle” or “crack” on the surface, they are done! They will continue to cook a little more as they cool on the baking sheet, so take that into consideration as well. you want the center of the cookie to be slightly soft and slightly underbaked, while the edges of the cookie are set and maybe even a bit crispy. The cookies will set and become more chewy as they cool.
  • BAKE ON PARCHMENT PAPER. Instead of greasing my pans, I like to use pre-cut parchment paper for easier cleanup. Feel free to use whatever works best for you. 
Browned butter sourdough molasses cookies

Time saving tips

  • The day before you want to make these cookies, brown your butter. Cover it and let it sit at room temperature until you make the cookie dough.
  • The day before you want to make these cookies, are sure your sourdough starter will have a cup of flat and runny sourdough discard. (See notes above)
  • Make the cookie dough up to three days in advance and refrigerate until the day you want to bake them.
  • Make the cookie dough, then roll into balls and freeze! These can stay frozen for up to three months in an airtight bag. The frozen dough balls can be baked from frozen. (Just reduce the baking temp to 325 and add 2-5 minutes to the bake time.

Browned Butter Sourdough Molasses Cookies

CHEWY, SOFT, and DELICIOUS! We love these!
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Course: Desserts
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Additional Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 24 Large Cookies

Ingredients

  • 3 sticks salted butter 1.5 cups
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup flat and runny sourdough discard
  • 4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 + 1/3 cups flour
  • Extra sugar to roll the dough balls in

Instructions

  • Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium-high flame, stirring occasionally. After the butter is melted, keep cooking and it will begin to form bubbles and foam. Keep cooking and stirring over medium high heat. After a moment, underneath the bubbles, the butter will start to brown. Remove from heat. Set aside and let cool 30 + minutes.
  • Cream together the cooled browned butter and sugars with an electric mixer for 2 minutes.
  • Add eggs, molasses and sourdough discard. Mix well and beat until the wet dough appears fluffy.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the baking soda, ground cloves, ground ginger, cinnamon, salt, and flour. Whisk together so there are no clumps. Add to the wet ingredients and mix well but don’t over mix. Dough will feel pretty wet. 
  • Roll 1/4 cup of dough into a ball and do a single cookie test bake at 350 for 10 minutes. If the cookie turns out extraordinarily flat, you can add 1/4 cup flour to the remaining dough.
  • Roll remaining dough into 1/4 cup balls and chill for an hour. 
  • Preheat oven to 350 and prepare one or more 13×18 inch baking sheets with parchment paper or by greasing them.
  • Roll balls in sugar and bake on an prepared 13×18 inch sheet at 350° F for 9-10 minutes or until barely cracked on top. Do not overbake or the cookies will turn out dry.

Notes

How to make browned butter?

Browned butter provides flecks of flavor and carmelization that only make the cookies more delicious. Browned butter also goes great with sourdough because the process of browning the butter also evaporates some of the extra water in the butter. Since the sourdough starter also contains water, this helps the dough be less water-wet and therefore helps avoid a puffy, cakey cookie texture. 

TO MAKE BROWNED BUTTER:

  1. Add the 3 sticks of butter to a sauce pan.
  2. Turn on the flame to medium high and allow the butter to melt. 
  3. After the butter melts, it will start to foam. Keep going. 
  4. Stir the butter over a medium flame as it continues to cook. While stirring,  you'll notice that the liquid under the bubbles starts to turn brown, and will develop brown flecks. Once the liquid is overall a brown color, remove it from the heat and let it cool.  
  5. Once the browned butter is cooled (at least 30 minutes) it's ready to be used for this recipe. It can stay at room temperature for up to 24 hours before adding it to this recipe. 
  6. If needed, you can store the browned butter in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to three days. Just let it come to room temperature before adding it to this recipe. 

Why sourdough?

Ok, I'll be honest. Not every baked good is better with sourdough. One time I made sourdough brownies and I had to throw them away, nobody liked them. Another time I made a sourdough cake and it was so crumbly and dry it was hard to eat. So adding sourdough to just anything isn't always guaranteed to make it better. But occasionally, when combined by specific recipe tweaks, it can improve the baked good. And this cookie is the prime example of something being improved by adding sourdough to it!
This is what sourdough discard does for these cookies:
  • Improves the texture, making the cookies more chewy.
  • Makes the cookies taste more buttery!
  • Provides a good way to use up some sourdough discard!
  • Ferments the flour making the cookies easier to digest
  • Provides some prebiotics to the cookies

What kind of sourdough starter should I use?

For this recipe you are going to use DISCARD. 
DISCARD is unfed, flat and runny starter. It will have no bubbles in it, and in texture it will resemble heavy whipping cream. 
This recipe won't work very well with active starter, since that will thicken the cookie dough too much. 
For more information on sourdough starter, I have a whole blog post dedicated to how to care for one and what it is.

Perfecting the cookie’s texture

Are you team cakey cookies? Or team chewy cookies? To me, the chewy factor is of super important!
Remember, you don't want to add too much flour. 

Too much flour = a cakey, puffy cookie.

Just barely enough flour = a chewy cookie

Not enough flour = extraordinarily flat cookie 

It's a delicate balance! 
It's helpful to bake a single cookie after you make the dough to make sure it's got the right amount of flour! 

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Hi! I'm Amber

I'm obsessed with all things food and a mom to five. Baking bread and using my instant pot are my favorite things to do in the kitchen, and I can't wait to bring all that I have learned to you! Connect with me on Instagram because there's where I basically live these days.