It all started innocently enough. I was browsing my local Trader Joe’s and saw this strange specimen staring at me from the shelves:
(Pay no mind to the lousy Instagram photo)
Little known fact: I have become a wee bit obsessed with kettle corn in the last few months.
Widely known fact: I am more than a wee bit obsessed with cookies. This was obviously a combination I needed to recreate at home, posthaste. To the kitchen laboratory!
I didn’t actually buy the TJ’s kettle corn cookies, because to be honest, they didn’t look or sound like something I would enjoy. They’re described as “a crispy butter cookie” and looked like little hockey pucks. They might be delicious, but I prefer my cookies on the softer—and less mass-produced—side, so I decided to just take the idea as inspiration and create my own cookies instead.
I DID, however, buy a big bag of Trader Joe’s kettle corn to use in the cookies.
Okay, that’s a lie. I actually bought 3 bags.
But not all at once.
No, I bought a bag…and then ate all the popcorn before I could make the cookies. Then I bought a second bag, and this one miraculously disappeared in just a few days. It seemed to shrink the most during the hours Jason was asleep or at work. I have no explanation for this, but I suspect gremlins were involved.
Finally, I bought a third bag, and instituted a strict “no opening the kettle corn” policy until the blasted cookies were made and photographed. The remainder of the bag was gone within two days, and I am now forbidden from shopping in the popcorn aisle. True story.
So be warned that even though the recipe only calls for 3 CUPS of kettle corn, if you’re anything like me you made need more like 3 BAGS of kettle corn. Apologies in advance.
But let’s talk about the cookies. I adapted a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated for chocolate chip cookies that used all brown sugar. I thought that the caramel flavor of brown sugar would nicely balance the sweet and salty caramel corn.
I also wanted to use browned butter, to play up the buttery popcorn flavor and give the cookies a little more depth. And of course I had to use a more-than-generous pinch of salt, since the beauty of kettle corn is its sweet and savory nature—I thought the cookies should be the same way!
The result? A substantial cookies that’s crisp on the edges, chewy in the middle, full of brown sugar and browned butter flavor, and packed with sweet and salty kettle corn. These were pretty good the day that I made them, but I actually enjoyed them more the second day (and then the third day…and the fourth…) when the flavors had time to meld a little, and the cookies seemed to get a little softer and chewier.
The only problem is that if I ever want to make these again, I’ll have to procure more kettle corn. And we all know how THAT story ends.
Kettle Corn Cookies
yield: about 36 cookies
7 ounces unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1-3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 large egg yolk, room temperature
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3 cups kettle corn, coarsely crushed
Preheat the oven to 350* Fahrenheit.
Place 5 ounces of the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook it, stirring occasionally, until it turns a medium-amber color. This should take about 6-8 minutes. Watch it carefully toward the end, so that it doesn’t burn. Once browned, remove it from the heat and add the remaining 2 ounces of butter, stirring it in so that it melts and cools the browned butter.
Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.
Combine the melted browned butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a large mixer and mix it on medium-high speed for several minutes, until the brown sugar is moistened. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla extract. Mix on medium speed until the egg is completely incorporated.
With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture until it is almost completely incorporated. Stop the mixer and stir in the crushed kettle corn by hand. Scoop small 1-inch balls of dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
Bake the cookies for 9-11 minutes, until they’re golden around the edges and just set in the center. Don’t overcook, otherwise the cookies will be crispy instead of chewy.
Let the cookies cool completely on a wire cooking rack. Store Kettle Corn Cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks.