When I was photographing these cookies, I ran to the kitchen for something, came back to where I was working and found Elli-cat licking the frosting off one like it was an Oreo. Relatedly (as in, related to Ellicat weirdness), last night she kept sticking her head in my shoe like she was trying to find out where it led to. Weirdo.
These are cookies for the sweet-and-salty lovers. Elli and I definitely belong in that group – pickle and peanut butter sandwiches, anyone?
But maybe this sounds more your type of sweet and salty comfort food: salted brown-sugar caramel frosting spread between bite-size brownie-like cookies with semisweet chocolate chips and sweetened with agave, all topped with sea salt. Yowza. I used pink Himalayan sea salt to contrast the chocolate hues, but any kind will work.
In order to collect my due of brownie (cookie) points, I want to let you know that I did a lot of caramel frosting experiments for you. My kitchen was a sticky mess. I tried a lot of “pure” caramel recipes, in which you caramelize the sugar alone in the pan, and some worked, but they were all tricky and not worth it, since you risk the caramel setting before you have time to mix it in the sugar as well as risk burning it. It was especially not worth it, though, because the easy recipe I settled on is the best tasting of all: melt butter, add brown sugar and creamer, and let it caramelize itself with the butter to prevent burning. It’s hard to screw up because it’s a set time to boil and has butter to halt burning too quickly. You don’t have to spend hours practicing your caramel connoisseur senses. But if by all means you want to spend some time doing it the hard way, I respect that, you masochists.
This is also the process (more or less) by which you make the soft candy-type of caramel, so your caramel will not harden completely before whipping it into a frosting. I should have known better, honestly, as this was the type of caramel my gram used to throw together for topping vanilla ice cream when I was a kid.
The result is a creamy, sweet, salty frosting that pairs wonderfully with the soft brownie cookie and firmer bites of semisweet chocolate. This is a match made in heaven elevated by the touch of extra saltiness on top of the brownie cookies – and a cup of black coffee. Don’t forget that part.
These are great for a road trip or a picnic as they will stand up well to stacking, but eat them the day they are made for the best flavor. If you are serving them later, however, keep the frosting in the fridge and whip up and frost before serving for the best texture.
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
- 8 tablespoons Earth Balance Buttery Sticks, room temperature
- 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup agave
- 3/4-1 cup chopped semisweet chocolate or chips
- 2 tablespoons sea salt for sprinkling
- 1/4 cup Earth Balance
- 1/2 cup dark or light brown sugar
- 2 1/2 tablespoons nondairy creamer or milk
- 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 - 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add agave and beat until well combined.
- Add the flour mixture in three batches, mixing between additions, until combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- Fifteen minutes prior to removing the cookie dough from the refrigerator, preheat the oven to 325°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Scoop out a teaspoon of dough and shape it into a ball using your fingers or rolling between your palms. Keep a bowl of water on the table to wet your hands to prevent the dough from sticking.
- Continue with the rest of the batter. Arrange the cookies on the baking sheets 1-inch apart.
- Bake until the tops are just set, 9-10 minutes. Transfer baking sheets to wire racks and sprinkle each cookie with a pinch of sea salt. Let cool.
- Melt the Earth Balance in a skillet or pan over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and creamer, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved. Add salt and allow to boil for two minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Stir in sifted powdered sugar in 1/2 cup increments until desired consistency is reached.
- Frost the cookies with a heaping teaspoonful of frosting and sandwich another cookie on top. Continue until done or until you have eaten all the extra frosting.
- Serve immediately with black coffee.
- These can be made a day ahead but they are best the day of baking.
- If the frosting is made ahead of time and refrigerated, whip up the frosting well with a fork and maybe a bit more creamer for a fluffier, creamier consistency.