Brown Butter – Brown Sugar Bars

Brown Butter-Brown Sugar BarsDon’t judge a book by its cover. Taken literally, I ignore this phrase completely. I am always attracted to a book by its cover. I am old school and read real, hold-the-printed-paper-in-your- hands books. How do eBook readers figure out which books appeal, if there is no cover? Metaphorically, this phrase warns that many things aren’t what they appear to be on the surface.

Brown Butter-Brown Sugar Bars

Brown Butter-Brown Sugar Bars

The popularity of food photo sites indicates that we are drawn to food by its visual impact. Take a look at Pinterest. (I spend way too much time taking a look at Pinterest.) The desserts that receive the most attention are usually gooey. There is something that draws the eye (and stomach) to melting chocolate and caramel. However, this is a post that champions a non-gooey, non-chocolate cookie bar that hides incredible deliciousness behind its unassuming exterior.

Brown Butter-Brown Sugar BarsUntil baking these Brown Butter-Brown Sugar Bars I had never cooked with brown butter. I may have been the last blogger in existence who hadn’t. I am now a complete brown butter convert. The toasty warm flavor is more than worth the five extra minutes it takes to brown the butter. Paired with brown sugar, the flavor impact of these bars is wondrous. Jessica, at How Sweet It Is, wrote a post which gives a step-by-step photo explanation of the browning process, taking all the guess work out. Jessica’s post emboldened me to give it a go. I urge you to give it a go as well. You will find yourself adding brown butter to everything.

Brown Butter-Brown Sugar BarsThese soft, chewy bars are adapted from a Cookies and Cups cookie recipe. Bars often stay fresh longer than cookies and take less time to throw together. Brown Butter-Brown Sugar Bars stay chewy for more than 1 week. The original recipe rolled the cookies in a white-brown sugar mixture. For the bars I sprinkled the sugar on top before baking. The sugar sprinkled results are full of flavor and plenty sweet, so I almost didn’t try the frosting. For mailing or longer storage, the sugar sprinkled top is the way to go but if you aren’t mailing and plan to eat these within a few days, definitely go for the creamy soft brown sugar frosting.

Brown Butter-Brown Sugar Bars

Brown Butter - Brown Sugar Bars
Adapted from: Cookies and Cups
Makes: 16 (2” bars)
  • 14 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 ¾ cups brown sugar (light or dark), packed
  • 2 ¼ cups all purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar, packed
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 2-3 cups confectioners sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9”x 9” baking pan with 2 criss-crossed strips of parchment paper with ends overhanging the pan. Spray parchment lightly with nonstick spray.
  2. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Once melted, gently whisk continually to keep butter from burning. Butter will bubble and foam. As soon as brown bits begin to form( after 2-3 minutes) at bottom of the saucepan, remove from heat but continue to whisk ( about 30 seconds) until the butter turns a caramel brown color. Pour the butter (but not the brown-black bits) into a bowl to cool.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the brown butter and the brown sugar until smooth.
  5. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until smooth.
  6. Slowly add the flour mixture just until combined.
  7. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan.
  8. If using a sugar topping (recommended method for mailing), combine the brown and white sugar then sprinkle over the batter. (If using frosting, skip this step. The frosting will not spread smoothly over the sugar topping.)
  9. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the bars are golden and the edges begin to brown. Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick in the center. If the toothpick comes out clean or with dry crumbs, the bars are ready. Try not to over-bake.
  10. Cool completely in the pan then, using the overhanging parchment, lift out the entire square. If using sugar topping, bars can be cut now.
  11. Frosting directions (optional):In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, mix together brown sugar and butter until melted.
  12. Bring to a boil and continue cooking for 1 minute, stirring continually.
  13. Remove from heat and cool for 5-10 minutes. The mixture will thicken as it cools.
  14. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine butter-sugar mixture and milk until smooth.
  15. Slowly add confectioners sugar until the frosting is a spreadable consistency. (I used 2 ½ cups.)
  16. Spread the frosting over the cooled un-cut bars. Allow to set at least one hour before cutting the bars. The frosting will continue to firm up over time. The top of the frosting will form a crust that allows the bars to be wrapped or piled without ruining the frosting.
  17. Bars will remain fresh at least 1 week when stored at room temperature in an airtight container or ziplock bag. For mailings that travel more than 1 week, I recommend not cutting into individual bars, but wrapping the entire square.
Packing tips
Double wrap bars individually or in pairs in plastic wrap before placing in airtight containers or ziplock bags. Wrapping the entire pan of Brown Butter-Brown Sugar Bars, without cutting, will preserve moisture and keep the bars chewy for longer.


  1. says

    I am so guilty of judging a book by its cover, too. I sometimes wonder about all the great books I must be missing being that way…I’ve come to appreciate brown butter a lot more too. I need to branch out because I really only make it for financiers (and boy, does that make it incredible)! Your bars look very moist and I can imagine the flavor from the brown butter.

    • says

      I guess, Monica, that’s why they say “So many books, so little time!” I love to read but I don’t have enough time for the all books whose covers (or NY Times book review) have attracted me. Thinking about all of the other great books I am missing would be too overwhelming. :) Now that I am thinking brown butter, I will probably try it in any recipe where the flavor of butter was there to begin with.

  2. says

    ISN’T BROWN BUTTER A GIFT FROM THE GODS?! Lol I found it on How Sweet It Is as well and have been hooked on it since. These bars look phenomenal, though: brown butter and brown sugar sounds like a fantastic combo, Wendy!

    • says

      Yes, I do believe you are correct, Jess. Definitely a gift from the gods! :) Now that I have you thinking brown butter – brown sugar combo, are you busily thinking up muffin recipes????

    • says

      Thanks, Pamela! The problem is that I DID go for them for breakfast, lunch, and most other times of the day. :) I was surprised that such a “plain” bar has so much flavor!

  3. says

    I only tried making brown butter a few months ago … and until then didn’t get why everyone thought it was so awesome. But now I get it : ) haha it’s amazing. And these bars sound awesome, especially since there is brown sugar too! And that frosting ….

    • says

      I know exactly what you are talking about, Ashley! I kept reading posts and thinking, “They are a wee bit over enthusiastic today.” Now its my turn to be a wee bit over enthusiastic! Took me awhile but now I’m a browned butter cheerleader. :) You really have to try this frosting! I am so glad I found it on Cookies and Cups!

  4. says

    yay for browned butter! although i confess to not using it often, i do love it when i get around to it. :) and i ALWAYS judge a (real) book by its cover: the look of it, how big or small it is, if i like the paragraphs i happen to flip to…all of it. i don’t quite know how the e-readers do it either.
    i love these bars, by the way; not that it should be an afterthought, and it isn’t, i just got all caught up in the book talk. that they last for so long puts them in the “reliable brownie” category for me for parties: make them way ahead, still tastes like you baked them just that morning. :)

    • says

      The only part of blogging that I don’t like, is that it takes away time from book reading. The library will probably send out a search party for me soon or at the very least will be calling to find out if I have moved. I think they have come to depend on my overdue fees for revenue. Getting carried away with book talk is a good thing. :)
      I read somewhere that you can make browned butter (why is everyone calling it “brown” not “browned” ??) ahead of time and store it in the fridge for a week. That would make me more likely to grab the browned version rather than the stick when I am rushing to make dinner or am absorbed in working with a recipe. I really want to play with it in breads and savory stuff.
      These bars really did exceed my expectations. I was amazed that a bar with no chocolate or goo could provide so much “mmmm”.

  5. says

    Nothing quite compares to the flavor of brown butter! I love how you described it as toasty – I always struggle to find the right word for it. I’m thinking brown butter and brown sugar make a very happy pair! Gooey is good but bars are better!

    • says

      Finding the right words is so hard sometimes, Reeni. I kept thinking that browned butter tastes warm but readers would think I was referring to temperature. I was hoping that “toasty” incorporated the feeling of cozy warmth plus that special toasted flavor the butter gets. It is such yummy stuff. :)

  6. says

    Yum!! These sound terrific. I love making food with brown butter, it’s so rich and delicious. Sorry I haven’t been around. I am back now and will have a blog up soon…missed you my sweet friend!!! xoxo

    • says

      I have missed you too, Suzie! Your enthusiasm is always appreciated! I hope all is well and that it was simply the business of regular “real” life taking up your time. Though I am looking forward to your next post, I will miss being greeted by those enormous blackberries every time I click on your blog! :)

  7. says

    You’re definitely not the last person on the brown butter train. I just recently started baking with it too after seeing it featured on everyone else’s blog. And I’m TOTALLY with you on the paper book thing. I can’t stand ereaders. I don’t care that they’ll save space in my suitcase if I go travelling. I will always want to hold a real book in my hand, where I can flip through pages, smell the paper, and smooth my hand over it’s beautiful cover. The printing press is one of humanity’s greatest inventions and I’m going to support it, dammit! Lol, enough ranting from me. I’ve pinned these bars – can’t wait to make them. The simplest things are the best, in my opinion!

    • says

      I think we need to form an official “Save the Printed Book” organization, Nancy! Those who care are passionate about their relationship with the printed page. As you point out, it is an interaction that involves all the senses.
      As for these bars….Food blogs and the food porn sites are all about visual impact. The eyes have to say, “YUM!” first before anyone will even read a recipe. I wish I was a better photographer and could capture the deliciousness of these plain looking, but chewy, flavor-filled wonders. :)

  8. says

    I always judge a book by its cover too and sometimes I admit I do it metamorphic-ally too :) I know, it’s so bad of me!
    I was browsing through your pictures and Wendy, I am on sugar heaven. Why are we not neighbors? haha. I am not good at baking, and I don’t try hard enough to bake either. So can you imagine if we are neighbors? I will be dropping by every single time you bake :)

    Im back from the Philippines and trying to get back to my normal rhythm. It sounds simple but boy it’s quite challenging.

    Thanks for dropping by Wendy. I hope to see you around!


    • says

      But, Malou, we ARE practically neighbors and I would love to have you drop by for coffee and cookies!! Seriously, we should arrange it!
      Getting back to normal rhythms doesn’t sound easy to me at all. You were gone a long time. First you deal with body clock. Then there is the struggle to get back to routines. Plus you have so many things going on!
      I will keep an eye out for your next post! :) Thank YOU for browsing through my sugar laden posts!

  9. says

    As much as I adore browned butter, I haven’t used it in a while. Maybe because the flavor is more “fall” to me, or just because I don’t bake a ton in the summer. Either way, you got me craving it now!

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