4 brown butter desserts to die for: bread pudding, borsellini, torte & shortbread

Brown butter makes just about everything better: tomato sauce, pie crust, chocolate chip cookies, Brussels sprouts ... recipes both savory and sweet. What the French call beurre noisette (or "hazelnut butter" because of its nutty flavor and aroma) is basically caramelized butter. And all you need to make it is butter and a pan.

Here's how to make it:


1. Cut up the butter and place it in a pan over medium high heat. Use a light-colored pan so that you can see the color of the butter as it changes. (As the water in the butter cooks off, the fat heats and the milk solids eventually will brown.)

2. Stir constantly with a spoon or spatula while the butter is melting so that it cooks evenly. After it's melted, the butter will begin to bubble and foam as the water evaporates. Continue to stir and as soon as it is a golden nutty (as in hazelnuts) color, take it off the heat -- it will keep changing color off heat as the fat continues to cook.

3. Pour it into a heat-proof container. It will keep for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator. Or once chilled, cut it into cubes and freeze.

And what to cook with it?

Nancy Silverton of Osteria Mozza uses it to make her apple borsellini, or "purses" of light, fluffy pastry filled with apples dressed with brown butter. She uses vanilla pod seeds in her brown butter.

The brown butter in a hazelnut torte with bittersweet chocolate from pastry chef Karen Hatfield of Sycamore Kitchen and Hatfield's makes it extraordinary, a rustic dessert -- but elevated and rich.

Or toss cubed bread for brown butter bread pudding in brown butter and toast it before baking the custardy dessert in ramekins. The recipe calls for baked quince, but if quince aren't available, bake tart green apples instead, just until they are tender -- they will probably bake faster than quince.

And these easy pecan shortbread cookies are made with turbinado sugar, fleur de sel and brown butter too -- they are buttery, crumbly and melt in your mouth.