How About Some LACE Cookies This Winter?

Considered a cookie stand-by by Aunt Annie and both my grandmothers, the delicate and elegant lace cookies look challenging to make. Named for the lace-like holes that form as they bake, these buttery cookies are light and crisp yet packed with a ton of flavor.

It may surprise you then to learn that the batter is mixed in one pot with just a spoon and that these are actually simple drop cookies. The only catch is that you must line your baking sheets with a nonstick liner, something that actually makes clean-up a breeze.

And the other catch is that you need to be sure to bring the ingredients to a complete boil. This step ensures you’ll end up with a silky smooth batter.

The primary ingredients are quite basic. Butter gives the cookies their buttery flavor, obviously, and a good amount of it is what helps them spread so thinly. Sugar or brown sugar and honey or corn syrup sweeten the cookies and give them their crisp texture. A bit of flour as well as some ground nuts or oatmeal thicken the batter and give it substance.

One of the things I love about lace cookies is that you can endlessly vary the flavor of the batter. For instance, vanilla and all other extracts, liqueurs, citrus zest, and spices will vary the flavor, as will using different nuts and adding chopped dried fruits, ginger, or coffee. You’re limited only to your imagination and taste preferences.

Another thing that makes these such a terrific cookie is that there’s no mixer or thermometer needed. All you need for combining the ingredients is a spoon and a saucepan. The butter gets melted and boiled with the sugar and the honey (or corn syrup). This boiling reduces the traces of water found in the butter and honey. Without the boiling, the excess water would cause the cookies to run all over the place. The ingredients only need to boil briefly; you don’t need to cook them to any particular temperature. The rest of the ingredients are then stirred in off the heat.

While this cookie doesn’t need it, you can add finely ground nuts to the batter if you’d like a little more body to the cookie. A food processor makes quick work of grinding.

A heavy baking sheet is the preferred tool here. And the nonstick liner (a silicone mat is the best choice), as mentioned earlier, is a must. On these liners the cookies spread thinly, bake evenly, and come up easily.

Let the cookies firm up a bit before removing them. Use a thin spatula to move them to a rack to cool and crisp further. If you plan to shape the cookies as discussed below, however, you’ll want to take them off the pan while still quite warm and malleable.

Because they’re so thin and—initially—so pliable, still-warm lace cookies can be shaped all kinds of ways. We like making little tubes (by rolling the cookie around a dowel or wooden spoon handle); they’re perfect for dipping into cocoa and garnishing ice cream and puddings.

Or you can mold them over drinking glass bottoms to make little bowls to fill with ice cream, whipped cream, lemon curd, pudding, or any other soft filling. (NOTE: Even though they’re bowl shaped, they should be served in a bowl or plate or things might get messy.)

The cookies will stay crisp and flavorful for a few days wrapped in waxed paper or plastic wrap at room temperature. They also freeze well, but you’ll want to store them in a tin or a sturdy plastic container to protect them from being jostled and crumbled.

While there are LOTS of lace cookie recipes on the Internet, here’s Aunt Annie’s 4-ingredient recipe that’s become our go-to when craving this delicious and pretty cookie.

4-INGREDIENT LACE COOKIES (yield: 12 cookies)

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons butter

1 1⁄2 tablespoons raw honey

2 tablespoons flour

Melt sugar, butter and honey in a sauce pan.

Once melted, whisk in flour until smooth.

Then drop 1 teaspoon of the batter onto a silicone mat-lined baking sheet (about 3 inches apart) and bake for 6 min at 375°F or until they are noticeably golden brown all over.

The batter spreads and bubbles into beautiful cookies.

Once they have set enough to transfer, you can pick them up with your fingers and move them to a cooling rack to cool until crisp.

Or, when still warm, you can shape them into mini ice cream bowls or cones.

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    Alice Osborne
    Weekly Newsletter Contributor since 2006
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