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.
For a smooth batter, boil the ingredients
One of the things I love about lace cookies is that you can endlessly vary the flavor of the batter. The primary ingredients, however, 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 often 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. Vanilla or other extracts, liqueurs, citrus zest, and spices will vary the flavor, as will using different nuts and adding chopped dried fruits, ginger, or coffee.
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 corn syrup. This boiling reduces the traces of water found in the butter and corn syrup. 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.
For perfect rounds, use a nonstick liner
Lining your baking sheets—I prefer heavy aluminum ones—with a nonstick liner is a crucial step. There’s a variety of reusable nonstick liners on the market, ranging from about $5 to $20. On these liners, the cookies spread thinly, bake evenly, and come up easily. The cream of the crop is the imported Silpat/Exopat liner; it’s a good investment if you bake a lot, but the cheaper versions work well, too. Kitchen parchment, most of which is treated with silicone, will work in a pinch, but the cookies don’t spread as much and won’t look as lacy, though they’ll still be delicious. Simply greasing the pan results in misshapen cookies, and the cookies don’t spread evenly on aluminum foil.
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.
Mold warm lace cookies into whimsical shapes
Because they’re so thin and—initially—so pliable, still-warm lace cookies can be shaped all kinds of ways. Little tubes, made from rolling the cookie around a dowel or wooden spoon handle, are great for dipping into tea and coffee.
I also like to turn the cookies into bowls for holding cream or fruit fillings. To do this, carefully remove the cookies from the baking sheet while still warm and soft and then drape them over a small overturned glass. For a tuile, lay the cookies over a rolling pin. As soon as the cookies cool enough to become rigid, remove them from the mold, and they’ll hold their shape.
If the cookies on the baking sheet get too firm before you’re done shaping them, pop them back into the hot oven for a minute. If you want large cups, use two or three teaspoons of batter for each cookie and leave at least four inches between them on the baking sheet. The Classic Lace Cookies and Milk-Chocolate Pecan Lace Cookies both work well for shaping; the currants in the Cinnamon Currant Oatmeal Lace Cookies tend to break through the cookie when shaped.
Serving and storing lace cookies
Another great thing about these cookies is their versatility. I love to turn the flat rounds into sandwiches. Jellies and jams also make great fillings. When filling the sandwiches with chocolate, let the melted chocolate firm up slightly first so that it doesn’t seep too much through the tiny holes.
You can fill bowl-shaped cookies with ice cream, whipped cream, lemon curd, or any other soft filling. They can also hold slices of slightly sweetened fruit. If I’m planning to fill the cookies, I wait to do it until just before serving so the cookies stay crisp. I also have a few extra shells on hand in case one breaks. 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.