Make the dough the night before you intend to bake the cookies: Cream the butter and sugar in a mixer until very light-textured, almost white. Separate one egg, reserve white in refrigerator. While the butter and sugar are creaming is a good time to sift the flour and grate the lemon rind. Add one whole egg and egg yolk, vanilla, lemon rind and salt. Add flour.

Chill dough for several hours, preferably overnight. This is important, both because the dough will be unworkable without chilling, and to allow the flavors to blend. It may be refrigerated for several days if necessary.

On the day of baking:

Preheat oven to 375°. Butter two cookie sheets.

Roll very thin on a pastry cloth. (How thin? Experience will tell. Perhaps 2 mm.) Cut out individual cookies with a cookie cutter and place on cookie sheet. Brush tops with reserved egg white, and top each with a pecan. Bake until lightly browned at the edges, about 8 minutes. Watch them like a hawk! Baking time is very dependant on cookie thickness, characteristics of your cookie sheets, and temperature and temperature evenness of your oven.

Cool on wire rack. Makes about 2 pounds.

I’ve been making these cookies for decades. They’re similar to the ones my mother and aunt used to make every Christmas, and have nice memories for me. These are the best cookies I know of, anywhere. Really.

The original recipe states that the last of the flour may need to be kneaded in. I have a Kitchen Aid mixer and have never had to knead, but less powerful mixers may not fare as well. The finished dough will be very stiff.

When the dough is taken out of the refrigerator on the day of baking, it will be very stiff, almost unworkable. You may let it warm up a little. Recently I have been warming it in a microwave oven. With care, this seems to work. Be careful, it must remain stiff enough to roll.

This recipe produces cookies that are extraordinarily thin and crisp, but to do this, you must master the use of a pastry cloth and rolling pin cover. There is nothing especially difficult about these tools — I taught myself — but they do require some practice. Dust both with flour before you start, and again after each rolling. I use a clean spatula to lift the cookies from the pastry cloth and deposit them on the cookie sheet.

You will need to remove the cookies from the pan in stages, as they are done. I have never been able to roll the cookies evenly enough, or had pans and ovens that heated perfectly edge to edge, that I was able to bake an entire pan to perfection simultaneously.

The recipe can be doubled easily. In fact, that’s the way I usually make it.

The cookies are best eaten within a week; after that they begin to get stale, although you may prolong their life by keeping them in the freezer.

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