Yay, it’s holiday baking time! Blogs everywhere are blowing up with butter-laden, chocolate-dipped, sugar-dusted delights! I am ready to jump on that bandwagon and I’m not coming off ‘til January, if at all.
These macadamia lace cookies are some of my very favorite holiday treats. They were a completely random discovery. In 2004, I impulse-bought a Fine Cooking holiday issue (I’m good for at least one check-out aisle purchase of a holiday baking periodical per season), but I never really dug into it until 2007. I have no idea why I picked it up three years after buying it, but when I finally flipped through, I was taken in by a little picture of lacey macadamia nut cookies. The recipe was featured in a cookie-swap themed spread presenting reader-submitted recipes. Denise Pierce’s Macadamia Lace Cookies had been chosen, with a few others, from hundreds of reader submissions. I am a huge fan of thin, crispy cookies (part of why I love Jessica’s mom’s chocolate chip cookies so much), so these looked perfect.
Added bonus: these cookies came with a baking epiphany. The instructions described a technique for cooking butter that I had never heard of before, something called “browning the butter.” After watching that butter turn into something completely different and amazingly delicious, I was hooked — not only on brown butter — but on baking. There were a couple of moments around that time in my life when I felt like I finally “got” cooking and I really started to love it. This is a little weird to admit, but I can still remember watching that butter brown for the first time. Looking back on it, I recognize that I was completely engaged by the process — a feeling that I previously hadn’t felt while cooking. I was doing more than just following a recipe and hoping, which had been my M.O. for years. I was absorbed, fascinated by the alchemy, and enormously satisfied by the results. (I had a similar a-ha moment when I made Martha’s mac and cheese for the first time and became a believer in the voodoo of a roux.) Here I am, five years later, still browning a heck of a lot of butter, as everyone here knows, and still loving these snappy, crunchy cookies. And still loving baking, of course.
The cookies are very simple to make and are a sweet balance of buttery-nutty-salty. They are a nice contrast to the usual cookie table offerings. The recipe is on Fine Cooking’s website and below are a few tips I’ve picked up over the years.
- Grind the macadamia nuts in a food processor, if you have one.
- A melon baller is perfect for measuring out the cookie dough.
- The cookies spread a lot, so even though you might be just scooping teaspoons of dough, leave a good amount of space between cookies.
- These go from perfect golden brown to just shy of burned in a blink of an eye, so don’t leave them unattended. I’ve pulled some batches out in as few as 4 minutes, while others languish for 8 or 10 before reaching perfection. Good news: they are delicious in all shades of brown, from camel to mahogany (just don’t let them char).
- These don’t take long to make, bake, or cool, so they are great if you are short on time. The only time consuming aspect is that you can’t fit very many on a baking sheet at once (see above re: spreading), so it takes a few batches to get through the dough.
- Be sure to serve these with a napkin… macadamia nuts + a stick of butter = greasy fingers. But if a cookie doesn’t need a napkin, is it really worth it?