Resembling translucent glass windows spotted with specks of black sesame seeds, these delicate cookies are a sweet and illusive treat. They are as light as air and are not so much eaten as absorbed on the tongue. It is only the tiny sesame seeds, which toast up as they are baked, that provide substance.
This particular recipe, as there are many kinds of lace cookies, is from “Flour,” a 2010 cookbook by Joanne Chang and Christie Matheson. Like all lace cookies, there is a lot of butter and sugar, but not much flour.
When baked they really spread out, so if you want round cookies, you need a baking sheet that is very flat and sturdy. I tried to make the balls of dough as small as possible and spread them out far from each other so they didn’t stick together. As you can see from the photograph, they insisted on creating their own form. Also, use a rimmed pan in case the dough melts off the sides of the pan onto the bottom of your oven — not a pleasant cleaning task.
The dough can be refrigerated for up to a week so you don’t have to bake them all at once.
Black sesame lace cookies
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
7 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon orange zest (from about half an unwaxed orange)
1/3 cup fresh orange juice, from about one and a half oranges
3 tablespoons black or white sesame seeds
In a large bowl, beat the butter until it is fluffy and pale yellow; this takes about two minutes by electric beater and about three minutes by hand. Add the granulated sugar and brown sugar and beat together for an additional minute until fully blended.
If you are using an electric beater, reduce the speed to low and mix in the flour and orange zest until just combined. Pour in the juice and stir for about thirty seconds. Add the sesame seeds and stir a few times. The mixture will firm up when it is refrigerated.
Transfer the dough to an airtight container. It needs to be refrigerated for at least four hours, or for up to a week.
When you are ready to make the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a very flat cookie sheet with parchment paper. It’s important that the sheet has a rim and is really flat if you want individual, mostly-round cookies. The rim keeps melted dough from spilling on to your oven.
Take the cookie dough from the refrigerator and pinch off or scoop rounded spoons of dough about the size of a playing marble. Place each dough ball at least three inches from its neighbor. I put on six cookies per sheet, in staggered rows. Return unbaked dough back to the refrigerator. This makes about 3 dozen cookies.
Bake for 14 to 16 minutes until the cookies are uniformly caramel-colored. If you are baking two pans at a time, switch levels half way through. Leave cookies on their cookie sheet to cool. They can be stored in an airtight container for up to three days. Make sure the cookie pan is completely cool if you are going to reuse it to bake another batch. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.