Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pecan Lace Cookies

First off, these things are gorgeous.  Just beautiful.  But they are also super tasty - like crispy, orange toffee.  They seem to also go by the name Florentines.

They are easy to make.  But they take forever.  And not just because the dough has to chill.  But because they spread out quite a lot, so you can only put 6 really tiny (1 teaspoon, not tablespoon) cookies on a sheet.  And because they are really finicky about the heat convection (I'll do a post about this at some point - if you care about the science-y-ness) you really need to do one sheet at a time to get perfect cookies.

They hardly count as a cookie - they are really more like candy - there are no eggs.but they do have a touch of flour in them (sorry gluten-free folks).  I followed the recipe from Martha's website though I had to adjust the cooking time quite a lot (from 9-10 minutes to 7), probably because I use dark pans.  I also prefer these quite a bit more salty than "John's" unsalted butter and a pinch of salt so I would recommend whatever butter you have on hand (add 1/8 - 1/4 tsp salt for a stick of unsalted butter --  you know you like it salty!) and 1/4tsp of salt.  And I like quite a bit more citrus.

If you want to cheat and reduce the baking time by doing two sheets at a time, try to offset the baking sheets in the oven to maximize airflow (i.e. one is offset to the left and the other the right) and be sure to switch the sheets a bit after half-way through the cooking.

Prep Time: ~10min
Chill Time: At least 1 hour
Baking Time: At least 1 hour (edit: 7 - 10 min per batch.  Thanks Lin!)

Baking Temp: 350 F

You will need:
  • 2/3c packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/2c (1 stick) butter
  • 1/2c  light corn syrup (dark corn syrup will make them too dark looking, though I am sure they would taste great!)
  • Salt, at least 1/4tsp, I like kosher
  • 1tsp - 1Tbsp, grated orange zest (I like these pretty citrus-y)
  • 1c pecans, finely chopped, but not too finely - you don't want a powder
  • 2/3c cake flour, see note 
Note on cake flour: Cake flour is special because it has less gluten (a protein) than regular flour.  Gluten is the thing that gives bread products their bread-ness (doughy-ness, stretchiness, you know what I mean, right).  It causes structure.  We don't want structure.  These cookies get really flat and gluten would cause them to not get as flat.  I'm sure they'll taste fine if you use all-purpose flour (just don't use bread flour - it has extra gluten), but they won't be quite at delicate looking.  I'm not sure the delicateness is worth the price of a box of cake flour but I usually have some on hand (for cakes, it really makes a difference there), so I use it for these too.

To start, heat your butter, brown sugar, light corn syrup, and salt over medium heat until it melts and gets a bit bubbly.

While waiting for this to boil, chop your pecans pretty fine (don't process them, you still want something to chew!) and zest your orange.  Then add these and mix.  Then add the flour and stir until just mixed (working the dough causes gluten structure to form, we don't want that).

Now, John, from Martha's staff wants us to put this in a new bowl before we put this in the fridge, but I bet he doesn't have to do his own dishes, so I recommend putting your lid on your pot and letting it chill for a couple hours (unless you aren't going to baking for a day or more, then transfer to something that is airtight).

The dough is quite stiff when you take it out of the fridge so you are really going to have to dig in to form your dough balls.

Portion the dough into balls of about 1tsp (I really need to invest in a dough scoop this small, let me know if you have found one). And put them on a parchment lined baking sheet.  You really only want 6 on a sheet because they will run together.  And you really only want to do one sheet at a time if you want really uniform browning.  Bake each sheet for 7 minutes (John recommends 9-10) or until they stop bubbling.  The bubbling is really the most reliable way to tell if they are done.

While you are waiting for the cookies to stop bubbling, form all your tiny dough balls.

You might not be able to tell.  But these are still bubbling.

When the cookies are done bubbling.  Remove the parchment paper to a cooling rack.  I let them cool all the way on the paper but while they are still warm, they are pliable and you can form them into shapes like coronets, tubes, and bowls.

The cookies release a lot of oil as they cook.  I like that the parchment absorbs this (do silicone baking sheets?).  I also wipe down the bottom with a paper towel or tea towel before packaging.

These cookies bake super thin and they get little holes where the batter bubbles (leading to the "lace").  I find them delicious and every time I take them somewhere, though you have to be careful, they are very fragile, I get rave compliments.  They really are impressive. So I keep making them.  Even though they take forever!


  1. These look so tasty, but isn't it one hour prep time and 10 minutes bake time? ;) I have friends that need gluten free so I will try these with golden flaxseed flour. Thanks for a beautiful recipe!

  2. Hi Lin, Thanks! You are right that each sheet will take 7 (or 9-10) minutes. It was fresh on my mind how much time you have to devote to these when I wrote this so I did not follow the standard listing of time for a cookie recipe and instead wrote the time for the whole batch. I will amend to be more standard.

    Please let me know how they turn out with the flaxseed flour! I have some friends who would like me to make some GF goodies for the,.



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