The “gold rim” cookies may not sound like much (and their name doesn’t do them any favors, either), but don’t let appearances fool you. In the large Venn diagram of the cookies, this is at the intersection of the Christmas sugar cookie, the vanilla cookie, and the French tuile. They’re absurdly buttery, crispy around the edges, chewy in the center, and they go with everything. It’s a bold statement, but when it comes to cookies, these little golden circles are almost perfect.
In the 1970s, my aunt Liz introduced my family to these cookies, whose modest name comes from the delicate, crisp golden halo that surrounds their soft center. They were surely a hit, because since then the cookies have appeared at almost every meeting and funeral, and in every college supply box and first-day-of-school lunch box. If a cookie can be a touchstone for a family, this is ours.
The exact story of the original recipe was lost in the sands of time, but it is old. My aunt received the recipe from her neighbor, Millie Shea, who learned it from her mother as a child in the 1930s. For many years, Nabisco sold a similar cookie called brown-edge wafers, but It was discontinued in 1996, prompting nostalgic home cooks to develop their own variants, which can be found all over the internet and in community cookbooks sold bundled together.
My down-to-earth Midwestern heart will always prefer these plain cookies, but they’re also great in a bowl of ice cream, sorbet, or pudding. Nor would it be a bad idea to sandwich a layer of lemon curd, Nutella or berry jam between two cookies. Although I can’t endorse it, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of almond, lemon, or orange extract to the dough. (Pro tip for adults: nibble on one while sipping a plain bourbon.)
When it comes to recipes, it is the easiest to prepare. You need a mixer, a bowl, and only six ingredients: butter, sugar, eggs, flour, vanilla, and salt. Beat until you get a creamy batter, use a spoon to spoon the mixture onto a baking sheet and bake until the center of the cookies is puffed up a bit (will flatten when cool) and the edges are golden brown. Some versions call for butter, or more egg whites, or potato starch, but the simplicity of this version makes it something you want to make over and over again.
Recipe: Cookies with Gold Edges
Total preparation time: 1 hour and 15 minutes
Yield: approximately 4 dozen
453 grams of unsalted butter, at room temperature
453 grams of sugar (2 1/4 cups)
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 cups (384 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon fine salt
1. Place two racks in the center of the oven and heat it to 190 degrees Celsius. Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or an electric hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until incorporated, about 1 minute.
2. Add 1 cup of flour and salt and beat on low speed until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the remaining 2 cups of flour and beat on low speed until just incorporated. Scrape the bowl and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds until no flour remains.
3. Pour tufted tablespoons of dough into 2 parchment-lined baking sheets, 3 inches (7.5 cm) apart, as cookies spread quite a bit while baking.
4. Bake 2 trays at a time, rotating halfway through, until edges are lightly browned and centers are slightly puffed, 10 to 12 minutes. Repeat with the rest of the dough.
5. Cool on pans on wire racks for 10 minutes, then transfer cookies to wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 6 months.