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Scotch Lace: Traditional Scottish Cookie (With Variations)

A voice teacher and storyteller, Teddi's cooking relatives included a great aunt brought to Boston by the family she worked for in Britain.

Scotch Lace cookies are a traditional Scottish treat.

Scotch Lace cookies are a traditional Scottish treat.

Recipes Emerge from What the Land Provides

The recipes a country creates, over the centuries, emerge from the ingredients available. Thus, the Scots used oats to make these cookies. It is not the oatmeal cookie most folks are familiar with—flour is not used. The soil and climate of Scotland has never been conducive to growing a great deal of wheat. But grains such as oats were, and still are, common.

Traditionally, the recipe is a simple combination of rolled oats, beaten egg, sugar, plus a little salt and a little melted butter (or some substitute), plus almond as flavoring. Just these few ingredients form the ‘dough.’ Basically, the oats constitute the flour, but the oats are not pulverized into an oat flour. The rolled oats are used as is—not steel cut, not instant—just the basic rolled oats.

Flavors and Variations

For flavoring, almond may be the most commonly used, or sometimes vanilla. But I like to use other flavorings—sometimes with vanilla, sometimes without. The spices I suggest here can be used individually or together.

Traditional Flavorings

  • Almond
  • Vanilla

My Recommended Spice Additions

  • Ginger
  • Nutmeg
  • Cinnamon
  • Clove

The clove I have not used separately. I sometimes add a pinch to the recipe when using the others. When using only one of the spices instead of the blend, the amount used should be slightly higher. (More on that below after going through the recipe.)

Note About Salt

In any basic Scotch Lace recipe you find, the amount of salt used may run from 1/3 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon. One can often get by with less salt, but never without any. Salt, without adding a salty taste, affects the final flavor of the cookie. I once forgot to add the salt and the result was not good. It was sweet, but the sweetness was wrong, off.

Note About Butter (and Substitutes)

Butter may run from 1/2 tablespoon to a full tablespoon. Margarine can be substituted. Or try using the new blends such as Smart Balance or Earth Balance. Those can work for folks who are sensitive to dairy products. Scotch Lace doesn’t use any other dairy products.

Note About Flavorings

Flavorings such as almond or vanilla may run from 1/4 to 1 full teaspoon, according to taste. I am not using them in the recipe below.

Oats are the 'flour' in a Scotch Lace cookie.

Oats are the 'flour' in a Scotch Lace cookie.

Ingredients

  • 1 egg, beaten until light
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of clove

Instructions

  1. Turn on the oven to preheat it to 325 degrees F (163 degrees Celsius).
  2. Cut the pieces of parchment paper to fit your cookie sheets.
  3. Measure the ingredients.
  4. Put butter or margarine in a small skillet and place on stove, over low heat, to slowly melt. If the butter finishes melting before you are finished with the egg and sugar, turn the flame off and remove the pan from the burner.
  5. While the butter is melting, beat the egg in a small bowl until light. It doesn’t take long, even without an electric mixer. It can be done with an old fashioned, hand propelled, eggbeater.
  6. Beat the sugar into the egg, 1 or 2 tablespoons at a time.
  7. Stir in the salt, butter, and spices. Then stir in the oats.
  8. After placing a piece of parchment paper on the first cookie sheet, scoop small spoonfuls of mixture onto the parchment. The average size cookie sheet will generally hold 12 cookies.
  9. Dip a fork into some water. With the fork, flatten the little balls of mixture. Try to make them reasonably even and tidy, but they don’t have to be perfect.
  10. If the oven has warmed to the correct temperature, place the first cookie sheet in the oven and start working on the next sheet. But keep an eye on the sheet in the oven. Watch for the cookies to turn to an on-the-light-side, medium golden brown. The mixture roughly makes 36 cookies thus filling three cookie sheets.
  11. When a sheet of cookies is done, pull the pan out of the oven. Pull the parchment sheet off the cookie sheet onto a counter or rack. Let it sit for a little while. As mentioned above, once cooled sufficiently, the cookies will easily peel off of the paper. Place the cookies on a plate until cold. If you do not quickly munch your way through them, store them in the container of your choice.
  12. As mentioned earlier, you can try using just one spice, but increase the amount. For nutmeg or ginger, go from 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon. If using cinnamon alone, use 3/4 to one full teaspoon.
The oats are stirred in last.

The oats are stirred in last.

Parchment Paper Is a Must

Sticking problems with Scotch Lace cookies converted me, unequivocally, to the virtues of parchment paper. Most traditional recipes will say to use a well-greased, cookie sheet. Said recipes may even go into raptures how, while the cookies are still soft and warm, one by one you can curl them a bit, usually around the handle of a wooden spoon. Result: a cute, curved, sort of cylindrical cookie.

It’s not worth the trouble. Further, if the cookie adheres too much to the cookie sheet, it will scrunch-up on the spatula. Don’t bother with wax paper. Scotch Lace seems to hate wax paper. Once out of the oven, just let the cookies sit on the parchment paper while they cool for a few minutes. When sufficiently cooled, they can easily be peeled off.

The cookies are not large.

The cookies are not large.

P.S. to the Venturesome

Are there flavors you are particularly fond of? Mint? Lemon? Apple Cider? I can’t say that I have tried any of these yet. Maybe you would like to.

© 2019 Teddi DiCanio