Eva Lancello has one piece of advice for a would-be Cookie Queen: “Don’t be afraid to fail every once in awhile.” It is only by her willingness to experiment (and decades of trial and error) that Lancello has become the baking maven she is today. Her training began in her grandmother’s kitchen in her native Sweden. She is known for her airy, “Swedish Dreams” and now passes her tricks along to her grandchildren in Minnesota.
Eva's Swedish Dreams
To achieve this cookie’s famously delicate crunch, use a light touch. And use the secret ingredient, Baker’s Ammonia, a leavening agent common in many Scandinavian cookies and pastries. Lancello also swears by margarine, but butter produces equally ethereal results.
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup safflower or canola oil
1 teaspoon of baker’s ammonia (also called “horn salt”) or 2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/3 cups flour
1/4 cup blanched slivered almonds (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Use 1 tablespoon of the butter to grease a few baking sheets.
2. In a large bowl, beat the remaining 7 tablespoons butter, sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Continue beating while adding the oil in a slow, steady stream.
3. Combine the baker’s ammonia or baking powder with a tablespoon of the flour and fold into the mixture. Sprinkle half the remaining flour over the batter and use your hands to quickly knead it in to make a dough. Knead in the remaining flour.
4. Take a piece of dough about half the size of a walnut, roll into a small ball and press gently onto one of the baking sheets. The cookie should look rounded, not flat. If you like, press a slivered almond into the center. Continue until all the dough is used, leaving about 1 inch between cookies. Bake until firm, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool.
Makes about 50 cookies.