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Fragile Viennese cookies are crisp, buttery treats

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    These paper-thin, delicate cookies must be handled with care. Kind of like a relationship.

Valentine’s Day approaches, a day when you’re expected to put in extra effort to validate your affection. May I suggest baking cookies, but not the quick and sturdy chocolate chip variety. Try harder. These paper-thin, delicate cookies, for example, must be handled with care. Kind of like a relationship.

Linda Medallia wrote in search of a cookie recipe with the word “Vienna” in the name, one she’d cut out of the newspaper many years ago.

She remembered some basic ingredients — butter, sugar and flour — but also oatmeal, and the fact that the cookie sheet was covered in foil to keep the very thin cookies from sticking. These were enough clues for Betty Hino, who remembered making Viennese Oatmeal Cookies once many years ago.

Hino still had the photocopied newspaper clipping from a syndicated column called “That’s Entertaining,” by Betty Rosbottom.

And that brings me to my new long-distance acquaintance. Rosbottom, a cooking teacher based in Amherst, Mass., and author of nine cookbooks, keeps up a lively blog on her website, She remembered that 1992 recipe column well.

“Those cookies are among my very favorites,” she said in an email. “The recipe was given to me by Marietta Pritchard, whose Viennese mother made these extra-thin cookies. I had them at Marietta’s house and fell in love with the crispy, thin rounds and asked for the recipe.”

If you’ve had a “lace” or “lacy” cookie, you’ll recognize this treat. Lace cookies are made with a high proportion of butter to flour, usually include nuts and often incorporate chocolate. The result is a cookie that spreads to a thin layer, with a “lacy” texture of tiny holes. Rosbottom’s version is unusual for its use of oatmeal and lack of nuts.

I took the recipe for a test drive and had a little trouble with it as written. The batter spread out so much I ended up with one giant cookie. Rosbottom helped me trouble-shoot and I tried again, to great success. The key is that the melted butter needs to cool before you mix it into the batter. Stir it in hot and your batter will be too loose. Also, drop your batter in tiny amounts, barely a teaspoon per cookie, and space them well apart. They really spread out.

Viennese Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup regular or quick-cooking oatmeal

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with foil. Spray foil generously with vegetable spray. 

In bowl, combine oatmeal, sugar, flour, salt and baking powder.

Beat together egg and vanilla until just blended. Add to oatmeal mixture and mix. Stir in melted butter until incorporated. Dough will be very moist but not so runny that it will lose its shape when spooned out. If dough is too loose, add a little more flour.

Drop dough by teaspoon on prepared sheets, leaving at least 2-1/2 inches between cookies. Bake 10 to 15 minutes, until cookies spread and turn golden.  

When done, slide foil with cookies off of cookie sheet and let cool on countertop until firm, about 5 minutes. Carefully peel cookies off foil and let cool completely. Makes 5-6 dozen.

Nutritional information unavailable.

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