Cookies have great range: They can be complex and multidimensional, like a good Italian rainbow cookie, textured like chocolate chip, or trim and one-note, like English shortbread.
Simplest of all, three-ingredient cookies maximize downsized ingredient lists to deliver the same sweet satisfaction without the supplies of an expansive baker’s pantry. Varying combinations of fat, sugar and flour yield these three easy recipes: slice-and-bake butter cookies, tender chocolate-hazelnut cookies and classic peanut butter cookies. They need no embellishments, but if you’re a maximalist at heart, you’ve got options to dress them up.
Three-Ingredient Butter Cookies
In a bowl, using a pastry cutter or fork, combine 1/2 cup softened unsalted butter (1 stick), 1/3 cup powdered sugar and 1 cup all-purpose flour until the dough holds together when pressed between your fingers. Roll into a 10-inch-long log, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Unwrap, slice into 1/4-inch-thick rounds and arrange evenly on a parchment- or foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned around the edges, about 10 minutes. Makes about 35 cookies.
VARIATIONS: Lightly brush the chilled cookie dough log with water and roll it in sprinkles or turbinado sugar before slicing; or add 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, vanilla extract or lemon zest to the dough. You could even make jam thumbprints: Roll dough into tablespoon-size balls, dimple the center of each with your thumb, fill the thumbprint with about a 1/2 teaspoon jam, and bake until lightly browned around the edges, 12 to 15 minutes.
Three-Ingredient Chocolate-Hazelnut Cookies
In a bowl, mix together 1 cup chocolate-hazelnut spread (such as Nutella), 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1 large egg. Roll into tablespoon-size balls and arrange evenly on a parchment- or foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees until crinkly on top and set around the edges, about 10 minutes. Makes about 35 cookies.
VARIATIONS: Sprinkle with flaky sea salt before baking. Or add nuts: Stir 1/3 cup of chopped, toasted hazelnuts, pistachios or other nuts into the dough. Roll into a log, chill and slice 1/4-inch thick. Space cookies evenly on a parchment- or foil-lined sheet tray, and bake at 350 for about 8 minutes. Makes about 45 cookies.
Three-Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies
In a bowl, mix together 1 cup peanut butter, 1 cup sugar and 1 large egg. Roll into tablespoon-size balls or scoop and drop, spaced evenly, onto a parchment- or foil-lined sheet tray. Use the tines of a fork to press each mound down, making a crosshatch pattern on the top of the cookie. Bake at 350 degrees until set around the edges, 10 to 15 minutes. Makes about 18 cookies. (Note: This recipe works best with traditional, not natural, peanut butter. If using a natural-style peanut butter, stir it well before proceeding with the recipe.)
VARIATIONS: Use brown sugar instead for a butterscotch-like flavor, or add 1/2 cup of chocolate chips and lightly press cookie mounds down with your palm instead of a fork.