Have you ever had one of those cookies that looks a little plain, didn't turn out quite like you were expecting, but is incredibly addicting? I baked something like that the other day, a type of sugar cookie. The whole batch only lasted for about three days, too. It's a rather versatile cookie, the type you can snack on, munching on one while wandering around the kitchen, debating what to eat for lunch, as well as being the type you can sit down with, indulging in a few with a book and latte in hand. And, of course, they're full of lemon zest, one of the keys to making them irresistible.
As a sugar cookie, they're a little different, in appearance and texture, from what a standard recipe produces, but that doesn't detract from the flavor or the desire to bake them again at all. In fact, I've been tempted to make another batch already, because they were that good. In the oven, they turned golden and crispy along the edges and bottom, chewy in the middle, and slightly crusty on top from being rolled in vanilla sugar. Although very good slightly cooled after baking, the flavor intensified over the next day or so, without losing any freshness, so it's an ideal recipe for making ahead of time or savoring over several days, if they can last that long.
I don't remember being so satisfied with the first outcome of a new cookie recipe. Usually, I end up tweaking them a little with each baking session until finally reaching a more desirable result. I did make a couple of alterations from the original recipe, though, so the tweaking was done without having to experiment more than once. If anything, I might add another tablespoon or two of butter next time, to see if that would help them spread a little more, but the change really isn't necessary.
Lemon Sugar Cookies
Adapted from Cottage Living, July/August 2008
2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp kosher salt
¾ cup butter, softened
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
½ cup vanilla sugar*
Zest of 2 lemons (about 2 Tbsp)
½ cup plain whole milk yogurt
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
In a large bowl, beat together the butter, 1 ½ cups sugar, and lemon zest until lightly creamed. Add yogurt, and beat just until blended. Stir in egg yolks and lemon juice, scraping down sides of bowl. Add the flour mixture, and beat until blended. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350° F. Place ½ cup vanilla sugar in a small bowl (if you don't have vanilla sugar, just use regular sugar). Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in sugar, and place on a rimmed baking sheet, about twelve at a time, depending on the size of the baking sheet. Return unused dough to fridge while each batch bakes.
Bake for 18 - 20 minutes, or until edges begin to brown; bottoms will turn slightly golden. Remove cookies immediately to wire racks to cool, or else they'll stick to the sheet. Repeat with remaining dough. Store cookies in an airtight container to keep fresh.
Makes about 40 cookies.
*Vanilla sugar: it's easy to make -- just take two vanilla bean pods that have been scraped of their seeds, place in a small container, cover with granulated sugar, maybe about 3 to 4 cups, and let sit for a few days, shaking every once in a while to break up any lumps that form. The moisture from the vanilla bean pods will cause the sugar to clump.