Lemon Sugar Cookies

December 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

My room at home is right next to the kitchen, which means I can roll out of bed at 6:30 a.m., still jet-legged, and set about icing holiday cookies. Red and green sugar sprinkles for the gingerbread trees and bells, a lemon glaze for the sugar cookie snowmen and teddy bears, and a thin smear of chocolate sandwiched between two brown-sugar poppy seed wafers.

Most of the year, I am all for innovation and new desserts. But come Christmastime, there are a few cookies that absolutely have to make it on the cookie plate (which, yes, we still put out for Santa). They come from cookbooks with pages falling out, stained with eggs and chocolate. Every year, you have to flip through torn pages, all out of order, past dozens of cookies you’ve never made, until you find what you’re looking for. Yesterday, I made the lemon sugar cookie dough, rolled it out and baked it into pretty shapes. Today, when I woke up to ice them, there were maybe half the number of cookies we had last night. I guess that’s what happens when you go to bed at 9 p.m. and stop keeping an eye on them.

I always like to have a balanced assortment of flavor on my cookie plate. These are the most delicately-flavored of the bunch. The cookie is soft, but with a crisp crumb. Don’t skip out on the glaze, it’s necessary to achieve the full lemony effect and it makes for a nice tart-sweet contrast with the buttery cookie.

Lemon sugar cookies
Adapted from The Christmas Cookie Book by Lou Seibert Pappas

1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt

2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolk and lemon zest until smooth. Add the flour and salt and mix to form a dough (this can be done with your hands if you like). Gather the dough into a ball, flatten, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll out the dough on a floured surface less than ¼ inch thick. Use cutters of your choice to cut out cookies. Place cookies on prepared sheets and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. Transfer to racks to cool.

To make the glaze, stir together the sugar and lemon sugar. It should be thin and transparent. Spread the glaze on the cooled cookies.


May 9, 2011 § 1 Comment

I’m getting really antsy. Literally all I can do is sit online all day looking at airline websites, searching for train tickets, comparing prices, signing up for Couchsurfing, sending off my WWOOFing requests. I cannot seem to think about anything else. Meanwhile, it seems to be becoming summer around here. The sun is out almost every day, but the wind has come in too in huge, gusty doses. Runs are now done directly into a firm and constant headwind. Hence less time outside, and more time umm…planning my life two months from now? No one said life was easy.

But then something happened that made me glad to be in San Francisco this time of year. After the discovery that I am most likely allergic to apples and the requisite purging of many of my favorite desserts from the repertoire, I’ve been getting pretty down on the lack of produce options at this time of year. I mean, you could have an apple or a navel orange or maybe a mandarin. I hate nothing more than having a lack of choices. But then, then I went to the Noe Valley farmers market on Saturday and right there in front of me were the season’s first crates of local cherries. Overflowing crates, leaking juices to permanently stain my fingers, and I grabbed handful after handful. As it is, my paper bag full didn’t even last through the weekend. But between you and me, I am going to blame that on the little brother, who likes to decide that he likes things after you buy them and consequently eats his way through your entire stash that you thought was for yourself and yourself only.

Another thing he is good at eating his way through is entire batches of cookies. A couple hastily stolen from the cookie racks with a very guilty look on his face, half a dozen in his school lunch. Come to think of it, I’m kind of the same way with cookies. They go fast.

Sugar cookies tend to get the short end of the stick. On a cookie plate with others offering up chocolately, nutty, fruity goodness, there aren’t many people who won’t pass them up for something more extravagant. But no other cookie quite achieves that soft, chewy interior and crisp edges quite like the ordinary sugar cookie. And coated with cinnamon sugar — seriously who doesn’t love cinnamon toast — and given a cute name like “snickerdoodle,” there’s really no way you can pass them up again.

Snickerdoodle Cookies
From Stars Desserts by Emily Luchetti

1 stick unsalted butter
3/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
1 1/3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and the 3/4 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and mix until smooth. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt. Fold the dry mixture into the wet mixture. In a small bowl, mix together the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar and the cinnamon. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and roll in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place the cookie balls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.

Lime-black pepper cookies

February 19, 2011 § 4 Comments

I think I was pretty close to crying yesterday walking home from the metro station with the rain pouring down, my hood soaked through and my iPod carefully hidden in a waterproof pocket, because I’ve lost one or two already to sudden rainstorms. Also, I seem to have gotten in the habit of disembarking streetcars in relative franticness after a few too many uncomfortable encounters with creepy people sitting too close to me. I mean, whatever happened to polite people, and spring…spring weather please?

I made these cookies that were perfect for spring and now spring has gone into hiding. I know, I know, I’m not going to get very much sympathy from most people. By the way, have you seen this yet? Sure, we’re probably not making any friends talking like that but you admit we’re cute right? Right?

But so anyway, my point was that it’s pouring and I’m about to head out to the gym, kicking and screaming, and I think I’ll bike on the top floor, so that I can look out over the rooftop, outdoor swimming pool and remember all those late nights I spent at swim practice in the morning rain, wishing the lightning would just come out already so that I could get out of the water, but it never coming and practice finally ending and having to start my homework on the long drive back into the city. Well I guess that makes my current situation sound a little better anyway.

Okay seriously, the new journal starts now, I literally cannot manage to stay on one topic for more than a couple of sentences. Let’s get to the point:

I’ve been experimenting with black pepper as part of an article that I was writing, which you can find here. This was my favorite recipe of the ones I tried — lime-black pepper cookies. I know it sounds a bit strange, but give it a shot. You barely taste the black pepper itself at all but what it does is enhance the lime flavor so that what you get is a zingy, zesty pop. All in a little sugar cookie. If spring had a taste, this would be it.

You can find the recipe for black pepper lime cookies on the Chicago Tribune Website here. I did add a brush of a simple glaze made of freshly-squeezed lime juice and confectioner’s sugar on top, along with a couple of twists of the pepper grinder.

Also, I have recently revamped my Twitter account and to follow all my inane thoughts, all you have to do is click here.

Changing seasons and a fall cookie

September 27, 2010 § 1 Comment

I think it is finally fall over here; the skies are overcast, it drizzles occasionally and I’m huddled up in my apartment in wool socks because I’m sick. Lovely. In fact I think we have skipped fall altogether and gone straight to winter. Which is unfortunate, because fall happens to be my favorite season of the year. I love walking to the crunch of the leaves underfoot, swerving a bit out of my way to make sure I step on that leaf that looks particularly brittle, breaking out my vast collection of scarves, which could probably represent every country I have ever been to, and bursting into the house on a really windy day, feeling that first initial blast of warm air on your face, and then the opposite cold burst when you step outside again. Back home, it means street blocks turn into pumpkin patches full of straw mazes and colorful pumpkins and squash every shade of orange, yellow and purple. Local coffeeshops start serving their seasonal flavored lattes — the cinnamon, the pumpkin which gradually merge into the peppermint and eggnog flavors of the holiday season. Cakes become denser, most fresh fruits slowly disappearing from the table to be replaced with spices and caramels.

But fall doesn’t seem to be much of a season over here. Indeed, as I spent the weekend in London, I toured various displays of Christmas trees, snowy animal decorations and hundreds of sets of Christmas china and ornaments. Glitter of every color seemed to sparkle in the windows of the department stores. Churches beckoned people dressed in their best clothes inside on Sunday morning, as we took a stroll along the Thames. For me, fall has a bit of a rustic charm, the charm of things changing, but that intermittent period where you aren’t quite sure where the change is leading. And when your surroundings are changing so dramatically, you long for your food to bring the warmth and comfort that you had taken for granted all around you during the summer. Fall is above all else a time for the homemade, a time for the nostalgic, a time for incorporating the warm with the simple.

The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking. The challenge was to made decorated sugar cookies with the theme of September. We were provided with a recipe for sugar cookies and a recipe for royal icing. I chose to make mostly bells, as the church bells have played a major part in my life this September. I live and go to school right by Notre Dame so my day passes according to the ringing of the church bells — once at the demi-heure and then according to the time on the hour. Sticking to the theme that baking in fall months ought to be warm and rustic — aided along by the fact that I simply could not find food coloring at any French supermarket — I decorated my church bells with dulce de leche instead of royal icing. I would love to decorate with royal icing one day, perhaps around Christmas.

Basic Sugar Cookies
Adapted from Peggy Porschen:
Makes Approximately 36x 10cm / 4″ Cookies

200g / 7oz / ½ cup + 6 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, at room temperature

400g / 14oz / 3 cups + 3 Tbsp All Purpose / Plain Flour

200g / 7oz / 1 cup Caster Sugar / Superfine Sugar

1 Large Egg, lightly beaten

5ml / 1 tsp Vanilla Extract / Or seeds from 1 vanilla bean

Cream together the butter and sugar until creamy. Beat in the egg until well combined. Add the sifted flour and mix until a sticky dough forms.

Knead into a ball and divide into 2 or 3 pieces. Roll out each portion between parchment paper to a thickness of about 5mm/1/5 inch (0.2 inch). Refrigerate for a minimum of 30mins. Once chilled, peel off parchment and place dough on a lightly floured surface. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters. Arrange shapes on parchment lined baking sheets and refrigerate for another 30mins to an hour. Preheat oven to 180°C / 350°F . Bake until golden around the edges, about 8-15mins depending on the size of the cookies. Leave to cool on cooling racks. Once completely cooled, decorate as desired.

Decorate with Dulce de Leche
By David Lebovitz

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