Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Sunny Lemon Cookies

After several pleasant weeks of cooler-than-usual temperatures, it's getting warm again in Los Angeles. The rising temperatures haven't caused me to forsake my oven, but they have made me crave bright, summery flavors.

My recent experiments making macarons, nougat, and marshmallow have left me with a lot of lonely egg yolks. I could turn these into ice cream or custard, but, for better or worse, we usually end up eating all of the ice cream ourselves. This time I wanted to make something we could share with others. Our motto: spread the love while spreading the calories. Everybody wins! So I decided to make egg yolk cookies.

These cookies are soft and tender, with a bold lemon flavor that comes from finely shredded zest and lemon oil. (I love the Boyajian flavoring oils--they have such a bright, natural taste. Lemon extract can be substituted, but you might want to double the quantity). They spread quite a bit, so if you don't want thin cookies make sure the dough is well-chilled before baking.

Lemon (Egg Yolk) Cookies

  • 2 sticks butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1.5 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 egg yolks (or 3 whole eggs)
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1/2 tsp lemon oil, or 1 tsp lemon extract
  • 2.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
In the bowl of a large stand mixer, cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Whisk the egg yolks with the zest and lemon oil, then add the yolks to the butter/sugar and mix until combined.

In a separate bowl stir the dry ingredients together. Stop the mixer and add the drys, then turn the mixer to low and run it until it forms a smooth dough. The dough will be a little sticky. You can bake it right away, or refrigerate it and bake it once chilled. If you're using it right away, I recommend forming it into balls and rolling the balls in granulated sugar, then baking on a parchment-covered tray at 350 for 8-10 minutes. Don't overbake, or the cookies won't have that wonderful melt-in-your-mouth texture.

After baking off a tray of these, I realized that they are the type of cookies that work well in miniature. The flavor is bold enough that several bites is satisfying, while an oversized cookie could be overwhelming. So I started baking them smaller, ending up with cookies that were slightly larger than a 50 cent piece.

My years of candy training have taught me that anything that is good plain is even better when dipped in chocolate. I couldn't resist experimenting on my little babies. I dunked some in semi-sweet chocolate and some in lemon-flavored white chocolate, with contrasting accent decorations. Once again, the hypothesis was proven. My little lemon cookies WERE much improved by a bath in sweet, sweet chocolate.

I also left some cookies undipped and drizzled them with lemon-white chocolate and semi-sweet. Not surprisingly, those too were delicious.

My final experiment was to try and create linzer-ish cookies from this dough. I love the combination of lemon and raspberry, and thought that the vibrant lemon flavor of these cookies would be a good base. What I really didn't consider, however, was the soft texture of the cookies. My favorite part about them--their tender crumb--was also their downfall as a filled cookie.

Really, I should have known they'd be trouble from the start. After chilling I rolled the dough out and used mini flower cookie cutters to make adorable flower shapes that, upon baking, ended up looking like deformed circles. Whoops. Several sheets of mutant cookies later, I finally wised up and stuck the cookies in the freezer for about 20 minutes before baking. That finally seemed to produce recognizable flower shapes (seen below) but they still lost a lot of definition and that "cute factor." I tried to overbake the cookies a little bit to get them crisper, then sandwiched them with freshly made raspberry preserves. This was probably my second mistake, as the fresh preserves had more liquid than storebought jam. I finished the top cookies with a lemon-powdered sugar glaze, admired my creations for awhile, and packed them up in a tupperware container.

Fortunately for me, I can't rest knowing I have sweets in the house, and was back in a few hours to check on them (read: sneakily eat one). When I did, I found that the jam had softened all of the cookies, even leaking through the back of one of them. The cookies were falling apart before my eyes, and were in no condition to give away to anyone. The sad conclusion of this story is that Jason and I had to force ourselves to eat about 4 lemon linzer cookies apiece, so that they wouldn't go to waste. They were too soft, but everything else about them was perfect. Tart, sweet, fruity, and so satisfying. Certainly not a bad way to welcome summer!

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