I warned you: I’ve hit a baking streak.
A few days ago, I ran across what must be considered a sign from above. I found buttermilk sold in 1-cup cartons at Ken’s Market, down the street from me:
I’d just been to Boise, Idaho, where the local co-op makes a most delicious glazed lemon cookie. It’s as big as the palm of my hand, and has a cakey base with a thick white lemony frosting that’s almost hard, a little like white donut glaze, but thicker. Years ago, when a friend who worked at the Boise Co-Op tried to wrestle the recipe out of the bakers there, she’d had no luck, and we resolved to recreate it ourselves.
When we moved to Seattle, my desk went through the expected hurricane of paper-shuffling, and I came across our second attempt at glazed lemon cookies (the first had only limited success), dated May 23rd, 2004. We’d changed from a classic cookie technique (cream butter and sugar, add eggs) to a more cake-like technique (ribbon eggs and sugar, add butter). We’d made careful notes of which flour/egg/sugar combinations to try the next time, and there was a little note suggesting we look into using buttermilk.
So when this little box of buttermilk appeared, I had visions of my most recent lemon cookie experiences. I remembered the sleepover at Hilary’s house at least 5 years after college, when her mom set a plate of Co-Op lemon cookies on her nightstand when we were out. Then she moved to Japan, and I think I mailed her some. Last fall I shared one with my sister, sitting at the lunch counter at Co-Op with her and her boyfriend, and just last week, I gave Michaela her first lemon cookie experience, and we finished it (okay, them) before we reached the cash register. I decided it was time for another Test.
This is the best version so far. It’s cakey and lemony like the original. I botched my first attempt at icing by making a cooked icing, hoping it would harden more than the uncooked version, but it just soaked into the cookie and made sort of a mushy mess. In any case, I’m not sure if 1 box of confectioner’s sugar will be enough, so buy two boxes, just in case you need to double the icing (and let me know if you do!). P.S., you must sift the confectioner’s sugar!
These aren’t as good as the original, mostly because they’re not the original. Like so many things, this cookie doesn’t taste as good if you haven’t nearly run over a Catholic school kid, fought for parking, and drooled into the cheese case on your way to the cookie counter. But they’re a unique cookie: cakey, lemony, and best enjoyed as soon as the frosting has dried.
Recipe for Glazed Lemon Cookies
Recipe 30 of 365
The Boise Co-Op does not give out its most cherished recipes, or any, for that matter. Their lemon cookies are a culinary touchstone for me, and I’ve been trying to recreate the recipe for a few years; this is the closest I’ve come.
You can use regular or Meyer lemons for this recipe.
TIME: 40 minutes, plus baking
MAKES: about 20 cookies
3 cups cake flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder (be sure to press out any chunks)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup loosely packed lemon zest (from 4 lemons)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup lowfat buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice, plus more if needed
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted, plus more if needed
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats, and set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the flours, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest together until well-blended, and set aside.
In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, ribbon (beat) the eggs and the sugar together on medium speed until the mixture is much lighter in color, thick, and increased in volume, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix the buttermilk, vanilla and melted butter together in a bowl, and stir to blend.
With the mixer on low, alternate adding the flour mixture and the buttermilk mixture to the eggs and sugar: first some flour, then half the liquid, then more flour, then the rest of the liquid, and finally the last of the flour. Mix only until barely blended between each addition, scraping down the sides of the bowl if needed; mixing more than necessary will result in tough cookies. The batter should be thick.
Using a large spoon or a big old-fashioned ice cream scoop (this will result in the smoothest-looking cookies), arrange generous 2-tablespoon-sized scoops of the batter about 1 1/2” apart onto the baking sheets. (I fit 10 per sheet). Bake for 15 – 18 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through, or until the cookies have just begun to crack on top and the edges are barely beginning to brown.
While the cookies are baking, make the lemon glaze: place the lemon juice in the bottom of a big mixing bowl. Whisk a little bit of the sifted confectioners’ sugar into the juice at a time; the juice will take much more sugar than you might think. Continue to add sugar (you can do this with the whisk attachment in your stand mixer, too, if you feel like washing the bowl) until the glaze is very thick. It should be stiff enough to cling to the sides of the bowl while you stir, but soft enough that it begins to settle back down into the bottom of the bowl when you stop stirring.
Arrange two icing grates or cooling racks, if you have them, over sheets of aluminum foil. When the cookies are done, let them cool on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then transfer them to the racks to cool for another 10 minutes.
When almost cool, cover each cookie with a coating of lemon glaze (spooning it on works well, or you can carefully dip the cookies top-down into the glaze), allowing the extra glaze to drip through the racks onto the foil. If you have any glaze leftover, repeat the glazing process, adding a little more to each cookie. Let the glaze harden, and consume.
Note: my experience has been that these cookies do not keep well. Eat immediately, and I’ll work on a version that lasts longer!