lemon lavender cookies
Spring, that elusive little leafy green sprite, is taking her sweet time this year. Oh sure, I suppose you’re already floating through your days in a pollen-induced euphoria, adrift in a sea of daffodils and cherry blossoms and baby bunnies going hop hop hop, but here in northern Michigan it’s still colder (as my Geometry teacher liked to say) than a witch’s tit in a brass bra. I always imagined that must be pretty damn cold — cold enough, at least, to warrant such an expression — and it seems an appropriate way to describe the sort of stubborn, lingering cold that delivers snow in April. When the baby bunnies are supposed to be hop-hop-hopping.
I haven’t noticed any bunnies, but each time I’ve gone to the window to cuss at the snow I’ve been silenced both by its unwillingness to stick and by the cheerful sight of robins flitting from branch to branch and pecking optimistically at the newly thawed ground. On a walk yesterday I discovered tender little shoots of green poking their way up insistently through that same ground, and communion with the trees revealed limbs teeming with softly swelling buds. Spring is quietly transforming brown to green, sneaking up on us like a delightful surprise.
Until she arrives, I’ll console myself with these lemon lavender cookies, which themselves are a delightful little lemony surprise. They’re crispy, delicate things, tender and toothsome with their bright tanginess tempered by the sweetness of sugar and the herbal earthniness of lavender. They taste exactly like Spring, and are just the sort of thing you’d serve at those mythical afternoon garden parties that exist only in our imaginations or on the pages of glossy magazines. They’re also lovely with tea.
You might leave a couple out for the Easter Bunny in the hopes that his delight at such an offering hastens the arrival of his hopping friends, or you might pile them on a pretty plate to serve your guests. You might also do what I did: hide a few here and there to surprise yourself with in the coming weeks as you bask in the growing warmth, rejoice in the spreading greenness, and savor the gentle approach of Spring.
Lemon Lavender Cookies
adapted from Baking Illustrated
(makes about 4 dozen)
¾ c. sugar
2 T. grated lemon zest + 2 T. juice from 1-2 lemons
2 t. dried lavender (optional, but then they’d just be lemon cookies)
1¾ c. flour
¼ t. baking powder
¼ t. salt
12 T. (1½ sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½” cubes
1 egg yolk
½ t. vanilla extract
1) In a food processor (Geez, there she goes with the food processor again. Fine. Click here for instructions on how to make the cookies by hand or with a stand mixer.), process the sugar, lemon zest and lavender until the sugar looks damp and the zest and lavender are fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt, then add to the sugar mixture; pulse to combine, about 10 1-second pulses.
2) Scatter the butter pieces over and pulse until the mixture resembles fine cornmeal, about 15 1-second pulses. In a measuring cup, beat together the lemon juice, egg yolk and vanilla. With the machine running, add the juice mixture in a slow stream (should take about 10 seconds) and continue processing until the dough forms into a ball, 10 to 15 seconds longer.
(Now might be a good time to mention how much I freakin’ love this cookbook. Not only does it provide precise, easy-to-follow instructions like this, every recipe is preceded by a thorough explanation of the results the test kitchen set out to achieve and the experimentation they went through in order to get there. It’s a great resource for people like me who want to know the why behind every step. But back to the recipe. . .)
4) Turn the dough and any dry bits onto a clean work surface and gently gather into a ball. Working quickly, roll the dough into a cylinder about 12″ long and 1½” in diameter. Center the dough on a piece of parchment or plastic wrap and wrap tightly, twisting the ends together to seal. Chill the dough until firm and cold, about 45 minutes in the freezer or 2 hours in the refrigerator.
5) Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or spray them with nonstick cooking spray. Seriously. Even if you think your pans are non-stick pans, and even if you’re out of parchment paper and don’t feel like running to the store in the middle of all this. Line the sheets with parchment paper! Otherwise your delicate cookies will stick to the pan and crumble when you try to remove them and you will be forced to eat all the little bits to punish them for being so naughty.
6) Remove the dough log from its wrapper and use a sharp knife to slice the dough into 3/8″ thick rounds. Place the rounds on the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 1″ apart. Bake until the centers of the cookies just begin to color and the edges are golden brown, about 10-12 minutes (the recipe actually says 14-16 minutes, but 10 minutes was plenty for me and my wonky oven), rotating the baking sheet halfway through the baking time. Cool on sheets about 5 minutes, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.