Thursday, March 06, 2014

Week 10: Lemondoodles

Snickerdoodles were one of my children’s favorite cookies growing up. The soft eggy cookie dusted in cinnamon sugar was a real treat for the mouth and a nice departure from the standard chocolate chip that often filled our cookie jar. Eight years ago Brilliant Daughter and I came up with our own riff on the classic snickerdoodle, developing a chaidoodle that incorporated typical chai spices. Looking back I realized that chaidoodles were one of the early posts in the first year I began this blog (2006).  Eight years later, combing through my mountains of saved recipes, I came across this recipe for lemondoodles, which I believe came from Melissa and No. 2 Pencil blog.  And because we are notorious lemon lovers and I still have Meyer lemons on the tree, it made perfect sense to test it out.

Start to finish, these cookies took about an hour, with ingredients that are found in a typical pantry and refrigerator. The only tricky part is browning the butter, but as long as you stand over the stove and watch and stir carefully, it only takes a few minutes. That means you can’t answer the phone, change a diaper, or run outside to turn off the sprinklers. It is wise to be patient and appreciate that solid butter turning into a golden nutty liquid. Other than that, it is a simple recipe that mixes up easily in either a stand mixer or your everyday handheld mixer.

I’ve made a few adjustments to the recipe. First, in the topping, I chose to use a microplane instead of a zester. A microplane allows for small, delicate curls of lemon peel, which I felt would integrate better with the sugar, infuse more flavor into the topping, and would react better when baking. A zester would create long strands  that would either require straining before using or would not attach well to the cookie and possibly burn or turn bitter in the baking process. And because I was using Meyer lemons, which have considerably more flavor in the peel than your standard Eureka lemon, I only needed to use the zest from 2 lemons, rather than 3.

I also tried to different baking times and temperatures. The original recipe called for 7 minutes at 425 degrees, but my other “doodle” recipes call for 10 minutes at 400 degrees. I found that there is not a huge difference, but the 7 minute/425 degrees version was a bit lighter in color and softer on the outside. The insides of both were similar. So make your life easier and go with the 7 minute version.

I should point out that these are large cookies and spread out, so do not crowd on your baking pan. I cooked only 8 to a pan, which was perfect. It takes a bit longer, but with 2 pans in the oven at a time, you only need to do the process twice.

Pair these with a nice cup of oolong, English Breakfast, or Earl Gray and enjoy yourself!

1 cup salted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup granulated sugar
zest of 3 lemons

Start by making the topping for the cookies by mashing together the sugar and the zest. I used a for to begin with, then put the mixture in a jar with a lid and shook it every 10 minutes or so while making the dough to help distribute the flavor. If you have enough forethought, you can make this the night before to really let the lemon flavor infuse into the sugar.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment or a silpat.

Place 3/4 cup butter in a saucepan or skillet over medium heat and stir continually until the butter foams and turns a light golden brown. Remove from heat and immediately add remaining 1/4 cup butter to the pan, stirring to incorporate. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the 1 cup granulated sugar and zest of 2 lemons and mix on low speed until well combined. Add in the brown sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt and mix together on low speed just until combined. Add cooled butter, eggs and vanilla and mix to combine.

Scoop out two tablespoons of dough and form into a ball. (I use a medium ice cream scoop.) Roll balls in lemon sugar mixture to coat and place on cookie sheet. Flatten the cookie dough balls slightly by using the back of a measuring cup.
Bake for about 7 minutes and let cool. They are best slightly underdone. When they come out of the oven, the middle should fall in just a little and the cookie should crackle as it settles.

Yield: 30 large cookies

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