I love lemons.
Lemon everything. Lemon candies, lemon ice cream, lemon cakes, lemon custards, cheesecake, lemon cocktails. And what’s with the almond flavor poppy seed muffins? Let’s get real, they’re so much better being a Lemon Poppy seed muffin. Yep, I’m in that camp. Although, that’s not what we’re talking about today. I digress.
I drink 20 oz of water with a slice of lemon in it every morning. Before my coffee. I know. That may be going a bit overboard. But its my ritual and its working for me. Lemons not only taste good they have a lot of health benefits as well. They’re a great item to have as a staple in your kitchen.
So, it should come as no surprise that lemons have been one of my favorite fruits to use in baking. The tart, yet sweet flavor is wonderful in so many dishes. I add it to blueberry muffins. You can make a wonderful lemon cream sauce for chicken or pasta. The juice can be used for vinaigrettes, marinades or simply squeezed over fresh seafood. They add the perfect touch to many foods.
At your local grocer you’re likely to find the common Lisbon or Eureka lemon on the store shelf almost year around. This variety of lemon is large with a thick, textured skin. It has a very bright yellow color with a medium pulp. Their flavor has the traditional “lemon” tang, very tart and bright, perfect for savory dishes.
Meyer Lemons are smaller in size. They are slightly more orange in color with thinner skin. The pulp is smaller and they have a sweeter, slightly more orange flavor to them. They come into season in December and are available through May. The Meyer Lemon is native to China and was brought over to the U.S. in the early 20th century. They are said to be a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange.
Because of this combination of flavors, it gives these lemons added depth of flavor. It makes a world of difference when baking with them. Making creams, curds, or custards with a Meyer Lemon are extra flavorful. Give it a try sometime! They are extra special when home grown and given to you as a gift. When life gifts you lemons you bake with them. Lemonade? Pfft…zest those babies and make a cake!
My first go to recipe when I have Meyer Lemons in the kitchen are Lemon Sugar Cookies with Lemon Buttercream Frosting. These little tasty bites of heaven melt in your mouth with lemony goodness. Instead of all purpose flour, you use cake flour, which gives lends a very tender cookie. Then add in the lemon zest and the lemon juice to give them a gorgeous lemon flavor and color.
The kitchen always smells so fresh and bright after zesting. It’s interesting how this is a winter harvest, yet it is so fresh, it feels like spring or summer!
You can see the bright little specks of lemon zest in both the cookie batter and the Lemon Buttercream. I dare you to resist all the BLT’s (bites, licks, tastes) you’ll take of this batter and frosting.
This year I set up the coffee table to frost all of them while I sat and watched a few Christmas programs with the kiddos. Usually I’m standing in the kitchen doing this tedious task. Cold hard tile is not the best medium to be standing on…..toggling from foot to foot. Eventually you find yourself hunched over the counter with poor posture. Live and learn. Now I know I can sit and do this.
Lemon Sugar Cookies with Lemon Buttercream Frosting (as adapted from motherthyme.com)
For the Cookies
- 3 cups Cake Flour
- 3 tsp Baking Powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons fresh juice from any lemon preferably Meyer Lemon
- 1 whole lemon zested
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
For the Lemon Buttercream Frosting
- 1/2 cup unsalted Butter at room temperature
- 3 cups Confectioners Sugar (I like to reduce this to 2 1/2 cups to make the frosting a bit more buttery tasting)
- 1 Whole lemon zested
- 2 TBSP fresh lemon juice (Meyer Lemon if available)
Heat oven to 350°
In a medium bowl mix together the cake flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the butter and sugar. Mix together on medium speed until light and fluffy. I like to run mine for about 3 minutes. Add in eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides after each addition. Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla. On the lowest speed gradually add in the flour mixture until just combined.
Cover and chill dough for at least one l hr in the refrigerator.
Using a 1″ ice cream scoop, scoop chilled dough and roll into little rounds. You can leave them round or flatten them slightly with the bottom of a glass.
*I’ve done this part of the process so many different ways. I’ve used a small 1/2″scoop. You’ll get more cookies (like little tea cookies). This year I used the 1″ scoop but did not roll them and flatten them. They had a bit more of a rustic look.
Place dough rounds on parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 9-10 minutes. Do not over bake!!
Remove from oven and let cool on wire rack.
For the Buttercream Frosting
Whip butter with the paddle attachment of a stand mixer for 5 minutes at medium speed. Add powdered sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Continue to whip for another 5 minutes until light, fluffy and creamy.
Once cookies have cooled completely, frost with buttercream and let sit out so frosting sets a bit.
These little cookies are packed with so much flavor. They have the perfect balance of sweet and tart to them. The texture is perfect. The frosting is smooth and creamy. Made into little tea cookies, they’ll be a one bite treat. Maybe next holiday season you can add these to your cookie exchange!
Go on out and find some Meyer lemons! Once you taste the difference, you’ll always want to make a point of including them in your baking rotations.