On the heels of an awesome first weekend skiing at Beaver Creek, I’ve just finished unpacking then re-cramming my suitcase for a Christmas trip back East, and know already that I will manage to forget something – it’s a real talent of mine. (This past weekend that something was underwear; not ideal to realize the lackthereof just as you are getting suited up to hit the slopes.) This month blazed forth in a blur of twinkling lights, peppermint bark, ugly sweaters, and eggnog, and I can hardly believe that I am literally just moments from dashing out the door, and that we are down to just ten days left this year.
As it always is, time is not exactly in abundance when we reach this juncture; our hours are frantically parceled off into holiday parties, gift shopping, and projects until we crawl out from under the pile of ribbons and wrapping paper to get some fresh air, and suddenly, TA-DA! — It’s Christmas. And if you’re anything like me you’re behind in doing, oh, a bit of everything, again.
It’s really unbelieveable how each year this happens, no matter how much we will it not to. Thanksgiving arrives in late November as it always reliably does, and from the moment that last bite of turkey is washed down with that last sip of spiked cider, the world eagerly springs into holiday overdrive. Bows of holly festoon every last inch of public space, catalogues and store coupons glut mailboxes, and songs of turtle doves and pear trees are tirelessly looped on end.
By no means am I looking to sound Scrooge-esque here; I absolutely adore this time of year, and must admit that even when I hear aforementioned songs and see aforementioned holly just a bit too early, I still feel that giddy rumble of excitement deep in my core. It’s just that the five short weeks that embody our holiday season fly by so fast, it can be hard to tackle every project, craft every card, and bake every treat. This season I managed to eek out a few rounds of one of my favorite holiday sweets, the Christmas cookie.
Ah, the Christmas cookie. An iconic sweet denizen of the Wintertime holiday dessert table, it’s one of the very first treats that springs to mind when I think of the holidays. For such a diminutive confection, it articulates itself in countless varieties of shapes, sizes, and flavors, giving you ample room for choice and margin for creativity. This year, for a friend’s cookie party I tried out a favorite recipe from a favorite bakery (recipe to come), and for our holiday party decided on these twinkling little lemon guys that caught my eye while I was flipping through the December issue of Martha Stewart. I was a bit wary as I read through the instructions, as they were very succinct and simple – and, if there is one thing I know about Martha, it’s that she has a tendency to make perfection look easy breezy, and then hooks you with a near impossible to recreate recipe.
This time thankfully Martha pulled through, and I had a recipe that was neither fussy nor too time consuming. These darling little lemon cookies are just slightly sweet and literally bursting with fresh lemon flavor from piles of fluffy zest that are added to the batter. They bake up into tiny little circles with gently domed tops, and the bottoms take on the loveliest light golden color.
Unadorned these cookies are good, if a bit plain, but after you swathe them in a sticky sweet lemony glaze they are taken over the top. The glaze dries and hardens into a sweet but still soft shell, and the contrast between the more mildly flavored cookie is utter perfection. I don’t generally think of lemon cookies when I think of Christmas, and that is what is so perfect about these; they are refreshing and light, and a perfect foil to all of the heavier, more decadent treats on the table. A smattering of edible glitter (found here) makes these really special, and their sparkly decadence fit in perfectly with all of the other holiday treats.
Sparkly Lemon Cookies
Makes 40 small cookies
From Martha Stewart Living, December 2011
A few things to note: the dough that this creates is thick and a bit sticky. It was not difficult to use the pastry bag, but I did find that I needed to use my finger to help break the piped cookie away from the piping bag and then to tamp down any jagged peaks that this created. Also, my cookies baked very quickly. These are delicate and you do not want to burn them, so be sure to keep an eye on them and pull them when the tops are just set and the bottoms are a pale golden brown. Finally, this made a ton of glaze. Although delicious, next time I will eyeball it and make much less, or plan to make a bundt or pound cake the same day that would benefit from it so it doesn’t go to waste.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 stick plus 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 lemons, zested and juiced (1/3 cup juice)
2 large eggs
1/4 cup whole milk
2 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
star-shaped edible glitter or coarse sanding sugar, for sprinkling (optional, found here)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Whisk together flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, and lemon zest with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 10 minutes. (10 minutes is longer than you think; be sure to time this step as it is crucial in creating the right texture for the cookie. Be patient.). Beat in eggs. Reduce speed to low, and gradually beat in flour mixture. Slowly add milk, and beat on medium speed for 5 minutes.
Transfer dough to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain round tip. It will be on the thicker side. Pipe it into 1 1/2-inch rounds onto parchment-lined baking sheets, tamping down any harsh peaks that remain with a flour dipped fingertip. Bake until bottoms are pale gold, 16 to 18 minutes (I found that mine took closer to 14-15 minutes, but I am baking at a high altitude). Let cool completely on sheets set on wire racks.
Whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl until smooth to make the glaze. Brush the glaze onto the cookies, and sprinkle with edible glitter.
Martha says these can be stored for 3 days, but we were happily munching on them 7 days later and they were awesome. Just keep them in a sealed tupperware container at room temperature, and they shouldn’t dry out.