Happy Cinco de Mayo, friends. I had a thought to post something related--something yummy like guacamole tacos or pineapple salsa--but time passed and I ended up working and eating out and sleeping in and visiting friends and not having much time to create any mexican fare this week. I do, though, have a wonderful little cookie to tell you about! So, for starters, I've never been really big on sugar cookies. More often than not they seem hard and dry and lacking in much flavor. However, I came across this recipe the other day and, seeing it included lemon zest, knew (in my obsession with all things lemon) that I must try them. I was delighted to find them not hard, dry, and tasteless, but, rather, moist and chewy and graced with the loveliest hint of lemon (not enough of the flavor to name them "lemon cookies," but enough to notice it's there.). I decided to throw in a wee bit of almond extract, as well, which ended up being the perfect partner to the lemon. I also realized, after the fact, that you really could zest an orange or lime just the same for a different twist of flavor. This is one reason I decided to call them zested sugar cookies...didn't want to fend anyone off with a lemon limitation when, in fact, you have other options! I haven't tried the others yet but imagine they would be lovely, as well. So, let me know what you think!
*A hint: Something I realized in baking these is that, unlike most cookies that you want to take out when you just begin to see the edges browning, you actually have cooked these too long when you start seeing the edges brown. This makes it a little tough to time them. So, since ovens differ, I recommend baking until at least a minute below the recommended time and then lifting a cookie with a spatula to see if the bottom is browned yet. Once the bottom is a bit browned, they should be ready to come out and cool on the sheet. The cookies that I let brown on the edges ended up less moist than the others.
yields maybe 15 large cookies
adapted ever-so-slighty from www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
zest of 1 lemon (orange or lime)
1 egg, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup coarse sugar (or plain, if you don't have coarse or would rather not have that crunch on top)
1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
2. In large bowl, cream together butter, 1 cup regular sugar, and zest until combined. Blend in egg and almond extract until incorporated.
3. In smaller bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt, then gradually add to butter mixture until just combined. Don't overmix! I have to use my rubber spatula after about 10-15 seconds of mixing in order to scrape the sides of the bowl and press the loose dry mixture into the rest. Once mixed, let chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes. This helps it set up and makes the dough easier to form.
4. Form dough into balls (a heaping 1/4 cup size) and dip half the unbaked cookie into the course sugar. Set the sugar-coated cookies around 4 inches apart (they spread!) on a parchment-lined baking sheet sugar-side up. Press the cookies down with your palm to half their height. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the bottoms are lightly browned. Let cool on baking sheet.