High Altitude Baking: Lemony dessert pushes all the right buttons
High Country Baking
Here’s a two-bite cookie that’s as pretty and perky as the first flowers of spring. It’s a tender, buttery shot of lemon that brightens not only your mood but anything you serve with it.
Quick and easy to make, it requires ingredients you probably already have in the kitchen. With so few of them, it’s important to use good ones: high-quality butter, lump-free confectioner’s sugar and fresh zest or real lemon oil. To get the tender texture that makes this cookie a winner, handle the dough very gently, don’t overwork the dough as you make it and roll it into balls with a soft touch.
Vary the amount of lemon oil/zest in the cookie and lemon juice in the glaze to your liking. The quantities given in the recipe result in a cookie with a moderate amount of tartness; alter them as desired. The crushed candies used in the topping also provide an additional tang, so use them if you want a stronger lemon taste.
Yields 20 1-½ inch cookies
Make on a parchment-lined cookie sheet
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup minus 2 tablespoons bleached all-purpose flour (spoon and level)
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (one stick)
Generous 1/8 teaspoon lemon oil or 1 ½ packed teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1-1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
½-3/4 cup confections’ sugar
¼ cup crushed hard lemon candies, optional
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position. Line the cookie sheet with parchment paper (lining it with parchment paper rather than greasing it will keep the cookies from spreading, a common problem at high altitudes).
2. Measure the cornstarch into a 1-cup measure. Spoon and level the flour over it (you’ll have 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons, as the recipe requires). To make in a food processor: Add the flour-cornstarch mixture, with the sugar, salt and lemon zest (if using lemon oil, add it later, with the butter) to the bowl and pulse until well blended. Cut the butter into 16 pieces and add them (with the lemon oil, if using). Pulse until the dough is evenly moistened and forms large curds. Don’t let it smooth out and form a ball on the blade. To make with a mixer: Set the cornstarch-flour mixture aside. Cut the butter into 16 pieces, let them soften slightly, and then cream them with the sugar, salt and lemon zest or oil until soft and fluffy. Add the flour mixture in three additions, beating only until barely blended.
3. Break off pieces of dough, gently (using very little pressure) roll them into balls that will sit in a teaspoon (about 1 inch in diameter), and place them on the prepared cookie sheet, spacing them at least 1-¼ inches apart. Put the cookie sheet, with the cookies on it, in the freezer for about 7-10 minutes, until the balls of dough are firm (this, too, prevents the cookies from spreading).
4. Bake until the cookies are set on top and a light golden color on the bottom, start checking at 10 minutes. Cool them on the cookie sheet for 3-4 minutes, and then carefully move them to a rack to finish cooling. Save the parchment paper they baked on. If any of the cookies have whiskers of baked dough around the bottom edge, gently brush them off.
5. Make the glaze: Place 1 tablespoon lemon juice in a small bowl, add ½-cup confectioners’ sugar, and whisk to blend well. Add more sugar, a little at a time, until you get a consistency that will hold its shape when drizzled and won’t slide off each cookie. Give it a taste, and adjust as needed to get a balance between sweet and tart tastes that you like. Place the cookies, close together, back on the parchment paper (it will catch drips of the glaze, easing clean-up). Generously drizzle the glaze over the cookies. Sprinkle some of the crushed lemon candy on top (if using). Let the glaze dry and harden, and then serve, or store the cookies airtight for 3 days at cool room temperature or a month in the freezer.
High altitudes make cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful. Vera Dawson is a high altitude baking instructor and author of the high-altitude cookbooks Cookies in the Clouds and Baking Above It All (available at The Bookworm in Edwards and Next Page Bookstore in Frisco), Her recipes have been tested in her Summit County kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at email@example.com.
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