If I were to pick the one fruit that brings about a strong, positive emotional response, it would be a lemon. I hear, see, smell lemon and I am instantly transported back to childhood and my grandma Garnet’s award-winning lemon meringue pies. They were always perfection; flaky golden crust crimped carefully around the edges, tart yet sweet, creamy filling (not the rubbery gelatinous goo found in so many lemon pies), stiffly whipped and perfectly peaked meringue and just a few sliced almonds sprinkled across the top for garnish. To this day I can honestly say I’ve never had another lemon meringue pie that equals my grandma’s and while I do have that treasured recipe and have made it successfully a few times, it falls just a bit short of that perfection I recall.
There’s an old adage that says when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. We’ve had a few bushels of lemons tossed our way these past few weeks so I decided to forgo lemonade and make cookies instead. Sweet, tangy, chewy little bites of lemony bliss that are delicious and conjure up images of my sweet grandma and her award-winning pies. These little cookies are a perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea on a cold winter’s afternoon.
While in Italy we had the chance to savor a lemony aperitif after an evening meal or two. Limoncello is delizioso (Italian for delicious – thank you Google translator) yet carries no bitterness or sourness of the actual lemon. In fact, Limoncello tends to be overly sweet. I’ve had an unopened bottle sitting in my pantry for the past few years so I thought it would be perfect to incorporate a few tablespoonfuls into my lemon cookie recipe which also meant I could reduce the amount of sugar the recipe called for.
LIMONCELLO TEA COOKIES: (This recipe will make approximately 100 small tea cookies. Prep time varies but it is a bit time-consuming to roll all the little cookies into balls. It took me the better part of an hour to get the cookies in the oven. I don’t have the nutritional breakdown of the cookies and for that I apologize).
½ c butter, softened
½ c granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
zest of one large lemon
juice of one large lemon (apprx. ¼ c)
3 + tbl Limoncello
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking powder
⅛ tsp baking soda
½-2 c flour
½ cups powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
Zest the lemon into a liquid measuring cup, juice lemon into same cup. Add the Limoncello to the juice and zest until liquids and zest equals ½ cup. The Limoncello amount may need to be slightly adjusted.
Cream together sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add vanilla, egg and juice/zest/Limoncello. Blend until well mixed, scraping sides as necessary. Mix in all dry ingredients except powdered sugar. Scrape sides of bowl and mix again just until all ingredients are fully blended. Don’t over-beat the dough. Pour powdered sugar into a small bowl. Roll gumball-sized pieces of dough into balls and drop into the powdered sugar, fully coating the dough balls. Place cookies on the baking sheet and slightly press down on the surface (don’t flatten them). The cookies won’t change shape when you bake them so you can fit them fairly close together.
Bake for 7-9 minutes depending on your oven. The bottoms should just begin to brown but not the tops. Don’t over-bake the cookies: They will retain a nice chewiness after cooling. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool for just a minute or two before transferring to a cooling rack. Store in an airtight container.