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October 7, 2010

Lemons (Recipe: lemon lavender cookies)

Lemon lavender cookies

One curious thing to know about lemons:

In the Middle Ages, cooks first got the idea to serve lemon with fish. Not because it tastes so good (which it does) or because the tartness of the lemon balances the oiliness of fish (which it does), but because they believed that if a fish bone accidentally got caught in the throat, the acidic juice of the lemon would dissolve it. I'm not making this up. Though we know today that lemon juice isn't powerful enough to melt bones, we also know it's a powerful flavoring that makes any time of year seem like summer. And while I'm all in favor of eating locally grown food, I'm grateful to the infrastructure that brings me lemons from warmer climates all year round.

Cooking or baking?
Both. The essence of the flavor resides in the zest (outer yellow part of the skin), which can be removed with a Microplane-type grater; both zest and juice are used in cooking and baking. Here's a tip: if a recipe calls for zest and juice, zest first. It's almost impossible to zest a cut lemon!

Storage:
Whole fruits last for 1-2 weeks on the counter top (if you're buying just-picked lemons in California or Florida, they will last longer); cut lemons should be stored in the refrigerator, in a container with a tight-fitting lid, for up to 2 weeks. I didn't know that you can freeze whole lemons, but according to Still Tasty, you can.

Pantry ingredients in this recipe:
Lemons (more facts and ingredient photos)
Granulated sugar
All-purpose unbleached flour
Pure vanilla extract
Unsalted butter
Baking powder


Lemon lavender cookies

Lemon lavender cookies

Our friend Lucia received a gift of culinary lavender for her birthday, and her first experiment with it took place in our kitchen, where she and my husband Ted made these scrumptious cookies. The recipe is adapted from Baking Illustrated, by way of When Harry Met Salad. If you don't have lavender, try making these with an herbes de Provence mix that has lavender in it. Makes 4 dozen cookies.

Ingredients

3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp grated lemon zest + 2 Tbsp juice, from 1-2 lemons
2 tsp dried lavender
1-3/4 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
12 Tbsp (1-1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Directions

In a food processor, pulse the sugar, lemon zest and lavender until the sugar looks damp and the ingredients are fully incorporated, about 30 seconds.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt, and add this to the sugar mixture. Pulse 10 times to combine. Scatter the butter pieces over the flour, and pulse until the mixture resembles fine cornmeal, about 15 one-second pulses.

In a measuring cup, beat together the lemon juice, egg yolk and vanilla. With the machine running, add the juice mixture in a slow stream and continue processing until the dough forms a ball, 10-15 seconds.

Turn the dough onto a clean work surface, and gently gather into a ball. Working quickly, roll the dough into a cylinder 12 inches long and 1-1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, twisting the ends together to seal (this helps the dough hold its shape). Chill the dough until firm and cold, 45 minutes in the freezer.

While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 375°F. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking liners (Silpats) or parchment paper.

Remove the dough log from the freezer, and unwrap it. With a very sharp knife, slice the dough into 3/8-inch thick rounds, and place the rounds on the baking sheets, spacing them one inch apart.

Bake until the centers of the cookies just begin to color and the edges are golden brown, about 12-14 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through the baking time. Cool the cookies on the pans for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]


More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Shrimp, lemon, herb and feta macaroni and cheese
Lemon waffles
Lemon-currant biscotti
Lemon walnut yogurt dessert
Whole wheat lemon-lime yogurt cupcakes
Zucchini with golden raisins, pine nuts and lemon

Other recipes that use lemons:
Lemon-glazed madeleines, from David Lebovitz
Baked lemon pasta, from The Pioneer Woman Cooks
Greek lemon chicken, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Lemon drop martini, from The Food Whore's Recipes
Lemon aioli, from Panini Happy

Comments

These cookies sound wonderfully aromatic. I *love* lemon!

Do not read while eating:
I had a fish bone stuck a few weeks ago
and I tried everything to remove it, but not lemon. What worked in the end was a whole bottle of beer down in one, oh it worked by bringing the bone back up, luckily I was not driving that night!

Now that I am sober and fish bone free these biscuits look delicious.

To me, lemon is the second most essential ingredient in my pantry! I'd put it ahead of pepper as a seasoning (though behind salt).

I've never frozen lemons but I will juice them and then freeze that.

I've made cookies with lavender from my garden, now you've added lemon. Is there anything better than that!!!

Lemon is my chocolate and a true healer. Just it's sunny colour will make the day.

The cookies look great. I grow lavender and have my lavender sugar all made and ready to add to recipes. Thanks for the recipe Lydia. Lemons are always in my fridge.

As a child I got a perch (sunfish) bone in my throat while having dinner with my grandparents. My grandmother quickly picked up a pickle jar and made me drink the vinegar from the pickles. I gagged a spewed the stuff but the bone went down and never gave me any problems. She told me that it helped to provide extra saliva to help wash the bone down and also helped to dissolve it. I stayed away from pickles for a long time:) I never did give up fish though, and for my entire life I have been a big fish eater.

Now this is exactly why I don't eat fish ;-)
but I LOVE LOVE LOVE lemons!

I am never without lemons in my kitchen. To me they are an essential part of cooking. I've been spoiled by my annual box of Meyers from a friend's backyard tree. :)
Those cookies look just delicious. I'm going to try to make them gluten free.

Yum yum!

If I'm going to indulge in a dessert or baked goods, it will usually be something with lemon, my favorite flavor for desserts. One things I love to do with those lemons on the counter that are getting past their prime is squeeze the juice and keep in a glass jar in the freezer. I love always having "fresh-squeezed" lemon juice on hand!

These cookies look amazing. I love to bake, and I'm always looking for recipes that go beyond the "top ten" available in most cookbooks - I'll definitely try these!

I just bought a bunch of lavender. This might be just the thing to make!

Kathy, lemon always does it for me, especially in the winter when so little fresh fruit is available.

Tamara, such a scary story. I'm glad you are okay. See Barb's comment -- a bottle of beer sounds so much more pleasant than pickle juice!

Julia, salt is definitely number one (and to think we all spent years being so afraid of salt). Lemon is in my top five, always.

Pauline, I didn't know you had lavender in your garden. I do, too, but I've never cooked with it.

Val, I'm going to remember that. "Lemon is my chocolate."

Barb, I'm glad you're okay, too. (See Tamara's comment above.) It makes sense that the harshness and salt of the pickle brine would trigger the production of saliva. But dissolving the bones? I'm not sure about that.

Carol, the risk of getting fish bones caught in your throat, especially if you prepare your own fish, is fairly small. And fish is too delicious to give up!

Christine, I really need to learn more about gluten-free baking. I'd love to know how you adapt this recipe.

Deena, you betcha.

Kalyn, lemon is one of those flavors that makes me forget all about salt. Sometimes I'll forget all about chocolate, too.

Judy, these were elegant and and yet very easy to prepare.

Alta, we loved these cookies. Lemon was definitely the dominant flavor, but the lavender made the cookies special. Do try them.

OK - a question. Do you use lavender leaves or lavender flowers? Or are they interchangeable?

Carole, that's a great question. The culinary lavender is the flower buds.

I want to jump! I am a cookie addict;)please help xoxo

UMMMM fabulous with a lovely "cuppa" on these cool Autumn days.
A hint I got from MixingBowl.com: Store citrus refrigerated in water and they'll last at least twice as long, depending on how fresh they were to start with. This worked OK for me during the summer, except my lemons and oranges were pretty big, so the containers took up A LOT of room in the fridge. But it's working really well for the key limes I get in three pound bags.
Thanks as always for the terrific recipes and beautiful pix.

I made these yesterday afternoon as I just happened to have everything including the lavender (I am a lavender addict). Oh my goodness they are soooo good. Not too sweet and perfect with something warm to drink. My husband called them grown up cookies.

Healy, go for it!

Jenna, thanks for sharing this tip. I've never heard of storing citrus that way, but I'm surely going to try it.

Stacy, I'm so glad you enjoyed these. My husband and our friend Lucia did the baking, but I was very involved in quality control! I think these cookies are quite elegant.

Barb - Ohh Pickle juice - I'm sure I'd have been put off pickle juice for life after that. Fish however I'm not giving up on, I just try and take it slower!

Wow, what delicious-looking cookies. I love chocolate, but these cookies look mouth-watering!

I will definitely be trying this recipe today! This looks to be by far the best recipe I have found for this cookie. My daughter has loved these since we happened upon a bakery that sold them. She'll be so excited when she sees I can just make them at home

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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