Saturday 21 December 2013

Rich Rolled Lemon Sugar Cookies

Oooh...only a few days until Christmas, and we all know what that means...


Vast quantities of cookies, of an insane number of variations, moment on your lips, lifetime on your hips cookies. They might be out of a tin, or removed from a posh box, or shaken out of a bag, or...

You will decide that you want to fill your house/apartment/flat/strange foreign home with the smell of sugar, butter, and eating-your-troubles-away goodness by BAKING THEM YOURSELF. And, since it's Christmas and all, you'll decide you want to use fun shapes too.

Now your first instinct may be to make gingerbread. I usually do, and to tell the truth I am usually disappointed as gingerbread is never really as good as ginger snaps, is it? It isn't spicy or chewy enough, and though the smell is good, I just never feel the cookies themselves stand well enough on their own. Lemon icing for decorating helps, but really, why not just make ginger snaps instead and save your fancy cutters for these.

These are sugar cookies, but better than just regular ones. These are rich rolled cookies, adapted from Joy of Cooking. Speaking of that book, mine is looking rather sad, don't you think?

You can just about make out the big "Joy" in the middle of the spine there. Yes, it's seen a lot of use over the years, so I decided that since I'm missing a few pages I'd get a fresh copy as a back-up. Well, turns out my version, the angicised version that first came out in 1946 (!!) is out of print. Thankfully, the internet (and with the help of the family who write it and who is very active on facebook) I was able to track down a used copy without too much trouble. It turns out quite a few recipes are different from in the American edition, so I'll be careful not to just lazily copy and paste stuff in the future.

But this recipe looks the same in both. It's the recipe I used as a child, and a recipe that I convinced a few of my friends' families to use as well, as they all had a copy of this cookbook on their shelves too but hadn't known how good this recipe is.  However, I do have one small alteration: lemon zest. Lemon zest makes lots of recipes better, and this is no exception. Most people get tired of plain vanilla cookies this time of year, so adding the lemon lifts them a little and makes everyone who tastes them feel clever, because then they get to say "oooh...this isn't just plain vanilla, is that LEMON, by any chance?" and you can say, "yes, you're right!" and they can smile and feel smug about their superior tastebuds.  

Works every time, I tell you.

The list of ingredients is relatively short: butter, sugar, egg, baking powder, salt, vanilla, flour, and lemon.

First, I took the butter and put it in a bowl and bashed it for a while. I did this because, as usual, I didn't remember to take my butter out of the fridge in advance to get it to room temperature.  Whenever I do remember, I end up having some domestic catastrophe which means I don't get to bake and I've left the butter out and let it get mushy for no reason. Or I forget I remembered to leave it out and take butter out of the fridge anyway. So yeah, I generally try to just keep it in the fridge and take my aggression out on it once it's in the bowl. 

The recipe calls for 225 grams of butter. That may seem like an odd amount until you realize that two American sticks of butter, or one cup of butter, is 225-230 grams. You figure these things out when you read a lot of converted recipes.

Once I bashed it a bit I added some sugar and bash it some more. You could use an electric mixer here, but I don't. Less noisy this way.

Here I've pretty much creamed it together. You'll understand why I say "pretty much" when you see a photo later on.

Then I added the zest of a lemon.

And a happy egg. My egg lady also raises turkeys and was a bit dazed at the market today. Apparently she didn't go to bed last night thanks to all the Christmas turkey orders.  At her age, you wouldn't think she'd be able to poulet off!

Sorry.  Ahem.   

Yes, an egg.

Then in went vanilla.

This got stirred up and looked like a curdled mess so I started checking the recipe to make sure I was doing it right.

Flour, salt, and baking powder will make it better.

So then I stirred it together, but it was difficult as I was holding a baby. He was in a grabbing mood, so I passed him to my husband and said "just take him for literally one minute while I finish stirring the dough!"  True to my word, I quickly finished mixing the dough and threw the mix into the fridge without taking a photo.

It looked like sugar cookie dough.

Then, the next day (yes, it was meant to be an hour or so later, but it was the next day instead) I took it out, put it on some parchment, and bashed it with a rolling pin to flatten it.  See those white spots here and there? That's cause I didn't cream the butter and sugar well enough. I wouldn't win a baking competition, but that just means I don't have to give any cookies to a snooty judge who thinks that's important. THEY'LL STILL TASTE FINE.

Then I roll it to about as thick as I like my cookies...I'm guessing about a 1/4 inch?  I put parchment paper on top while I'm rolling them too.

Then my daughter took a photo while I growled in my mom cardigan.

These are the shapes we selected from my collection. I should probably get some more.

My daughter avoided photographing my head. I felt like the nanny in Muppet Babies.

Then we simply pressed them out.

And put them on my recycled parchment (I think I made ginger snaps but used the other side of the paper for them).

Then I baked them until they were just getting the tiniest, teeniest, eensie-weensiest bit brown at the edges, about 7 minutes. This meant they still are a bit chewy in the middle.

Never knowingly overbaked, that's my motto.

I sometimes use a quick lemon icing for these, but on this occasion I just stacked them and gave them away to teachers and neighbours. Apart from the quality control cookies, of course. One has to maintain standards.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Lemon Rich Rolled Sugar Biscuits adapted from Joy of Cooking ISBN 0684851466

Beat until well blended

225 unsalted butter, softened 
120g caster sugar

Add and mix until well combined

zest 1 lemon
1 egg
1/4 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Stir in until well blended and smooth

325g plain flour

Divide dough in half and place each half between large sheets of greaseproof paper.  Refrigerate until firm but not hard, ideally.  

Preheat your oven to 180C/350F.  Remove dough from fridge and roll out dough until it is as thin/thick as you like your cookies. Cut with fun shapes, using tetris skills to minimize dough wastage and re-rolling dough.  Place on parchment covered baking sheets about an inch apart.  If desired, sprinkle lightly with coloured sprinkles. Bake for 6-9 minutes, rotating halfway through baking to ensure even baking, removing from oven when they start to colour at the edges. 

Cool on rack. Except for the one you "accidentally" broke on the way to the rack.  Just eat that one.

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