Meyer Lemon Shortbread Cookies

>>  Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Meyer Lemons
When life gives you Meyer lemons, makes lemon cookies!

I first discovered Meyer lemons last April when they seemed to pop up in every food blog under the sun. A cross between a normal lemon and a Mandarin orange, Meyer lemons are also sweeter, less tart, and have a beautifully floral aroma. They also have a pretty orange colored peel, which could explain why they were such popular decorative plants in China (way before anyone knew the fruit actually tasted good!). Click here to see some cool side-by-side photos of Meyer lemons next to normal lemons.

Why did I decide to make these cookies? Well, a number of reasons: it was the holidays; I had just gotten this really cool letter press stamp and I was dying to try it on some non-leavened cookies; and my friend had some Meyer lemons on hand.

Stuck with limited ingredients in my tiny urban kitchen, we found a simple butter cookie recipe which only involved a few basic ingredients (to which we added our cool citrus twist!).  It was so good, I decided to make it again in January for a Boston bloggers cookie swap (more on that later!).

I love this recipe because it's so versatile. You start with this really basic butter cookie recipe and essentially tweak it slightly by adding different sorts of flavors. The cookbook gave examples of add-ins like orange zest, ginger powder, nuts, coconut flakes, or chocolate. The sky's the limit here. Maybe matcha? Or black sesame for an Asian twist?

Of course Meyer lemons work beautifully, creating a shortbread cookie that's actually not that tart and also not too sweet. Light, buttery, and slightly fragrant with the floral scents of Meyer lemons - perfect for a simple, afternoon tea.
Meyer Lemon Shortbread Cookies
You'll need about two Meyer lemons to get enough zest for this recipe. I'd recommend chopping the zest a bit  to ensure that the zest bits are small enough to spread out evenly throughout the cookie.
Meyer Lemon Shortbread Cookies
No stand mixer? No need! Mix in the lemon zest with the butter and sugar, and cream away!

It's hard to ensure that your cookies are the same thickness without using special equipment with nicely raised edges. I improvised by using chopsticks, but you can probably use anything that is the right thickness on either side (e.g., thick rulers, thin books, CD case?). In all honesty, I felt that the chopsticks were too thick, and my cookies turned out a bit thicker than I would have liked. I just need to find thinner chopsticks!
Meyer Lemon Shortbread Cookies
Work quickly, because the dough slowly warms up and becomes harder and harder to handle! This becomes especially difficult if you are trying to cut out many cookies! Using a really thin spatula helps tremendously!
Meyer Lemon Shortbread Cookies
Again, I whipped out my cool letter press stamps that I bought in Japan (the same ones I used to make my personalized Thomas Keller Oreos). Aren't these cool? I'm really tempted to make conversation hearts next! [update - I believe Williams Sonoma sells similar ones here]
Meyer Lemon Shortbread Cookies
Bake, cool, and eat!

Enjoy!

Meyer Lemon Shortbread Cookies
adapted from The Joy of Cooking

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tsp Meyer lemon zest, finely grated
1 cup superfine sugar (or process regular sugar in a food processor for 30 seconds)
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg yolk
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Cream butter, lemon zest, sugar, and salt in a large bowl with a mixer at medium speed. Add in the egg yolk until well blended, and then the egg and the vanilla. Reduce speed to low and add in the flour until just combined. Divide the dough in half and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour (up to two days).

Preheat oven to 375°F, placing the two racks on the upper third and lower third of the oven. Working with one batch of dough at a time, roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thickness. Use either a well floured surface or a Silpat liner and plastic wrap. Cut out shapes using cutters, trying to use up as much dough as possible. The dough should only be re-rolled out once. Alternatively, if you don't have a cookie cutter, scoop cookie dough with a small ice cream scoop and roll out and flatten by hand.

Bake 2 sheets at a time until the cookies are slightly golden brown at the edges (about 6-8 minutes). If your cookies are thicker than 1/8 inch, you may have to bake for longer. After baking, immediately transfer to a cooling rack and cool to room temperature.

Muir Glen Gift Box
It's not to late to enter the Giveaway for a beautiful gift box of reserved tomatoes from Muir Glen! Giveaway ends This Friday, January 28th, 2011.

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