Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to all of my friends who are celebrating tonight! I’ve decided to share one of my favorite cookie recipes that I tried this season in order to celebrate!
In my experience, refrigerator cookies always turn out the best. Thanks to refrigeration strengthening the molecular bonds of the dough before it is introduced to heat in the oven (which alters them yet again by breaking these same bonds, but at a slower rate thanks to refrigeration), they turn out pillowy, yet rich and golden brown.* For this exact reason, when I came across the recipe that inspired this one, I knew I’d love them.
If you know me well, you’ve probably heard me mention in the past few months that my Grandma bought me the Taste of Home 2016 Christmas Cookbook. Anything that my Grandma gets for me is precious to me, but this gift was especially precious since Grandma is one of my cooking role models. In light of this, I promised myself that I’d try some of them (I’ve been notoriously guilty of not trying recipes in the cookbooks that I’m given or buy). And I’m thankful I did, because that’s exactly where I found the recipe that inspired this one, originally titled “Lemon Slice Sugar Cookies”.
The first time I made it, they were all out of lemon pudding at the store, but I had recently scored some lemon extract on sale, so I thought I’d give vanilla pudding a shot instead. After trying it both ways, it turns out that I think the vanilla is even better than the lemon—providing it with an extra depth of flavor and sweetness. Keeping Grandma—who has been diabetic for quite a few years now but still likes to indulge in sweet treats from time to time—in mind, I’ve also slightly reduced the sugar (and you can even swap out the pudding for sugar-free vanilla pudding if you need to, as well). And, since I’m the queen of substitutions, I’ve included other substitution suggestions as well.
I liked this recipe so much that I included it in my holiday cookie gifts this year. I hope that you enjoy this citrusy treat as much as me!
*For more on this, http://www.theelevatedkitchen.com/guides/science-proteins is a great, quick read.
Lemon Drop Cookies
1 pkg vanilla pudding (could also use lemon; if using lemon, omit lemon extract)
1/3 C granulated sugar (you can increase to ½ C sugar if you’d like a sweeter cookie)
1 ½-2 ½ tsp lemon extract (use less if you want them to be sweeter, more if you want them to be more lemony)
½ C (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 Tbsp milk
1 ½ C unbleached flour (bleached is fine if that’s all you have)
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
½ C confection sugar
2-4 Tbsp fresh-squeezed lemon juice (could also use lemon extract if you don’t have any, but use 1tsp extract:2 tsp water in order to dilute; you can also substitute lemon juice for grapefruit juice if you’d like to introduce a more unique citric dimension to the cookie)
Combine vanilla pudding, sugar, lemon extract, and butter in a large bowl by mixing until fluffy. Add egg and slowly mix in milk until combined.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Gradually incorporate dry mixture into wet mixture. Mix until combined.
Divide dough in half. Lay out dough on plastic wrap and shape into a log (no shorter than 5”, no longer than 7”). Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least one hour.
Preheat oven to 375* F. Take dough out of refrigerator and cut into 1/2” slices. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or grease pan (if not non-stick). Place cookies on pan 2” apart. Bake 8-10 minutes, or until light golden brown on the bottom of the cookie.
Remove the cookies from oven and place on cooling rack.
Combine confection sugar and lemon juice in bowl. Drizzle cookies with icing once cool, leaving them on the rack to dry once more after icing. Enjoy!
Yields about 2 dozen.