Mon 15 Mar 2010
After 30 years of utter nonchalance on the matter, I am suddenly interested in gardening. It started with a little lemon tree. A dwarf Meyer lemon tree that arrived one misty morning in February groaning under the weight of two dozen ripe lemons.
The lemon tree was part of a patio redesign project we just finished. After two and a half years in the house, it seemed like a fine time to actually do something more substantial with the front patio than the occasional sidelong glance while muttering “we oughta get a table or something…” The front patio project spilled into the side yard and then to the back patio; after next weekend, we’ll have it all planted and ready for a good growing season. There are tomatoes. There are fuschias. There is a potted hedge of blossom-studded rosemary. The camelias and azaleas and Japanese maples are on their merry way. I can’t wait.
Back to that tree. After the sixth day of making John crazy with an endless chorus of “my lemon has a first name, it’s M-E-Y-E-R, my lemon has a second name, it’s M-E-Y-E-R!” (thank you, Derek, for gracing me with this horrible earworm), I sobered up and faced the inevitable question peeking in my patio door: what the hell do we do with all these lemons?
It wasn’t so difficult. Their thin, supple skin is most conducive to zesting, while their (relatively) mild acidity makes the flesh and juice a handsome complement to sauces, dressings, relishes, and, in a pinch, water. I’m still working out the proportions for a lemon sage vinaigrette we’ve been enjoying mightily on all things green and leafy. In the meantime, I’m tremendously excited to share this cookie with you.
If you haven’t ever tried rosemary in your baked goods, you are missing out. I find it brings a big, round flavor to sweet things while tempering the pointedness of the sugar. This is the cookie for people who, inexplicably, roam in search of desserts on the low end of the sweetness spectrum. The proportions of lemon zest and rosemary are a starting point. Make a batch and see how they strike you, and increase as you see fit to suit your taste. The rosemary’s strength will surprise you, so don’t haul off and mix in half a cup. Start small and work up from there.
We’ve been enjoying these cookies without any on them, but they would be lovely with a light buttercream or sandwiched together around a bit of lemon curd.
If you can’t find Meyer lemons in your area, regular lemons will work fine. Look for the ripest ones you can get your hands on: thin skins, bright yellow, and fat little bodies. Shortly before our tree arrived, I found a bounty of Meyers at Costco. While picking my carton, an elderly woman next to me pondered the label, unconvinced that they were worth a try. I piped up, noting that the flesh was sweeter than a traditional lemon and that the peel was also wonderful. “They’re wonderful with tequila?” she exclaimed, having misheard my comment about the peel. I started to correct her, but decided against it when I saw how her eyes sparkled at the idea. “Yep,” I said, “great with tequila.” That sold it; into her cart they went.
Lemon Rosemary Cookies
Yields approximately 2 dozen, depending on how large you cut them
12 T butter, softened (6 oz)
3/4 cup sugar (5 oz)
1 T finely chopped fresh rosemary
Zest of 1 Meyer lemon
2 1/4 cups AP flour (10 oz)
1/2 t vanilla extract
1/4 t kosher salt
2 t baking powder
- Butter + sugar
- Add the lemon and rosemary
- Add the egg and vanilla
- Mix the dry ingredients together
- Add dry to wet
Cream the butter and sugar together on high speed for 3 minutes. The mixture will be a very pale yellow. Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the lemon zest and rosemary. Mix on low for a few seconds to combine.
Add the egg and vanilla. Beat again on medium-high speed until the texture is smooth and glossy, about 2 more minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl.
In a separate bowl, stir the flour, salt and baking powder together with a fork until evenly combined. Add the dry ingredients to the batter and mix on medium low speed until a cohesive ball of dough forms.
Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for one hour. If you are in a hurry, you can put the dough in the freezer for 15 minutes or so. Given the high butter content of the dough, we need it to be quite chilly for shaping and cutting.
Preheat the oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with parchment or a Silpat. Working with no more than half the dough at a time, roll it to 1/4 inch thickness and cut rounds with cookie or biscuit cutters. Alternatively, roll the dough into a log and cut small disks, shaping the edges with your fingers after cutting to create a uniform cookie. Leave at least an inch of space between each cookie as you place them on the sheet. Bake for 12 minutes, or until the edges are ever so slightly golden. Cool 5 minutes on the cookie sheet before transferring to a wire rack.