I was tempted to name these delectable cookies, The Chagrined Postman’s Super Tart Lemon Balls. Well, of course there is a story behind this.
A few years ago in December, we had a crew of guys working at the house, installing a shiny new metal roof. I was, as is usual at this time of year, deep into Christmas cookie baking. So each day, I would load up a cookie tin before heading off to the day job and leave it, along with a large thermos of hot cider, on a small table on the covered front porch.
When the roof was at last done, I forgot about the final tin of cookies that remained on the porch. We always enter the house through the garage and rarely have unexpected visitors at our little house in the country foothills, so it’s easy to forget about the official front entry.
Then one Saturday, there was a timid knock at the front door. It was the postman, and he looked decidedly uneasy. Stammering, he said, “I want to apologize to you. I delivered a package a while back and saw the Christmas tin and before I even realized what I was doing, I opened the tin and ate a few of the cookies. They were so good that I couldn’t stop thinking about them, so I came back the next day and took several more so that my wife could taste them as well. This is really embarrassing. My wife insists that I ask you for the recipe.”
I laughed and laughed until tears began to stream down my face. I loaded up a new tin of those cookies for him to take home to his wife and promised that I would work up the recipe for him soon. It was one of those experiments that I scribbled illegibly and incompletely on a random scrap of paper.
I am only just this year getting around to recording it. I do hope the cookie-loving postman, wherever he is by now, somehow gets this recipe.
Decidedly Lemon Teacakes
During one of my Christmas cookie baking lunacy periods, I got the idea for a super-lemony Mexican Wedding Cake cookie. I tried a number of versions, increasing the lemon aspect each time, but could not get the OVER-THE-TOP lemony flavor I was after. Then inspiration hit! The flavor I was trying to achieve is actually contained in a little packet of, can you guess? Kool-Aid.
These demur little cookies with the surprising flavor are now always part of my holiday cookie baking. Put them into silver mini-muffin cups for extra drama.
2½ cups King Arthur’s all-purpose flour
½ cup cornstarch
½ teaspoon salt
1½ cups unsalted butter (3 cubes), cool room temperature
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¾ teaspoon lemon oil (or 1½ teaspoons lemon extract)
2 cups sifted powdered sugar, sifted
1 (.23 ounce) package unsweetened Lemonade Kool-Aid powder
1.In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cornstarch, and salt. Reserve.
2.In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, thoroughly cream the butter and powdered sugar. Blend in the lemon zest, lemon juice, and lemon oil.
3.Add the flour mixture and mix into the dough until it is just evenly distributed.
4.Using your hands, form rounded teaspoons of dough into smooth balls, about 1-inch in diameter and layer into a large clean bowl. (A one-tablespoon commercial scoop can also be used to portion the dough. To get the correct amount of dough, scrape the dough level with the upper edge of the scoop.)
5.Cover and chill the cookie balls for at least 1 hour (longer is even better).
6.Set the cookie balls ½-inch apart on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
7.Bake at 375° for 11-13 minutes, or until set but only very lightly browned around the edges and on the bottom.
8.Remove the cookies from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool.
9.While still warm, but not too hot to the touch, roll each cookie in the powdered sugar and Kool-Aid mixture. Set back on the wire rack to cool completely.
10.Before packing for storage, dust again with powdered sugar, and then arrange in wax paper separated layers in metal cookie tins.
These cookies keep well for weeks if stored airtight in a cool, dry place.
Makes between 100 and 120 small cookies (Usually fills two 9½-inch diameter by 3½-inch deep cookie tins; each tin holds 60 cookies in three 20-cookie layers.)
Come Back for More
Here is the LunaCafe Christmas 2008 Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies initial post and game plan.
Beginning on December 1st, I will post daily until we complete the list on December 12th. If you bake along, one cookie a day, you will have a wonderful selection of holiday cookies to share with family and friends, with time to spare.
On the 1st day of Christmas: Lily’s Swedish Vanilla Spritz
On the 2nd day of Christmas: Orange Vanilla Sugar Cookies
On the 3rd day of Christmas: Decidedly Lemon Teacakes
On the 4th day of Christmas: Once in a Chocolate-Spice Moon Cookies
On the 5th day of Christmas: Peppermint Stick Shortbread
On the 6th day of Christmas: Lemon-Lime Clove Sugar Cookies
On the 7th day of Christmas: Almond Black Cherry Shortbread
On the 8th day of Christmas: Green Tea and Rose Spritz
On the 9th day of Christmas: Almond Butter Poinsettia Cookies
On the 10th day of Christmas: Lemon OrangePecan Thumbprints
On the 11th day of Christmas: Candy Cane Butter Cookies
On the 12th day of Christmas: Ellen’s Swedish Pepparkakor