Sometimes the simplest cookies are the most satisfying – and these sugar cookies certainly fit that description. The cookies are pretty much a classic, easy-to-make sugar cookie that I flavored with a ton of fresh lemon zest. This gives them a bright, clean lemon flavor that reminds me of really good lemonade or lemon meringue pie.
Fresh lemon zest is the key to getting a good flavor in these cookies. Lemon extract will make them lemon-y, of course, but the flavor isn’t quite as bright as fresh lemon zest. Lemon oil will also produce a lemon cookie, and even though it is more intense than lemon extract, it still doesn’t quite compare to fresh zest. I used two large lemons to produce about 2 tablespoons of zest (with my microplane). Since you don’t need any lemon juice for this recipe, wrap up the zested lemons in some plastic wrap or put them in a ziploc bag if you don’t have another use for them within a day or two. This will keep the lemons from drying out, as zested fruit will tend to lose its juiciness more quickly than whole citrus does.
The cookies have a great light texture, a bit chewy in the middle and slightly crispy on the edge. Rolling the cookies in sugar right before baking really finishes the cookies and gives them a great texture and sweetness. Without that extra bit of sugar, the cookies are a little on the plain side. Even though there is a fair amount of sugar in the cookies, they’re not too sweet. As I mentioned before, they really do taste quite a bit like lemonade – refreshing, flavorful and perfect for spring.
Lemon Sugar Cookies
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tbsp lemon zest
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2-3 tbsp sugar, for rolling
Preheat oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
In a large bowl, cream together butter, sugar and lemon zest until mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, followed by vanilla extract. Gradually mix in the flour at low speed, making sure to incorporate all of the flour and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Place remaining 2-3 tbsp sugar in a small bowl
Shape 1-inch balls of dough, roll in the sugar and place on prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 9-11 minutes, until set but not browned (or only very lightly on the bottom). Edges should be slightly firm.
Cool cookies on the pan for a minute, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Store in an airtight container.
Makes about 4 dozen