Tag Archives: cookie

Meyer Lemon Cookies & Lavender Lemonade

A long time ago my friend Katrina told me about a pitcher of lavender lemonade she made. She raved about it. Oh my goodness it was the best thing ever. And then she never made some and sent to me by UPS or FedEx or DHL. What gives? How do you not figure out a way to send me such precious and awesome lemonade?

Okay just kidding about that last part. But the description and concept of the lemonade really stuck with me. I always have lavender around (for things like lavender lemon bars) but until I stumbled on a bag of Meyer lemons for $2 (Hey-o!) I hadn’t thought seriously about making it. And now I can’t imagine why! This is delicious and refreshing. But my issue with the lemonade was that it didn’t use the precious zest of the Meyer lemons.

Have you used Meyer lemons before? They are incredible. They’re soooo different than regular lemons: sweeter and somehow more lemony. It sounds like a contradiction but I promise it isn’t. They are also far more juicier. And their zest is delicious. So I set out to make some small cookies to go with the lemonade.

I wanted a cakey cookie and one whose other ingredients wouldn’t compete with the lemon zest flavor. I realized that black and white cookies had the texture I wanted and once I eliminated the lemon extract (superfluous, don’t you think?) and vanilla extract, the lemon zest would be the main flavor. I came up with a cake-like cookie with tiny shreds of lemon zest that gave just the right amount of not-sour, lemony goodness.

Meyer Lemon Cookies (adapted loosely from smittenkitchen’s Black and White cookie recipe-which are yummy):

2/3 C sugar
1 stick unsalted, room temperature butter
2 eggs
1/2 C milk
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
zest of 5-6 Meyer lemons
1 C cake flour
1 C all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

These lemony, cakey cookies are simple to make and just taste like summer. To make them even more moist, I think I’ll throw in a couple dollops of yogurt next time. To quote Ms. Fancy-pants herself, “How bad can that be?”

These would be wonderful as a small cake with a powdered sugar glaze. In fact, a thin powdered sugar glaze would be yummy on the cookies but they are delicious without a glaze of any kind.

Lavender Lemonade (adapted from Elise’s basic lemonade recipe):

1 C Meyer lemon juice (about 6 lemons)
3 1/2 C water
prepared sweet lavender syrup (below)
ice for serving

Sweet Lavender Syrup (adapted from, er, that one time when Katrina told me about lavender lemonade):

3/4 C sugar
1 C water
2 Tbsp lavender flowers

First make the lavender syrup. Combine lavender, sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the sugar dissolves and then turn off the heat. Let this sit for at least ten minutes before straining and adding to the other ingredients. The syrup should be fragrant and slightly purple in color.

While the syrup is cooking, juice the lemons. If you’ve never used Meyer lemons before, watch out. They are incredibly juicy and their peels are so thin and fragile, they will break if you twist the halved lemons on a juicer. It seems best to just press the halved lemons on the juicer to extract most of the juice and then squeeze the flattened lemon with your hands. I got just over a cup of the most yellow-y yellow lemon juice.

Around this time the lavender syrup should be finished and ready to mix in. Pour the lavender syrup and then the lemon juice though a strainer and a funnel into a pitcher. Add in 3 1/2-4 1/2 cups of water depending on how strong you want the lemonade. Refrigerate until completely chilled. Serve over ice with a bendy straw. (<-That part is really important. Don’t skip that step.)

Graham Crackers and Pepe’s Key Lime Pie

I’m going to take a minute to talk about my boss here at the hotel. Her name is Brandi and she’s awesome. I could list the reasons but it makes me sound like a suck-up and that’s not what we’re going for here. Suffice it to say that she loves her employees and does nice things for us in addition to being fun to work for. Every year she hosts a party at her house in May for the graduates (but everyone is invited). Last year I wanted to make something Brandi would like since she was inviting us all over and with the help of my fellow sleuth Meagan I made this pie. Brandi talks about going to the Key West all the time and she loves this restaurant Pepe’s. Meagan found their website and the recipe for Brandi’s favorite key lime pie. What kind of crazy restaurant lists their recipes on their website? Answer: The best kind.

Key limes were $2 at the grocery store so I grabbed a bag and made some graham crackers. This pie, like most key lime pies, calls for a graham cracker crust and rather than buy one premade or use store-bought graham crackers, I made a batch of Nancy Silverton’s grahams. I’d made them before when I saw them on smitten kitchen, but now that I had her book I got inspired to make them again. They are sooo delicious. They’re not exactly like a cracker or the dry, sawdusty grahams I passed up during my childhood. If I had known about these when I was a kid, I wouldn’t have made my s’mores with just chocolate and marshmallows. It was really messy.

Graham Crackers adapted from Nancy Silverton:

2 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1 C brown sugar (She says use dark, I only had light. The world didn’t end.)
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 C butter, cubed and frozen
5 Tbsp milk (She says use whole milk, I used 2% and nothing exploded.)
2 Tbsp vanilla
5 Tbsp honey (clover works best)

(cinnamon sugar topping optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Combine flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. You have three options for the next step: either use a pastry cutter to cut in the butter, use your fingers to smush the butter into the flour mixture, or incorporate the butter using a food processor. I have a really small food processor so I did this in batches but I’ve used just my hands before. Whisk together the milk, vanilla, and honey (it will be super gloopy–don’t worry) and stir that into the rest of the ingredients. It won’t look like dough at all. Have faith! Use your hands to clump and knead it together and dump the dough onto a floured surface. (I usually keep a cup of flour on my work surface.) Knead it and roll it out to 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch thickness. You can cut them into squares with a knife or use a cookie or biscuit cutter. I use a set of pretty, scalloped circular cutters that my mom gave me. You also have the choice of topping the cookies with cinnamon sugar or pricking them with a toothpick in a pretty pattern. Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 12 minutes or until lightly browned.

Let the cookies cool completely and crumble them into your food processor or a zip-top bag (I used food processor and I didn’t even wash it out between mixing the graham ingredients and the graham crumbs. It’s the same stuff and no eggs! Slacker-friendly!). Process/crush until the grahams are a medium consistency. Don’t let them get too fine. Now you’re ready to make the crust.

Key Lime Pie adapted from Pepe’s in Key West, Florida:

1 1/2 C graham cracker crumbs
1/4 C granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/3 C melted butter

2 eggs, divided (the original recipe calls for 2 more yolks but this works really well too)
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 C key lime juice (fresh squeezed or bottled)

If it looks like there’s a lot of crust mixture going on, it’s because I made a double batch and froze half for later. That definitely wasn’t because I read the recipe wrong and added too much butter, forcing me to make  a double batch so I wouldn’t have to throw anything out. (Yes it was)

Preheat the oven to 325 (or just open the oven door for a minute and lower the temp from 350 to 325). Stir together graham crumbs, sugar, cinnamon, and melted butter. Press into a pie dish and bake for 10 minutes. No need for pie weights, y’all.

While that’s baking, juice the key limes and set aside. (You can also do this while the graham crackers are baking) One bag of key limes gave me pretty much exactly 1 cup of juice. Get an extra regular lime if you think you’ll need it.

At this point, the crust needs to cool. Keep the oven at 325. While it’s cooling, beat the egg whites and set aside. In a separate bowl beat the yolks for a minute and then add the sweetened condensed milk and lime juice. Try not to splash the lime juice all over yourself. Ahem. Fold in the egg whites and the pour the whole mixture into the crust. Bake for 20 minutes at 325. Let cool completely before refrigerating at least 2 hours. Best served really, really cold with whipped cream.

See that big indentation in the filling on the right side of the pie? That’s where Chad stuck his finger in the pie. He might have been in trouble for that one.

This pie is soooo delicious and creamy. If I hadn’t been chomping at the bit to make a scarf, I would have probably made fresh whipped cream. Instead, I fell back on the can of aerosol whipped cream. (Fun fact: Did you know that Reddi Wip is spelled like that–with no ‘h?’ How does that make sense? And you can’t make Stewie jokes without the hhhhh-wip)

H or no H, this pie is yummy and refreshing. The crust is great with store-bought graham crackers, but even better with homemade. That’s no offense to Pepe’s since I have never even had one of their pies, but this was a definite improvement on the first time I made it. Make this for your Memorial Day celebrations. And enjoy the extra graham crackers.

Pfeffernüsse

I am an odd combination of American stories. On my mother’s side of the family, we’ve been here for ages. The Borams and the Recenbergers (you heard me) settled Indiana very early. It’s very possible one of us came over on the Mayflower. Then on the other side, my great-grandfather came over from Germany with a young wife and a maid/nurse whom, in my mind, was a staunch, six-foot woman named Helga. Probably not the case, right? So on one hand, I’m a fourth generation American and on the other hand, I’m an old American frontier family descendant. And I’m dating a Cherokee man with a feather tattoo. I’ve got all the bases covered. I’m like three people mashed together. But I do love the German side. I love my Germanic last name and my blonde hair. I take pride in having Heidi Klum on my team and after seeing Inglourious Basterds, I was most excited about how Diane Krüger was making Krügers and Kruegers more awesome. I mean, can we forget about Freddy yet?

In that spirit, I embrace German culture including the precious Christmas cookies called pfeffernüsse. Pfeffer means pepper and refers to the ground pepper mixed in and nüsse means nut. Some recipes call for ground nuts, but mostly the nüsse refers to the shape of the cookie.

In search of a recipe, I found this by Martha in her book Cookies. There may be more authentic recipes available, but I don’t know German and Martha knows cookies (hi everyone, she’s Martha) so I felt I was in good hands. To say the very least, these cookies are a good thing. I halved and modified the recipe (no salt? what?) to look like this:

1/2 c +1/8 c cups confectioners’ sugar
1 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 +1/8 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
1/8 cup unsulfured molasses
1/2 large egg (I whisked it and poured in half)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

But her original one is as follows:

1 1/4 c cups confectioners’ sugar
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
1 large egg (I whisked it and poured in half)
1  teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350. Combine flour, salt, pepper, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, and baking soda. In a separate bowl, beat brown sugar, molasses, and butter together until creamy. Add the vanilla and the egg. Now if you’re wondering what unsulfered means, it means that the molasses was made from more mature cane sugar which doesn’t require sulfer dioxide as an additive to preserve it (like the younger sugar cane). It’s best to buy cane sugar molasses instead of beet sugar molasses…since that’s not really molasses at all. Brer Rabbit brand is what I use and it’s widely available. (Knowledge!)

Mix the flour mixture and the brown sugar and egg mixture. I just use a spoon but you might try a pastry blender or whisk. Make sure it’s well incorporated. Then roll the dough into 1 1/4 inch balls. I got 15 cookies out of my 1/2 batch. You could make them larger or smaller or you could also be über-German and über-traditional and roll them into logs and cut them into bits. Place the rolled dough onto baking sheets topped with parchment paper.

Bake the the cookies for 15 minutes at 350. When they’re done they’ll be cracked on top and slightly browned on the bottom. Place on cooling racks and let them cool for about 10 minutes. Now take the powdered sugar and dump it into a brown paper bag or a high-sided bowl. Taking 3-5 cookies at a time, coat in the powdered sugar. The traditional coating is the confectioner’s sugar, but I’ve had them dipped in chocolate too at the Kristkindlemarkt in Chicago. To do this, you would melt some baking chocolate (not chocolate chips–they’ll have the wrong consistency) and dip the cookies in it. But then you’d have to let the chocolate cool, right? And that would be more time between making the cookies and eating them. For me, this is not acceptable.

Because are they ever good. They are similar to gingerbread but far more tender and light. They also store well in airtight containers for a month which means they are perfect for Christmas-gifting. I’m completely guilty of making Christmas gifts instead of buying them (I’m in college, remember?) so I’m always on the hunt for homemade Christmas gift ideas–especially ones so yummy. And I really don’t know why I hadn’t made them before. It took three bowls, yes, but there was no double boiler action or a long cooking process. These are quick, yummy, and really only require pantry items.

I now it’s not Christmas (I mean, it hasn’t fallen during March in years)  but I’m a fan of rearranging traditions. Don’t be surprised to find a cranberry salad recipe up in the middle of June. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the traditions, I just find that limiting them to one day or season of the year is, well, limiting. One tradition I do plan on is making these for Santa (aka me!) when I have kids someday. Santa Claus is German after all.