My sister Sharon is, and always has been, crazy for lemon desserts. Aside from lemon meringue pies (our mother and grandmother were absolutely the best pie makers ever) and lemon angel pies, she also loved our Aunt Mar's lemon cookies. Crisp, buttery and lemony, Sharon and I attempted to replicate them, but had no success......we both finally came to the conclusion she left an ingredient out of the recipe when she passed it on.
Our Aunt Mar (who was my father's mother's sister and lived across the street from us our entire childhood) had a serious relationship with lemon flavoring. It found its way into nearly all her desserts. Cookies, cakes, muffins and puddings. Didn't matter what, she added lemon flavoring. Not extract and never real lemons, mind you, but that old fashioned lemon flavoring. I'm not complaining, she was a fine home cook. She made everyone in our family (and probably the entire neighborhood) her famous sponge cake with 7 minute frosting for every birthday. Lemon flavoring in that cake too, along with vanilla. I make it to this day, but use lemon extract. (Can you even buy lemon flavoring any longer?) Aunt Mar's little house even smelled like lemon inside.
Anyway, our Mother used to bake some meringues, fill them with her version of lemon curd and top them with whipped cream. I also recall something called Lemon Sunshine that consisted of lemons, gelatin, sugar, eggs with the whites beaten and added last. I have the recipe someplace. An airy lemon parfait, sort of.
My sister and I. (I'm the one with skinned knees.)
As is the way, just because I seem to be thinking lemon everything right now, I was reading through one of Marion Cunningham's cookbooks and came across this delight: Lemon Paper Cookies. I couldn't resist. Thought I'd try them first before I sent the recipe on to my sister. She's really going to like them and her sewing group will want the recipe for sure. They turned out delicate, lacy AND lemony. Perfect with tea or coffee for an afternoon treat.
Bench notes: The recipe suggested cutting them less than 1/4 thick. I found that next to impossible so settled on 1/4 thick and they turned out perfectly.
Also, 2 hours in the refrigerator was not enough. It's a very fragile dough. I ended up putting it in the freezer for a bit and then cut my slices quickly with a very sharp, thin knife. Otherwise they tend to break into pieces. But never fear, you can push them together and they still turn out beautifully.
Joyce's Paper Lemon Cookies
From The Supper Book by Marion Cunningham
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons grated lemon rind
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 cups allm purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Optional: raw sugar for sprinkling on top (I did not use)
Cream the butter and sugar. Add then vanilla, zest and lemon juice. Beat until smooth.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to the butter/sugar mixture and mix well.
Turn out on a piece of waxed paper and form the dough into a cylinder about 12 inches long 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap tightly and refrigerate 2 hours, or freeze until ready to use.
Preheat oven to 350. Don't grease the cookie sheets. (I used parchment paper)
Cut 1/4 inch slices with a sharp knife and place about 3 inches apart on the cookie sheet. Place unused dough back into the refrigerator. Bake 7-8 minutes, watching carefully the last couple minutes. They should be lightly golden. Allow to cool slightly on the baking sheet, then remove to racks to finish cooling.