Technically not a drop cookie, these lemon cookies are a tart bite of buttery flakiness. If you're a shortbread lover, you'll be smitten and if you want a sweet sumpin' sumpin', you'll be in love. Either way, one taste and you'll be dreaming of these lemon cookies. Perfect for an afternoon tea—lemon drops are one great cookie. Adapted from Noteworthy: A Collection of Recipes from the Ravinia Festival.
photo styling: Paige Wassel | photography: Hartman Pictures
Every Christmas, I make Lemon Drops. While it's kind of an unconventional Christmas cookie, they add a punch of bright color to any cookie platter and are a nice break from all the chocolate, mint and cut-out cookies. Lemon Drops also are a take-along fav to any gathering, any season. They are a bright taste of summer and make winter shine a bit more. And my kids, especially my son, LOVE these cookies.
I first made these back in the day when Chicago's famed outdoor music venue, Ravinia, came out with their first cookbook, Noteworthy. It quickly became a favorite of mine and my friends as most of us were newlyweds who loved entertaining and everything in it seemed so cool and chic. The Noteworthy series embodies old-school cool for sure! I have several favorite recipes in the Ravinia cookbooks including the Best Ever Cornbread from Noteworthy Two.
What is a Lemon Drop Cookie?
All that being said, Lemon Drops are not really a drop cookie. But that's how they're titled in the book and that's how we refer to them here at our house. But they aren't a classic drop cookie because you start by making the dough and rolling them into small, little balls. The best part is you don't have to refrigerate the dough so the whole recipe comes together pretty quickly. I prefer to make these lil' darlins on the smaller side because then they are a two-biter. For some, they are a one-biter. And for others, they are a "put as many as you can in your mouth" at one timer. I'm looking at you, my darlin' son.
The dough is only three ingredients:
- butter (always unsalted, my friend),
- confectioners sugar
It comes together really easily in a mixer and you'll know the dough is ready when the dough moves around the mixer as one ball and comes cleanly away from the edges of the bowl. It's a very satisfying sound. For me, this isn't a dough that you eat raw. Because it has so much butter and is missing chocolate, I'm not going to bother but you go right ahead. Have at it.
The Fine Print
After you ever so gently roll these into small, demure little spheres, you take your index finger and gently press in the center. See—these are really index print cookies. A thumb is too big for these delicate morsels; an index finger feels just right. Maybe for you, it's your pinky. If you have to have a thumbprint, these raspberry thumbprint cookies might be more of your jam.
I'm not sure we have to have a long discussion about this but as long as you understand that the right touch is important. Press too hard and you run the risk of pushing your way through to the cookie sheet; pressing too lightly results in a very small divot for your lemon curd. And you want a nice-sized curd divot.
Oh my... the language in this post...
Lemon Curd for the Win
The other fun thing about these Lemon Cookies is the curd that stars in the center. If you've never made a curd before, now's your chance and once you do, you'll have mastered a new technique. You'll be curdling everything. Ok - maybe not, but it's pretty magical how lemon juice, butter, egg and sugar all come together into something so dreamy. Now this is something you want to eat by the spoonful. Or make some extra and serve it to your friends with some boxed ginger snaps at your next GOT throwback night. You can call them Not Sansa Stark's Lemon Cakes. In case you want a recipe for the real thing, here ya go but don't go away just yet. And don't say I never gave you anything.
Once the cookies come out of the oven:
- Let them cool completely and using a very small spoon, put some curd in the center of the cookie. I bring out an old baby spoon but any small spoon will do the trick.
- Next, kiss them with some powdered sugar. If you don't have one of these handy little sugar shakers, be sure to pick one up. They come in super handy for dusting cakes with sugar or fill it with flour to dust pans or even your countertop if you're rolling out dough. Otherwise, use a fine strainer as I have here. BTW, there's an extra pretty one that would look awesome in your kitchen. Right next to Noteworthy One or Two. These are classic cookbooks for any Chicagoan or cookbook collector and trust me like all good things, they won't be around forever.
Make-ahead: make the cookie bases ahead and freeze. Defrost and then add the curd and top with powdered sugar.
For a few or a crowd: Pack up 4 or 6 in mini cookie boxes and share with your child's teachers as an extra thank-you sweet treat.
Lemon Drop Cookies
- 2 cookie sheets (non-airbake)
- ½ lb unsalted butter
- ½ cup confectioner's sugar
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 egg beaten
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 ½ T butter
- 1 lemon, rind zested
- 3 T fresh lemon juice, from previously zested lemon
- confectioner's sugar, for sprinkling
For the Cookies
- Preheat oven to 350°
- Lightly butter or spray two cookie sheets with baking spray and set aside.
- Using a hand or stand mixer, combine all of the cookie ingredients in a bowl until mixed well about 3 minutes. The batter will come together in a ball and the sides of the bowl will be clean.
- With a small teaspoon or small scoop, take a small amount of dough and create a small ball about 1-1½" in diameter.
- Using your index finger, create a little divot in the center of each ball. Don't press too hard that you go all the way through to the cookie sheet. Place each cookie on prepared cookie sheet and line up neatly. You will get about 6 cookies across on the short side of the sheet.
- Place cookie sheets in preheated oven and bake for 9-11 minutes. Keep an eye on them starting at 8 minutes. You don't want them browned on the top.
For the Curd
- Meanwhile, in a small saucepan on the stove, combine all curd ingredients. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until curd thickens. This will take about 6 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.
Assembling the cookies
- Once the cookies are finished baking, remove them from the oven and cool them for 2 minutes on the cookie sheets and then remove to cooling racks that are sitting over sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap.
- Using a small child's spoon, spoon a small amount (about ½-1 tsp depending on the size of your divot) into each cookie being careful not to get any on the sides of the cookie.
- Using a sugar shaker or fine mesh strainer, lightly sprinkle confectioners sugar over each cookie. You don't want it to cover the curd completely or you won't be able to see that it's a lemon cookie.
- To store, place in a large, shallow container. The cookies will keep up to two weeks (if they last that long) and can be frozen. I sometimes make the cookies and freeze them unfilled and make the curd before serving. The cookies can stick together which makes stacking them a challenge.