Technically not a drop cookie, these lemon curd cookies are a tart bite of buttery flakiness. If you're a shortbread lover, you'll be smitten because the dough has only 3 ingredients! Perfect for an afternoon tea—lemon thumbprint cookies are a holiday cookie tray must. Adapted from Noteworthy: A Collection of Recipes from the Ravinia Festival.
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 family favorite and is on our Christmas cookie tray every year.
While they're kind of an unconventional Christmas cookie, these easy lemon thumbprint cookies add a punch of bright color to any holiday cookie platter and are a nice break from all the chocolate, mint and cut-out cookies.
Why this recipe
- The shortbread is so flaky and tender. Swoon.
- The cookie dough has only 3 ingredients and doesn't need refrigerating!
- That zesty curd filling. Oh my (and it's easy!).
On to the cookie...but before we start, we need to clear something up.
What is a drop cookie?
In our house, we call these lemon drop cookies. Tbh, they really aren't— hence, the renaming to Lemon Curd Cookies (that zesty curd is sooo good, it deserves top billing). A drop cookie is one like my Kitchen Sink Oatmeal Cookies. You grab a big spoonful of dough and drop it onto the cookie sheet.
These are really shortbread thumbprint cookies with a lemon curd filling.
The ingredient list for this cookie dough is short (3 things!). You'll need:
- unsalted butter
- confectioners sugar
And the ingredients for the lemon curd boil down to:
- a little more butter
Easy peasy 🍋 squeezy.
Make the dough
- With a stand or hand mixer (you can try it by hand but your butter has to be room temp soft), mix the butter, confectioner's sugar, and flour until the dough comes clean away from the sides . This will take around 2 minutes depending on how soft your butter is.
- Pull off a ball of dough a little bigger than a teaspoon and roll it in the palm of your hand until you have a nice shape .
- Using either your thumb, index or pinky, make a slight print in the dough without going all the way through to the pan .
You want a nice-sized curd divot.
Who knew golf and lemon drop cookies had something in common?
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.-Josie + Nina
How to make homemade lemon curd
Sure, you can buy lemon curd and put it in the middle. And say you made it.
I won't tell.
But I promise you it won't be the same. And you can't lick the pan.
Here's all you need to make homemade lemon curd:
- In a small saucepan, whisk and egg and add the lemon juice, zest, and some sugar .
- Cook over low heat until the whole thing thickens into a dreamy, irresistible curd .
- Cool until ready to fill the cookies .
Why it's called lemon curd I'll never know because it deserves a much prettier name.
Filling the cookies
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 mesh strainer as I have here.
You betchya! Lime curd would be especially tasty and refreshing especially if you use key lime juice!
Sad to say, I don't think you're going to be happy with the results as my experience is that most bottled citrus juices can have an aftertaste.
If you have good luck using gluten-free flours, go for it. My favorite is Cup 4 Cup.
Make-ahead: Make the shortbread cookies (without the curd). Freeze in a single layer on a sheet pan and transfer to a freezer-safe bag. Defrost at room temperature. Top with the curd and sprinkle over powdered sugar.
Storing. Store in a sealed container for up to 5 days. Otherwise, freeze for up to three months.
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.
…before you go...
If you make this recipe, be sure to give it a star rating and share your reviews in the comments below! Or pin the recipe by clicking on one of the images above and save it for later.
Lemon Drop Cookies
- 2 cookie sheets (non-airbake)
- ½ lb unsalted butter, equal to 2 sticks or 1 cup
- 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.