This post is dedicated to my Mother, who apparently has a food memory just as acute as my own. Looks like I know where I got it! I recently gave her the link to my blog, something that I didn’t want to do right away, until I was sure that it was actually going to last more than a few awkward attempts at sharing what I do in the kitchen. Mission accomplished, so I figured it was time to brag a little and share the love with my family. She’s currently planning a trip over to visit, and we’re both very excited. Especially about the food. I told her to scan my blog and think about what she might like me to make when she was here.
First on her list: fresh and fizzy ginger ale. I totally understand this one, and plan on having it around all summer long for thirst-quenching and cocktail purposes. I have my own ideas, and I’m sure I’ll have added quite a bit to my repertoire by the time she arrives in July. We left it at that, or so I thought, and hung up.
A few hours later, I got an email from her. She’d been giving the question more thought, and remembered these amazing, lemon-tinged sugar cookies that one of the girl scout mothers used to make back in the day, like 20 years ago. She said she thought it would be fun to experience my take on a classic like sugar cookies, and, why not, add fresh lemon or orange zest to spice them up?
I was instantly transported back in time. I think I can actually remember what her kitchen looked like. The girl’s name was Christianna Cooper. I’m almost certain about that. She had long, long hair that went all the way to her hips and was often done in one, spectacular braid. We played My Little Pony in her bedroom upstairs. And her Mom made the most amazing sugar cookies. So good, that we asked her for her recipe. Lemon extract. That was the secret ingredient.
I hadn’t thought about those cookies in years, but I knew I had to have them. Right away. That’s when I realized I had no butter in the house. Everyone knows a good cookie requires a high dose of it. It was definitely too late to run to the store, but I couldn’t give up on my lemon sugar cookie. I desperately scanned through my recipe to-do list when I found it: lemon olive oil cookies. Yes! But wait… I could do better. I wanted a classic sugar cookie and the recipe that I’d book-marked didn’t seem quite right. An internet search led me to just what I needed: Lemon Thyme Olive Oil Cookies from the Food Network.
It sounded perfect, and I frantically piled the elements necessary for the recipe on my kitchen table. Jérôme gave me that “oh, you’re baking again” eyeroll, but I knew he’d change his tune once he tasted what I was busy making. Ten minutes later and the dough, in all of it’s herb-and-spicy glory, was ready to go in the oven and twelve minutes after that, I was impatiently biting into my first cookie.
They were good. Not exactly the soft, velvety sugar cookie of my memories, slightly cakier but much more flavorful. The lemon was just present enough, without being overpowering. The black pepper was barely noticeable, but added a hidden punch to the cookie and the thyme, always perfect with lemon, gave the entire flavor palate a certain something, a barely discernible but definitely there earthy flavor. The sugar that I added on top was a perfect throw-back to the sugar cookies of my childhood. It was one of those amazing combinations that I would never have thought of making in a cookie, but that ended up to be just right.
The first thing I did was email a photo of the finished product to my Mom, who inspired it all. I can’t wait for her to experience them in person!
Lemon, olive oil, thyme and black pepper sugar cookies
Recipe from the Food Network
2 C flour
1 C sugar
1/2 t baking soda
1 t freshly ground black pepper
1 T fresh thyme, finely chopped
1/2 C olive oil
4 T milk
1 lemon, zest and juice
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, mix the lemon zest, pepper, thyme, flour, sugar and baking soda. In a separate bowl, whisk together the olive oil, milk and lemon juice. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and mix until just combined. The dough should be a bit oily; if it’s too dry and difficult to form into balls with your hands, add additional milk.
Roll the dough into small balls, roll them in sugar and place them 2 inches apart on your baking sheet. Flatten slightly. Bake for about 12 minutes, removing before the cookies begin to brown.