practically a saint

On Thanksgiving, while everyone ate big meals with their families, I baked - for my family, yes, but not with them. Five types of sweets and a couple cups of sugar and peanut butter later, my mother and grandmother have received the first Christmas tins I have ever sent. (Yes, I realize that it is only the first days of December. What can I say, I got the idea in my head and couldn't wait.)

It's hard to say exactly how this idea came about, where it came from. All I can say is that one day, it was there, and it refused to go away. Thanksgiving, the idea said, what better day to spend baking? So I collected recipes - some that have been written about here already, sugar cookies and peanut butter cookies - and some that I had been wanting to try for a while. I made a big trip to the supermarket. I made index cards of the recipes so I wouldn't have to haul my laptop into the kitchen.

And then, on Thanksgiving, I made four different kinds of cookies. I started baking early in the afternoon, armed with all my ingredients, my fairly-new baking rack, and - my saving grace - parchment paper. (Seriously. I already had to do some dishes between each batch, but at least I didn't have to rewash my cookie sheet each time! ...Possibly I should get another baking sheet, yes.) By about 5 or 6 o'clock, I was kind of done with cookies. One more, I decided, and the final treat I'll save for tomorrow.

Thank goodness I did. That final batch of cookies was to be my pièce de résistance, the star of the bunch. I tried one. Then another. If I may say so myself, they were kind of amazing. Somehow I managed to part with them, putting them in tins for my mother and grandmother, even saving some for my friends. (I know. I am practically a saint.)

Daniel pretty much instantly declared them the best of the goodie bag and when I spoke to my mother after she received her batch on Monday, she said they were the clear winner, though she took care to mention the other ones were good, too. Over the weekend, tins sent and bags given out, I kept eyeing the one bag I had yet to give away and knew what had to be done.

...so I made another batch on Sunday.

Buttermilk Cookies with Lemon Zest
adapted from Orangette

These are pretty much the perfect cookie, for me. They're sweet but not cloying, the sort of tender and delicate cookie that leads you to eat perhaps too many of them. Really. Just make these. You won't be sorry.

for the dough:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
6 tbsp unsalted butter, room temp.
3/4 cup sugar
1 medium-to-large egg*
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup well-shaken buttermilk

for the glaze:
3/4 cup confectioners sugar
1 1/2 tbsp well-shaken buttermilk
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

* I got my eggs from the farmer's market, and they're labeled 'medium' - I just used one of the larger ones.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Whisk flour, lemon zest, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, mash the butter until it smears easily. (I like to use a wooden spoon because of the control it gives me. You can try an electric mixer if you like!) Add sugar and cream the two together. Add in the egg and beat well. Add vanilla, repeat. Mix in a third of the flour mixture, then about half the buttermilk, flour, buttermilk, flour. Be sure to incorporate each well before adding the next step.

Place the dough in drops on the baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes.

While the cookies are baking, prepare the glaze by whisking together confectioners sugar, buttermilk, and vanilla. The original recipe calls for sifted confectioners sugar - I tried it sifted and unsifted and there wasn't too much of a difference, though sifting is kind of fun. Make sure there aren't any lumps of sugar, though, in the finished product.

Let the cookies cool on the sheet for a little bit, then transfer to a wire rack if you have one. Brush (or spoon) the glaze onto the warm cookies. Wait until the glaze has set, then enjoy!


  1. These cookies are delicious. On this, there is consensus.

    (I will accept payment for my praise in the form of more cookies, Danielle.)

  2. Ha! Well, I do have half a container of buttermilk left, so it's either more of these or biscuits! (Clearly it will be these.)

  3. yum! what a sweet idea, those tins!

  4. You had me at "not cloying." Thank you so much. These are for me.

  5. Oh, Marion, I hope you enjoy them! (PS, Happy one-year of sisterhood!)