Small and delicate, lemon thins had legions of fans in times past, and grocery store shelves, particularly in the South, were crowded with regional versions. But the cookie zeitgeist now favors bigger, bolder biscuits. We wanted to bring back these pleasantly crisp cookies, and we wanted them to pack a serious lemon punch. When we tested existing recipes, we found them to be too thick and soft or too crumbly or too chewy and all were desperately short on lemon flavor. Texture was the first puzzle to solve. Just out of the oven, our working recipe was thin and crisp; however, after they cooled, the cookies became tough. Baking the cookies for a shorter period of time left them soft. Enriching the dough with more butter made the dough too difficult to work with. We found the answer in an old test kitchen trick for making cookies lighter: Replacing a small amount of the flour with cornstarch made for incredibly tender yet crisp cookies even after they cooled. Still missing? Bold lemon flavor. We were thrilled with the bright, sour sweetness of cookies using the zest of a whopping 10 lemons. Since zesting 10 lemons was too much work, we scaled back to a more modest amount of juice, and then added 1½ teaspoons of pure lemon extract. A light lemon glaze enforced the citrus flavor.
- Yield: 40 cookies
- 1½ cups (7½ ounces) all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- 0.12 teaspoon baking soda
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- ½ cup (3½ ounces) granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1½ teaspoons lemon extract
- 1 cup (4 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest plus 7 teaspoons juice, plus extra juice if needed
- Pinch salt
For the cookies
- Whisk flour, cornstarch, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together in bowl; set aside. Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add lemon juice, egg yolk, and lemon extract and beat until combined. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in 3 additions until just combined, scraping down bowl as needed. Transfer dough to counter and divide in half. Form each half into 5-inch disk, wrap disks tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove 1 disk of dough from refrigerator and knead for 3 to 5 turns to make more pliable. On lightly floured counter, roll dough into 10-inch circle, about ¼ inch thick.
- Using 2-inch round cookie cutter, cut 14 to 15 rounds from dough. Reroll scraps up to 2 times to similar thickness and cut out remaining 5 to 6 rounds to yield 20 cookies. Space cookies 1 inch apart on 1 prepared sheet.
- Bake cookies until edges are lightly browned, 12 to 14 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking. Let cookies cool on sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and let cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough. For the glaze
- Whisk sugar, lemon zest and juice, and salt together in bowl. Working with 1 cookie at a time, dip top of cookie into glaze, then drag top lightly against rim of bowl to remove excess glaze. (If glaze thickens as it sits, add extra lemon juice as needed to maintain proper consistency.) Let glaze dry before serving, about 15 minutes.