By SHANNON WATKINS
Spring is finally here, which my family in Tidewater has elected to celebrate by merrily decamping to the Outer Banks and I have elected to spend by continuing to work. As you might imagine, this has caused a tad bit of friction.
“The weather here is lovely!” chirped my mother over the phone. “We went shopping and then hit the pool at the beach club! How’s your day been?”
“Well, I worked,” I said. “And later I’m covering a two-hour board meeting.”
“Oh, we’ll be out to dinner by then!” she said gaily. “I think we’re going to that restaurant you love so much for crab cakes. What are you having?”
“Leftovers,” I said through gritted teeth. “Have fun. Oh, and remind me not to get you a Christmas present this year.”
Travel envy aside, I never really get anyone a Christmas present so much as make them from scratch; living on a small budget long ago convinced me of the virtues of baked gifts. One of the perennial favorites I’m asked to produce is a personally reworked version of a lemon cookie recipe I found online a few years ago.
Lemons do make an appearance in traditional British and European Christmas fare, though usually in conjunction with spices like clove and nutmeg and mace that work with citrus but tend to suppress its tropical nature.
The cookies I like to bake, though, are mostly straightforward in their lemony taste, and I always thought despite my family’s demands that they’d be better suited for spring and sunny weather.
These would be good Easter presents in a year where the bunny isn’t in danger of freezing his puffball off, and I can’t imagine anyone’s mom would object to a nicely decorated package of these on Mother’s Day.
Or you could just bake yourself a batch to savor over an otherwise ordinary workweek while your family is frolicking at the beach. I promise I won’t tell.
Lemon Almond Crisps
½ cup butter, softened to room temperature
¾ cup sugar
1 Tbsp lemon zest
1 ½ tsp fresh lemon juice
¾ tsp almond extract
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
½ cup sliced almonds (optional)
Preheat oven to 350F and line however many cookie sheets you want to use with parchment paper. (Side note: parchment paper is the best thing that can happen to your drop cookies. It’s a little pricey but fairly easy to find and will help them bake evenly and slide off the pan with minimal fuss.) If you don’t have any, just leave the sheets ungreased.
Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high speed until fluffy. Beat in everything else but flour and almonds until well mixed. On low speed, beat in flour until just blended.
Drop by rounded teaspoons about 2 inches apart on cookie sheets. (Yet another side note: a cookie dough scoop, which looks like an ice cream scoop with an inferiority complex, is another tool you don’t absolutely need but will come to love if you make a lot of cookies. Instead of having to scrape cookie dough off an iced teaspoon with a table knife, you scoop, position, and drop the dough onto your pan one-handed.) Top with an almond slice or two if you’re using them.
Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. I recommend rotating the pans front to back and top to bottom about halfway through. Let them cool for a minute and then transfer them to a wire rack or a plate until cooled completely.
It’s possible that the almonds will have migrated from the center of the dough to the edges of the finished cookies, which makes them look slightly like mutated eyeballs. This used to drive me crazy until I realized nobody especially cared as long as they taste good. Generally speaking, they do. You can relax and bite into one yourself and for a minute taste something bright, like sunshine on a beach, far away where your loved ones are. Too bad they don’t have any cookies there.