soft lemon-buttermilk cookies

sometimes i wonder what i’d lay out behind the glass of a display case, if i ever got lucky enough to run my own bakery. they’d be delicious little things, of course; but more than that – they’d have to be lovely. the kind of thing you’d want to tuck into a pretty paper box and tote home or take away on a plate to the sunniest window seat. i’ve started a little mental project of collecting recipes that would be worthy of a spot in one’s professional repertoire. so far i’ve only come up with a handful – and that’s part of the fun for now – but i can already see these lemon-buttermilk cookies piled up in rows by the bakery counter.

these cookies are charming: delightfully round, soft in the mouth, and with a thin little cap of icing – they’re just bound to disappear if you leave them out for long enough. the lemon is there, as is the faint creaminess of the buttermilk, but it’s the texture especially that makes these addictively fun to eat.

maybe someday i’ll sell these in boxes by the dozen, sheets of crisp parchment gently lining each, but for now i am happy to bring them into the office on a work day and watch them disappear from the conference room table, only crumbs and post-it notes that say “yum” left behind in their wake.

Buttermilk Cookies with Lemon Zest

recipe from Gourmet, January 2008, as adapted by Orangette
Makes about 2 dozen small cookies

For the cookies:
1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
¼ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. (3 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup well-shaken buttermilk

For the glaze:
¾ cup confectioners sugar, sifted
1 ½ Tbsp. well-shaken buttermilk
¼ tsp. vanilla extract

  1. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, zest, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large mixing bowl, if you’re going to use a handheld mixer), beat the butter briefly, until creamy. Add the sugar, and beat until pale and fluffy. Add the egg, and beat well to mix. Add the vanilla, and beat briefly again. Mix in the flour mixture and the buttermilk in batches at low speed, beginning and ending with the flour. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. The finished dough should be smooth and pale yellow.
  4. Drop the dough by level tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 1 ½ inches between each cookie. (If you have a very small ice cream scoop, one with a capacity of about 1 tablespoon, it’s perfect for this job.) Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until the cookies are puffed and their edges are golden, about 11 to 15 minutes per batch. Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for 1 minute; then transfer them to a wire rack.
  5. To prepare the glaze, whisk together the sifted confectioners sugar, buttermilk, and vanilla. The mixture should be very smooth, with no lumps of sugar visible. Brush or spoon the glaze onto the warm cookies. Allow cookies to sit on the rack until they are fully cooled and the glaze is set.