“’Oranges and Lemons’ say the Bells of St. Clement's,” begins an English nursery rhyme about the bells of London's oldest churches. No one knows which of two London's St. Clements churches inspired the rhyme. Both were near the wharves where citrus cargo was unloaded. These orange-and-lemon cut-out cookies are based on my mother’s basic sugar cookie recipe, which I’ve adapted to give the cookies a citrus-y zing. Instead of vanilla, I use the juice from a Meyer lemon (though any kind of lemon will do). Zest of both oranges and lemons are added to the dough. You can decorate them just with the lemon icing that I suggest, or with a lemon and orange zest sugar, or both! As with so many of my favorite cookies, the dough for these keeps well in the refrigerator for a few days or about a month in the freezer, if tightly wrapped. What I love about these is that they are wonderful for the holidays, but don't declare any particular winter holiday, making them perfect for sharing with everyone. Enjoy!! ;o)
Test Kitchen Notes
Antoniajames has taken sugar cookies and give them a lovely citrus twist. The orange and lemon don't overpower and the cookies have the perfect level of sweetness. The cookies' delicate and tender texture is spot on too. I preferred the ones with icing made from lemon juice, but feel free to play around with all of the options that antoniajames gives you. —Stephanie Bourgeois
- Makes 2 - 3 dozen, depending on the size of your cutters
butter, salted or unsalted, at room temperature
lemon juice (freshly squeezed, after you've zested the lemon)
Zest of two or three oranges, finely chopped (See note, below.)
Zest of two or three lemons, finely chopped (I use Meyer lemons)
all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling the dough for cutting
More lemon juice, for icing (if you want it)
Regular white sugar, for making the zested sugar (if you want it)
Confectioners' sugar (for icing, if you want it)
Cointreau or orange juice, for decorating (if you want it)
- To make the “zested” sugar for decorating, use one teaspoon each of lemon and orange zest for each 4 teaspoons (1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) of regular white sugar. Stir together in a shallow bowl until thoroughly mixed.
- Cream the butter and sugar. Add egg and citrus juices; beat well.
- Add 2 Tablespoons (combined and firmly packed) of lemon and orange zest to the dough and using a spoon, stir well. I recommend that you do it at this point, and that you use a spoon, to minimize the amount of zest wasted on your mixer beaters.
- Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and add them to the creamed mixture of butter, sugar, etc. The dough should be easy to handle. If it isn't, chill it for an hour or so.
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Farenheit for a regular oven, or 350 degrees for a convection oven.
- Roll out the dough on a very lightly floured surface and cut with cookie cutters. Place the cut shapes of dough on a cookie sheet covered with parchment (or lightly oiled, if you don’t have parchment).
- Bake for 12-15 minutes, depending on your oven, your cookie sheets, etc. The cookies are done when the edges are very light brown.
- While the cookies are baking, if you are going to ice the cookies, mix 1 teaspoon lemon juice (or other liquid) with 1/3 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar. Add more sugar or liquid to get it to the consistency you want. I prefer a very thin layer of icing -- a glaze, actually -- so mine tends to be somewhat runny. You can also put some more lemon zest in the icing, if you want a more lemony taste, or make the icing using Cointreau or any other liqueur that you like, instead of lemon or orange juice.
- Once the cookies have cooled, paint the icing on them and sprinkle them lightly with a pinch or two of the zested sugar mixture, or not, depending on your preference. (If the sugar mixture if fairly dry, I use the end of a dinner knife to pick the sugar up out of the shallow dish where I’ve mixed it, then gently tap the dull side of the blade with my index finger to drop the sugar mixture onto the cookies, as one would do when using a salt dish at the table. Otherwise, just take a pinch of the mixture and rub your fingers together gently as you drop it onto the cookie.)
- If you prefer just to sprinkle on the zested sugar, paint the cookies lightly with Cointreau and/or orange juice that has been strained (if you're using both, combine in a 1 to 1 ratio) and then sprinkle on the sugar mixture.
- You could also put plain white sugar on, or sugar mixed with a spice such as allspice, cardamom or coriander, if you don't want to use zest. Of course, you can also sprinkle on purchased decorating products, if you like.
- These don't have to be cut-out cookies, by the way. To make a round cookie, simply roll a piece of dough about the size of a large walnut into a ball, roll the ball in white granulated sugar to coat (this is optional), flatten with the bottom of a glass or jar, and bake in the oven as noted above.
- Enjoy!! ;o)
- Note: If you choose to use the Orange and Lemon Zest Sugar to decorate, make it before you start the cookie dough. The mixture is much easier to handle, and tastes stronger, if it’s had some time to sit, which allows the sugar to absorb the juices from the zest and then to dry slightly.
- Also, you can make these with just lemons, or just oranges, if you prefer. I really like the two different flavors together, so I recommend using both.