These cookies are inspired by the famous ones from Poilâne bakery in Paris, as well as the lemon-scented version made by Chris Wilkins of Root Baking Co. in Charleston, SC. Make sure to bake the cookies until they are golden on the edges; the toasty, caramelized flavor is key.
Note: This recipe calls for lemon zest to flavor the sugar, but other citrus fruits would work well, too (lime, orange, or grapefruit). You could also experiment with other flavorings like dried lavender in lieu of citrus zest, almond extract in lieu of vanilla, or no flavorings at all. —Catherine Lamb
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Soleils (Parisian Butter Cookies)
around 50 cookies
unsalted butter, at room temperature (170g)
plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (140g)
In a small bowl, combine granulated sugar and citrus zest with your fingers, rubbing the zest to release the oil. This will ensure that the zest is incorporated evenly throughout the cookies.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or by hand, cream the butter and sugar together until just combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl to make sure it is evenly mixed. Add the egg and mix until just incorporated, then mix in the vanilla. Add the flour and mix until just combined, scraping down the sides one more time. *Do not overmix!* The dough should still be a bit crumbly, but hold together when pressed.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured surface and form it into two disks. Cover tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. (At this point, you can leave the dough in the fridge overnight—just be sure to let it sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes or so before rolling so it isn't too chilled.)
Preheat the oven to 400°F and cover a few baking sheets with a silpat or parchment paper. Take out one dough disc at a time and roll it out on lightly floured surface until it is 1/4-inch thick. Using a 1 1/2-inch cookie cutter (or the mouth of a glass), cut out cookies. Transfer them to the prepared baking sheets, leaving an inch between them. (Note: If you want very clean-cut cookie shapes, refrigerate cut cookie dough for 30 minutes to an hour before putting in the oven.) Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until cookies begin to turn golden brown around the edges. Take out and allow to cool before packing into gift bags, tupperwares, or lunchboxes.
Note: These cookies freeze well when stored in a tightly-sealed bag or tupperware container. They're also not too sweet, so would take well to being frosted, covered with sanding sugar (before baking), or being used as the bread to sandwich icing or dulce de leche.