- Prep time 2 hours 45 minutes
- Cook time 15 minutes
- makes 22 Cookies
The secrets to the best crinkle cookies are in how long you chill them (at least 2 hours), which sugars you snowball on the outside (granulated, then confectioners'), and—in this simple stunner from food stylist and author Jesse Szewczyk—swapping out the salt for preserved lemon peel, a pantry ingredient that adds life, balance, and umami (yes, umami) to the cookie-swap classic.
As Jesse writes in his cookbook Cookies: The New Classics, “Preserved lemons are a popular ingredient in Middle Eastern and North African cuisines, used in a variety of recipes, from tagines to stews. They’re made by soaking whole lemons in a salty brine, transforming them into an earthier, tangier version of their former selves. Here, the preserved lemon peel is used to give classic crinkle cookies a robust, intensely lemony flavor and subtle salty bite. You can usually find preserved lemons in glass jars in well-stocked grocery stores, or you can easily order them online. But if unavailable, you can make this recipe with 2 tablespoons of grated fresh lemon zest with an added 1⁄2 teaspoon of kosher salt in the dough—but the flavor will not be the same.”
A few more tips: This dough is great made ahead, and the preserved lemon and vanilla flavors will get more complex as the dough chills. Rolling the balls is an excellent activity for kids and other nearby folks you want to keep busy. And if you err on the side of slightly underbaking them so they’re soft (but not squishy) inside, they keep well enough to ship for the holidays.
Recipe adapted very slightly from Cookies: The New Classics (Clarkson Potter, October 2021).
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Hear more about this recipe from Jesse himself on our podcast The Genius Recipe Tapes. —Genius Recipes
stick (8 tablespoons/113 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups
(267 grams) granulated sugar, divided
(20 grams) chopped preserved lemon peel (see Author Notes)
large eggs, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups
spooned and leveled all-purpose flour (320 grams)
1 1/2 teaspoons
(75 grams) confectioners’ sugar
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, 1 cup (200 grams) of the granulated sugar, and the chopped preserved lemon peel. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl halfway through, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the mixer off, add the eggs and vanilla extract, and mix until pale yellow and very light, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the mixer off, add the flour and baking powder, and mix on low speed just until a soft dough forms, 1 to 2 minutes. Tightly cover the bowl with plastic and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours (overnight or a few days ahead is fine).
- As the dough chills, place the remaining 1/3 cup (67 grams) granulated sugar in a shallow, wide bowl or on a plate and put the confectioners’ sugar in a second shallow bowl or on a plate.
- Heat the oven to 350°F and set the racks at the upper-middle and lower-middle positions. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats.
- Using a medium 1 3/4-inch (#40) cookie scoop or 2 tablespoons, portion out the dough and roll into balls. Working with one dough ball at a time, roll in the granulated sugar, then in the confectioners’ sugar, then roll in the palms of your hands above the bowl of confectioners’ sugar to reshape them. Place the dough balls 3 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets (11 per sheet).
- Bake both sheets at the same time, swapping the top sheet to the bottom rack and bottom sheet to the top midway through baking, until the cookies are puffed, the cracks no longer look wet, and the dough feels soft but resists slightly when poked with a finger (it shouldn’t cave in), 13 to 15 minutes. Let cool completely on the baking sheets.
- Note: Two medium preserved lemons will yield about 2 tablespoons of chopped peel. To prepare them, run the preserved lemons under cold water to wash off some of the salt, then cut the peels into quarters. Using your fingers or a fork, pull the peel away from the flesh, and finely chop the peel. You will only use the peel in this recipe.
- Make ahead: The dough can be stored in the bowl in the refrigerator, tightly covered with plastic wrap, for several days before baking. If the dough is too hard to portion, let it sit at room temperature for 10 minutes and try again.
- Storage: The cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.