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Technically this should be entitled Lemon Snowball Cookies – as that is what the original recipe is called. But – and I don’t know if I can explain this in the right way that doesn’t make me seem awfully jingoistic – it sounds terribly American. I have nothing against the term ‘cookie’ and don’t automatically think ‘biscuit’ is the better word (after all, how often do we actually twice cook our biscuits?). However, I made these and immediately went “Oh – this is shortbread. Why not just call them shortbread?” So I am.

(As a potentially interesting aside, I actually had to look up the difference between shortbread and shortcake. Shortbread is one part sugar, two parts butter, and three parts flour. Shortcake uses vegetable fat (usually) and a chemical leavening agent (i.e. baking powder) which gives a different texture. And the ‘short’? Its from ‘shorten’ in the sense of ‘make crumbly’ – which happens because the fat inhibits the formation of long gluten strands within the flour.)

I actually made these twice. For good reason. You see, the original recipe featured either lemon chocolate chips (which sound, quite frankly, AWESOME – but I didn’t really want to order them online around Christmas as who only knows when they might arrive) or lemon drops. Lemon drops clearly being the winner when it comes to ease of purchase … Or so I thought. Instead, all I could find was lemon sherbets. Shame. So I crushed up a handful (i.e. 5 or 6) to be added to the dough.

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Not the best idea I’ve ever had, I have to say. I have nothing against shards of cooked sugar in things, but the molten glass effect was exacerbated by the fact that I FORGOT TO REFRIGERATE THE RAW, SHAPED BISCUITS! Big tip for you when working with a dough that’s so high in butter: put it in the fridge for 15-20 minutes for the butter to firm up once you’ve handled it, and then cook it. Holds the shape and improves the texture all round.

Not that there was anything wrong with the first batch. Adding the crushed sweets didn’t take anything away from the biscuits – but it didn’t add anything either. So on to batch number two … No lemon sherbets. Just lemon zest and lemon extract (yes – lemon extract – a bad one is some kind of oil with lemon oil, a good one is lemon oil and a spirit – usually vodka) to give it that clean tang of citrus. And smaller balls. Which were refrigerated.

Another tip: Leave to cool completely on the baking tray and then dredge with icing sugar. When they’re straight out of the oven they are very friable and prone to breakage. The lemon flavour also improves as they cool.

As mentioned, the original recipe was from Chocolate Moosey, but its all in cup measures. Whilst I can work in cups – and have a set of cook’s cups – the fact that you can measure butter in cups threw me for a loop. Translating it into ‘sticks’ doesn’t help either. I want measures of mass, dammit, not volume! So I translated it all into grams where necessary.

Whatever set of measures you use, these are incredibly simple to make so give them a go!

Ingredients

  • 113g butter, soft
  • 31g icing sugar
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Half teaspoon lemon extract
  • 145g plain flour
  • 50g lemon chocolate chips/crushed lemon drops (optional)

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Method

Preheat oven to 200C/400F. Line a baking sheet with either a silicone cooking sheet or a square of greaseproof paper.

Cream the butter and icing sugar in the mixer with the lemon zest and lemon extract. (I find it helps to hold a tea towel over the bowl to stop the icing sugar blasting over the kitchen surfaces.)

Slowly add the flour and mix until just incorporated. The dough should be thick and fairly unwieldy at this point.

Remove bowl from the mixer and stir through the chocolate chips or lemon drops (if using).

From the first batch - with crushed sherbet lemons

From the first batch – with crushed sherbet lemons

Scoop a teaspoon of mixture out and roll into a ball, placing on the baking sheet. Repeat for the remaining batter. The original recipe says this amount makes 24 cookies when rolled into one inch balls. The first batch I got 14. The second time I got 17.

These don’t spread too much so don’t need to be too far apart on the tray.

Refrigerate tray for 15-20 minutes before putting in the oven.

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Cook for around 8-10 minutes. The cookies should be brown on the bottom and golden on top, with a slight squidge to them (they feel slightly underdone at this point – but that’s what you want). Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the baking sheet.

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Once cool dredge with icing sugar through a sifter/sieve or spoon sugar into a bowl and roll them through.

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