Monday, April 9, 2012

Key Lime Cookies

Spring is in the air ... but it's not quite here yet. I've seen some nice warm days, but it could still snow. I'm itching to be cooking fresh, seasonal, local produce, but there's not much growing here yet.

My cooking has become transitional. I'm veering away from stews and braised dishes. When it comes to dessert, cool desserts like pudding or cream pies sound good, but I'm not quite ready for ice cream. I'm not ready to give up baking, but I want the results to be a little lighter.

Dense cakes, no; refreshing cookies, yes.

These cookies are a snap to make with a food processor - they're done in no time. They spread a little while baking, and also rise up a bit. Crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside, with the brightness of key lime, they're a perfect after-dinner indulgence. Or a little snack.

These aren't overly sweet, so if you want them sweeter, sprinkle them with sugar before you bake, or dust them with powdered sugar when they're still slightly warm.

This recipe calls for key lime extract, but you could substitute lime, orange, or lemon extract, if you prefer.

I know the next question I'm going to get is whether you could use lemon or lime juice instead of an extract. Here's the deal. Extract is concentrated. You're only adding a teaspoon here. To get that much lime flavor, you'd need to add significantly more juice, which would mess up the moisture content in the cookies. If you don't want to use an extract, I'd suggest using lemon or lime zest, since that wouldn't change the moisture level in the cookie dough.

Key Lime Cookies
makes about 18 cookies

1 1/2 cups (6 3/4 ounces) all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 egg
1 teaspoon key lime extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet (or two) with parchment paper.

Put the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of your food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse a few times to combine the ingredients.

Cut the butter into chunks and add it to the food processor. Pulse until the butter is incorporated into the flour and it looks like wet sand with no visible bits of butter.

Combine the egg and extracts in a small bowl, stirring to combine. Add the egg to the food processor and pulse until the dough comes together.

Using a small scoop (a #40 is good) or a spoon, portion the dough onto the cookie sheet, leaving space between them for them to spread. (You might want to divide them onto two cookie sheets. They'll fit on one, but it's very snug.)

Bake at 350 degrees until the cookies are lightly browned around the edges, about 15 minutes.

Remove the cookies from the baking sheet and let cool on a rack.