The author’s father grew up in Baghdad, eating not-too-sweet lemon cookies like these, each garnished with a curl of candied peel, alongside tea. Be gentle with the rolling pin and use plenty of flour when rolling to keep the delicate dough from cracking.
For the candied lemon peel and cookies
- 2 large lemons, top an bottom ends sliced off
- 1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for coating
- 2 cups plus 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour, and more for dusting
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. ground cardamom
- 1⁄2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 1⁄3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
For the lemon glaze
- 3⁄4 cups pls 3 Tbsp. confectioners’ sugar
- 3 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Pinch of salt
- Make the candied lemon peel: Place the lemons cut side down on a cutting board. Following the curves of the lemons, cut away the outermost part of the peel. Trim away most remaining white from the peel, then very thinly slice the peel lengthwise. (You should have about 1 cup.)
- Line a baking sheet with foil and place a fine-mesh wire rack on top; set next to the stove. In a medium pot of boiling water, add the sliced peel. Cook until tender, about 15–20 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the peel to the prepared rack and spread into a single layer. Let dry 15 minutes.
- In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and 1 cup water; bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until the sugar is dissolved, 2 minutes. Add the peel and cook, stirring occasionally, until it looks translucent and the syrup is thickened, 10–12 minutes.
- Remove and transfer the candied peel back to the wire rack, leaving room between each piece to dry and solidify. Let rest 1 hour. Toss the peels in additional sugar. Finely mince 1⁄4 cup of the candied peel, and reserve the rest for garnish.
- Make the cookies: Preheat the oven to 300°. In a medium bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, cardamom, and salt.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar at medium-high speed, 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl and add the lemon zest and vanilla; beat briefly to incorporate. Add the flour mixture and chopped lemon peel, beating on low speed and scraping down the bowl as needed until incorporated (mixture will be crumbly).
- Use the warmth of your hands to form the dough into a ball. Divide it in half. Roll out the first half to 1⁄4 inch thickness on a very well-floured work surface, adding more flour as needed to the surface and your rolling pin. Cut the dough using a 2-inch cookie cutter. Using a spatula, transfer the cookies to 2 parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Scoop up the dough scraps and reserve. Repeat with the other half of the dough, then use the scraps to roll and cut more cookies as needed.
- Bake the cookies, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, until they have a lightly browned tinge, 30–35 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool 5 minutes, then transfer the cookies to a drying rack to cool at least 15 more minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the glaze: In a medium bowl combine the confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice, and salt; stir well with a fork until no lumps remain.
- Dunk the cookies into the glaze, covering a third of each with glaze and letting excess drip back into the bowl. Transfer to the drying rack and place a piece of the candied peel on top. Let dry, 10–15 minutes.