Whilst normally I refrain from any sort of Christmas baking, carol-listening, decoration setting things until immediately after Thanksgiving, that didn't keep me from perusing the Christmas Martha Stewart magazine.
I saw a recipe for "lemon wreaths", basically a traditional Italian cookie called ciambelle. Shaped into a circle, dipped in icing, then sprinkled, these don't have to be a Christmas cookie depending on the type of sprinkles you use. I also didn't have any lemons, so I subbed lime zest and juice. The sugar gets pulverized a bit with the rind before mixing it with the butter. It smelled awesome.
The process of shaping is pretty simple, just scoop the appropriate portion of dough, roll it into a rope, attach the two ends together. My brother and I realized too late that we were rolling the ropes out too much and the cookies ended up being larger as a result, but good and pretty nonetheless.
After being banked and cooled, the cookies are dipped in a lime glaze and sprinkled with nonpareils. Rather simple, yet very elegant in its simplicity.
I admit to being wary about making this recipe in the first place. Last time I tried a recipe like this (from a different source, and shaped into knots instead of wreaths), the end result was rather doughy and very meh. Either the recipe was quite unlike this, or my baking skills just weren't as developed then. Whichever it was, they just weren't worth the time. This, however, made me feel bad about cutting the recipe in half.
Not here. Because here, the cookies were soft and somewhat crispy like a shortbread, thought the texture wasn't as "fine". The lime glaze added a tangy-sweet element that complimented the cookie, and I loved the crunch from the sprinkles.
Also great about these, you can change the flavor up to whatever you please. Lemon, orange, even grapefruit. Don't want a citrus flavor? No problem, leave it out, add some coconut or strawberry extract. I bet that rum flavored extract would actually lend an intriguing flavor. Add a spice if you want.
One thing I noticed is that the dough was quite sticky, and I realized this after mixing in all the flour and didn't want to add more afterwards to keep from handling the dough too much. Chilling the dough for a while worked, though it was still on the sticky side and the board needed to be kept lightly floured, but not too much so that the dough didn't stick to itself when attached. Despite that, these came together quickly.
Christine's Lemon Wreaths
From Martha Stewart Living, December 2009
Make 6 dozen
For the cookies
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
For the glaze
3 cups confectioners' sugar
7 to 8 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 4 lemons)
1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons white nonpareils, for sprinkling
- Preheat oven to 350°. Make the cookies: Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Pulse the sugar and zest in a food processor until combined, about 2 minutes.
- Beat sugar-zest mixture and butter in a large bowl with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and lemon juice. Reduce speed to low. Gradually add flour mixture, and beat until combined. (After this I chilled the dough for about an hour or so.)
- Scoop 1 tablespoon dough (or use a 1 1/8-inch ice cream scoop), and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Roll dough into a 4-inch rope. Bring ends together, overlapping slightly, and press together to form a ring. Repeat with remaining dough. Transfer rings to parchment-lined baking sheets, about 1 1/2 inches apart, as you work. Bake until pale golden on the bottoms and around the edges, about 18 minutes. Transfer to wire racks, and let cool.
- Make the glaze: Whisk together confectioners' sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl until smooth. Dip the top side of each cookie into glaze, letting the excess drip off. Return cookies to wire racks, glaze sides up, and sprinkle with nonpareils. Let dry completely. (Decorated cookies can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.)