lemon buttermilk cookies

November 24, 2010

I like finding excuses to make cookies.

I especially like it when a good reason to make some coincides with some really nasty weather. Bad weather means there is no reason to be outside and several reasons why it makes sense to stay inside and bake cookies.

Do you need some reasons? How about because if you go outside you might slip and break a leg on the black ice. That could happen. You also might get frost bite in the cold. Okay, maybe we’re not quite at frost bite temperatures yet, but if you don’t have gloves on then – whoo! – you’re legitimately crazy.

Here’s another reason: baking these cookies will fill your house with warmth and a lemony, buttery scent like none other. Guess what? Bonus! You get to eat some at the end of it all.

My great excuse for making these was a pre-Thanksgiving family get-together (the black ice and horrid temperature were also real) and cookies seemed like a great bet. Baking cookies for family is a pretty great way to give thanks in my opinion.

This recipe was originally published in Gourmet as simple Buttermilk Cookies and featured a little less lemon zest – just enough to scent them. This version ups the zest to make them ever so slightly lemony in flavour, although next time I think I’d add even more!

They’re cake-y, light and fluffy, with just a little crunch at the edges. They’re also bite-sized and dinky – it’s super easy to accidentally eat eight in a row. Not that I would know anything about that.

Lemon Buttermilk Cookies

adapted from Orangette


For the cookies:

  • 1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. grated lemon zest
  • ¼ tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 6 Tbsp. (3 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup well-shaken buttermilk

For the glaze:

  • ¾ cup confectioners sugar, sifted
  • 1 ½ Tbsp. well-shaken buttermilk
  • ¼ tsp. vanilla extract


  1. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, zest, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter briefly, until creamy. Add the sugar, and beat until pale and fluffy. Add the egg, and beat well to mix. Add the vanilla, and beat briefly again. Slowly mix in the flour mixture and the buttermilk in batches, beginning and ending with the flour. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. The finished dough should be smooth and pale yellow.
  4. Drop the dough by level tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 1 ½ inches between each cookie. Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until the cookies are puffed and their edges are golden, about 11 to 15 minutes per batch. Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for 1 minute; then transfer them to a wire rack.
  5. To prepare the glaze, whisk together the sifted confectioners sugar, buttermilk, and vanilla. The mixture should be very smooth, with no lumps of sugar visible. Brush or spoon the glaze onto the warm cookies. Allow cookies to sit on the rack until they are fully cooled and the glaze is set.

Note: These cookies are most tender and delicate on the day they’re made, but they’re not bad after a day or so. They just get more dense and chewy – a little different, that’s all. And for longer storage, they can be stashed in the freezer in an airtight container.

Yield: about 40 small cookies

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