Thursday, June 10, 2010

Lemon Poppy seed Cookies

Lemons and poppy seeds are a quintessentially classic combination, but only for muffins, cakes, breads - that sort of thing. The poor cookie category seemed woefully neglected. Why? Why on earth would two such wonderful companions fail to enter into the cookie realm?

But guess what? I found a cookie that brings lemons and poppy seeds into pure, crunchy, cookie bliss.

Usually I'm not a crunchy cookie fan, and I admit that these cookies took me a while to warm up to, because they are very crunchy. Wafer-thin and crispy, these lemony cookies were a far cry from the chewy cookies that I normally prefer, but as I sat munching one, I thought about it: if these cookies were chewy, it would be weird. The delicate crunch works well with the tangy, dainty flavor of these cookies, and a heartier "chew" would just throw all of that off.

When I started this recipe, the first step really intrigued me. It involved reducing 1/4 cup of lemon juice in a pan and then adding 1 stick of butter. This gave the cookies a really intense lemon flavor. Side note: despite two wonderful things (lemons and butter), don't be tempted to taste this. It's really gross. I'll let you guess how I figured this part out...

Aside from the reduction step, the rest of the recipe is a pretty straightforward cookie recipe - cream the remaining butter with the sugar, add egg and lemon butter mixture, add vanilla and zest, and then the dry ingredients and poppy seeds. I found that the dough was really loose, but it made for good cookies still, so don't worry if it looks more like a cross between cookie and cake batter than cookie dough.

The last step of this recipe was to roll spoonfuls of dough in a sugar-lemon zest combination, and this made the outside of the cookie have a beautiful sheen, and a very tangy first bite. The zest sort of infuses with the sugar so everything tastes lemony, and it's awesome. One word of caution: the zest makes the sugar rather moist and clumpy, so rolling out the last few cookies can be difficult (too much sugar wants to stick to the dough).

And tah dah! Beautiful, lemon poppy seed cookies! But can you tell from this picture what I forgot? I was such an eager beaver to get these babies in the oven that I didn't sprinkle poppy seeds on top - doh! I remembered for the last batch, but the rest of the cookies were woefully naked.

Print This Recipe 

Adapted from 

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, plus 3 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest (2 to 3 lemons)
2 sticks unsalted butter (8 ounces)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon poppy seeds, plus more for sprinkling

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Bring lemon juice to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat; cook until reduced by half. Add 1 stick of butter; stir until melted.

2. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, cream remaining stick of butter and 1 cup of sugar on medium speed. Mix in egg and lemon butter. Mix until pale, about 3 minutes. Mix in vanilla and 2 teaspoons zest. Mix in flour mixture and poppy seeds.

3. Stir together remaining 1/2 cup sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons zest. Roll spoonfuls of dough into 1 1/2-inch balls; roll them in sugar mixture. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Press each with the flat end of a glass dipped in sugar mixture until 1/4 inch thick. Sprinkle with poppy seeds. (I found that 1-inch balls worked better than 1 1/2-inch. The cookies baked more evenly that way)

4. Bake until just browned around bottom edges, 10 to 11 minutes. Transfer to wire racks; let cool completely.


  1. I love a good lemon dessert! Thanks for checking out my blog. It's good to find more Nor Cal blogs. :)

  2. Dear College Baker,

    I've been following your blog consistently, since the time of its creation actually, and I am really proud to say that I can see such massive progress and improvement in your baking, writing, and photography skills. Well, let's not kid ourselves - you were always a good writer. But you just keep getting more and more experimental in what you bake and it all looks absolutely delicious. I sincerely hope that this love for baking continues through the summer and into the fall, because I'm going to really want to eat some baked goods by that time. Question, the pictures of the lemon poppyseed cookies at the verrrrry beginning and at the VERY end--did you take those? If so, you have no reason to complain about your camera because your pictures are looks absolutely wonderful! Anyway, everything you have made looks ridiculously appetizing so I'm going to go to my practically empty pantry and pull out some store-bought chocolate chip cookies with more than a hint of molasses in them, and eat them knowing that you could probably bake better ones.

    Best of luck!
    Your DC Intern/Roommate

  3. This is such a great new way to incorporate lemon/poppyseed flavor into baking! I love it! And, you do so much more cooking than I did in college...and impressive cooking at that! :)

  4. Yummm...I'm not usually a crunchy cookie fan either, but these look really really good!