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The perfect Lemon Sugar Cookies – crisp on the outside and chewy in the middle!
These bright and sunny Lemon Sugar Cookies might become your most requested cookie recipe, ever!
My family is crazy about these cookies. Every time I make this great recipe, the feedback is immediate and enthusiastic. It’s a good thing they’re easy to make, because I find myself whipping them up frequently. When life gives you lemons, make lemon sugar cookies!
How to make Lemon Sugar Cookies:
For this recipe you will need a few basic ingredients:
- all-purpose flour
- baking powder
- baking soda
- granulated sugar
- 2 lemons (organic is best)
- cream cheese
- unsalted butter
The instructions are simple and easy to follow. You’ll need an electric mixer to make the dough and a food processor to make lemon sugar.
- Combine the dry ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.
- Process the granulated sugar with the lemon zest in a food processor to make lemon sugar!
- Beat the lemon sugar, butter and cream cheese together until creamy.
- Add one egg, one egg yolk, vanilla and lemon juice, then blend in the dry ingredients.
- Refrigerate the cookie dough for at least an hour, or as long as overnight.
- Roll the dough into balls, then roll in granulated sugar. Bake on a silicone baking mat or parchment lined baking pan. Cool completely and enjoy!
How to make lemon sugar
Lemon sugar is simply lemon zest combined with granulated sugar and blitzed in a food processor. Processing lemon zest with sugar releases some of the strong aromatic oils of the lemon. Lemon zest tints and flavors the sugar for use in all kinds of recipes. Using lemon sugar is a great way to spread lemon flavor throughout all your baked goods.
If you have a recipe that calls for zest and granulated sugar, blitz the two together in a food processor and release all that lemon goodness! This simple trick works with lemons, limes, oranges and even grapefruit!
What if you don’t own a food processor?
If you don’t have a food processor you can also make lemon sugar in a blender. To make it by hand, crush the zest into tiny pieces by rubbing it between your fingers with the gritty granulated sugar. If you have an immersion or stick blender that came with a small food chopper attachment, that will also work.
How to zest a lemon
Zesting lemons is easy to do, but requires a light hand to get it right. Using a sharp rasp-style grater makes this step a breeze.
Whenever you plan to eat citrus zest, I recommend buying organic. Organic lemons are generally smaller, with a more intense flavor in both the peel and juice, and a smaller chance of consuming harmful chemicals.
Before zesting, wash the lemons in warm soapy water, rinse well and dry. Hold the lemon in one hand and the zester in the other. Gently scrape the lemon over the blade to remove the bright yellow outer layer. Don’t press too hard, as you only want to zest the bright yellow outer portion. Avoid the white pith found just below the peel, which has a bitter taste. Turn the lemon slightly, and repeat. The zest should be slightly oily and bright yellow in color.
How to zest a lemon without a grater
Even if you don’t own a zesting tool like this rasp-style grater, you can still zest a lemon using a vegetable peeler. Carefully remove the outer peel, avoiding any white pith. Cut the strips of lemon zest into thin pieces, then chop until minced. A good sharp knife makes this step easy.
How to store fresh lemons
Fresh lemons should be washed, dried and stored in a zipper bag in the refrigerator. Fresh lemons will keep for up to two weeks when stored properly.
How can you store a zested lemon?
If you don’t need lemon juice immediately, wrap the zested lemon in plastic wrap and place in a zipper bag. Store in the refrigerator for several days.
Try this quick trick to bring butter and cream cheese to room temperature.
More often than not, I forget to take the butter, eggs and cream cheese out of the fridge in enough time to allow them to come to room temperature naturally. If you’re like me, here’s a quick tip that will help.
Pour 2 cups of water into a small clear bowl. Microwave the water on high until it starts to steam and bubble like it’s about to boil. This takes about 3 minutes, depending on the power of your microwave.
Place the measured amount of butter and cream cheese in a mixing bowl. Place the mixing bowl into the microwave next to the hot water. Quickly close the microwave door and let it set for 10 minutes. The residual heat from the steaming hot water will soften the butter just enough to make mixing a breeze. Don’t leave it in there too long, or it may melt!
Can you freeze Lemon Sugar Cookies?
Lemon sugar cookies freeze beautifully. Seal in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Set the cookies out at room temperature to thaw, then serve.
You can also freeze cookie dough balls before baking. Take a few out of the freezer and bake whatever amount you need. Instant fresh, hot cookies for tea time! Add a few minutes to the baking time and you’re good to go.
The cookie dough balls can be made ahead and baked later. Roll the dough into balls, then roll in granulated sugar. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate until you’re ready to bake.
Tips for making the best Lemon Sugar Cookies:
Start with a cold baking sheet.
If reusing a hot baking sheet, have all the dough balls made ahead and quickly position 2-inches apart. Bake immediately so the dough doesn’t have time to start melting. Leaving the dough balls on a hot baking sheet will cause the cookies to spread more than intended.
Use a cookie scoop to portion out the dough.
I’ve found that a small heaping cookie scoop (about 1 1/2 tablespoons) produces the best cookies. This size is the perfect bite. The cookies don’t brown too much because they bake quickly in about 10-12 minutes.
Don’t over-bake the cookies.
These lemon sugar cookies should not be brown on top. The edges should be just set and the bottoms light brown.
Process the lemon zest with the granulated sugar.
Don’t skip this step. Processing the zest and sugar together infuses the whole cookie with great lemon taste. You can smell lemon before you even take the first bite. Again, if you don’t own a food processor you can do this step manually as described in the printable recipe.
Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.
These delicious, lemony cookies will stay chewy for days. The sugar coating gives these cookie a little crispness that’s absolutely divine!
If you love lemon, you’re going to LOVE these cookies!
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PRINT THE RECIPE!
Lemon Sugar Cookies
- 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour (284g)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 ⅓ cups granulated sugar (300g), plus 1/3 cup (75g) extra for rolling
- 2 lemons, zested (preferably organic, no white pith!)
- 2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature (57g)
- ½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature (113g or 4oz)
- 1 large egg
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, strained of pulp and seeds
- In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt until blended; Set aside.
- In a food processor combine 1 ⅓ cups granulated sugar with the zest from 2 lemons. Process until the sugar is yellow in color with small flecks of zest. If you don’t have a food processor, combine the sugar and zest in a bowl and work the two together with your fingers until the zest is broken up and the sugar is bright yellow.
- In a large mixing bowl combine the lemon sugar, cream cheese and butter. Beat until lightened and creamy. Add the egg, egg yolk, vanilla and lemon juice and mix on low until blended. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture in three additions blending just until the flour disappears. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and blend again.
- Cover and refrigerate the dough for a minimum of 1 hour or overnight.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- Pour ⅓ cup granulated sugar into a shallow bowl for coating the dough balls; set aside.
- Using a small cookie scoop, portion out 1 ½ tablespoons of cookie dough. Roll the dough into a ball, then roll the ball in granulated sugar. Place the dough balls 2-inches apart on the (cool) prepared baking sheet. Once the cookie sheet is full, bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes. The edges should be set and barely beginning to brown. The bottoms should be light brown. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.
- The tops of the cookies should not be browned. Do not over-bake.
- Always use a cold or cooled cookie sheet.
- TIP: Once the dough is chilled, roll into dough balls and refrigerate before baking. You can store the dough balls in the refrigerator to bake later, or freeze until needed.
- Baked Lemon Sugar Cookies freeze beautifully! Seal well in an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months. Set the cookies out at room temperature to thaw.
- If you have a small mini-food chopper - combine the zest with about half the sugar and process.
- Zest only the bright yellow rind of the lemon, no white pith or the cookies may taste bitter. Use organic lemons whenever possible.
Here are a few more of our favorite lemon desserts you might enjoy: