When SoCal Gives You Lemons (#366)

If you have a square foot of land in Southern California, you probably have citrus tree. If you don’t, you might have one in a pot. If you don’t have one in a pot, all your friends with lemon trees are currently offering you free lemons (the oranges aren’t quite ripe yet).

Tis the season in SoCal.

Our lemon tree is loaded this year. Andy has made lemon pancakes and crepes with lemon curd multiple times in the last month.

Andy’s crepes with lemon curd

When Baby D had dental work done, Andy made him a lemon posset. (I thought possets died out in Victorian times, but apparently there’s a resurgence.)

When a friend asked me to bring a dessert for a New Year’s party, I figured I’d better use up some lemons. But what to make?

Then I remembered Lawyer Sis raving about her daughter’s addictive lemon cookies. Kickass Niece (who kicks ass in school, social justice, taekwondo, soccer, and baking) was apparently forbidden from making those cookies too often when the rest of the household stopped fitting into their clothes.

I hit Kickass Niece up for the recipe. She told me it was basically any sugar cookie recipe modified with extra sugar and two lemons. (My version of this recipe is at the end of this post.) I got to work.

The cookies came out super lemony (I suspect East Coast lemons are puny compared to ours).

Andy and Baby D tested them for me. They both shrugged.

Andy: “They’re good.”

Baby D: “They’re okay.”

I asked, “Where do they rank compared to my other cookies?”

Baby D said, “My cookies are the best, then chocolate chip, then maple rugelach, then chocolate cookies with white chips, then the cream cheese sugar cookies, then the candy cane and chocolate meringues, then these.”

Andy said, “The chocolate cookies are first, then D’s cookies, then chocolate chip, sugar cookies, then maple rugelach, then these.”

“So they’re last?!”

Baby D shook his head and said, “No, the oatmeal cookies with cranberries or raisins are last. Or the Berger cookies.”

Andy said, “No, the candy cane and chocolate meringues are last. DEAD LAST.” (Andy thinks chocolate and mint together are the devil.)

I sighed and wondered if I should have made different cookies—until I realized that Baby D was stealing the just “okay” lemon cookies off the cooling rack every chance he got. Cookie casualties reached the double digits before I started squirting him with the cat’s water bottle.

The lemon cookies didn’t look very impressive (even though I picked the prettiest ones for the party platter). But only a handful remained at the end of the evening. As we were leaving, I offered the remainder to the mom of one of Baby D’s classmates.

The mom said, “Actually, I think I will. Olivia’s got a cold and these might cheer her up.”

Her friend piped up with, “Oh, and I’ll take some for Janet.”

Olivia’s mom eyed her friend skeptically and said, “Janet?”

“You know, my imaginary friend who will get just as many cookies as your daughter.”

Olivia’s mom gasped in outrage and said, “I really am taking these for Olivia!”

“Suuuuuure,” said the friend.

We laughed and made our exit with an empty platter—which outraged Baby D, especially when he learned that we’d sent the last of the cookies home to Olivia.

He may even have sent Olivia an angry text about her eating the last of “his” cookies.

To which she responded: “What cookies?”

Olivia’s mom is so busted.

Lemony SoCal Sugar Cookies

Since folks on Instagram asked for the recipe:

Lemony SoCal Sugar Cookies (aka Kickass Niece’s Cookies)

  • 2½ cups (318 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt (I used kosher salt ground finer with mortar and pestle)
  • 2 sticks (226 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar, plus ½ cup (100 grams) for rolling
  • Zest and juice of 2 large lemons (maybe 3 if you are using puny East Coast lemons)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium-high speed to beat the butter and 2 cups sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the lemon zest and juice and beat an additional minute. Add egg, egg yolk, and vanilla, and beat until combined. Gradually beat in the flour mixture.

Pour the remaining 1/2 cup sugar into a shallow pan or bowl. Using a small (1 tbsp) spring loaded ice-cream scoop, scoop out individual pieces of dough, drop them into the sugar, and roll them around until they are coated with sugar and roughly ball shaped. Place the dough balls on the prepared baking sheets, spacing at least 2 inches apart—these cookies will spread and flatten considerably as they bake.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the edges brown. (If you like softer, chewy cookies, cook less. Spouse prefers more caramelized and wanted them even browner on the edges.) Cool for cookies for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days, assuming you don’t have a ravenous child who eats them all off the rack.

Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

33 thoughts on “When SoCal Gives You Lemons (#366)”

    1. You are welcome, and thanks for sharing the laughs. It’s true and sad that a lot of women are so concerned about their weight that even admitting to eating desserts is taboo. So of course they use their kids as an excuse. Though my kid is so ravenous that even if I wanted to eat any food I claimed I was bringing home for him, well, I’d probably have to fight him for it.

      1. Yum!! Wish I were still in SoCal. I have some lemon squares that really hit the spot. A shortbread crust with a lemon custard top.

  1. I’m soo jealous of your lemon (and orange) trees. What I especially love is the fragrance of the blossoms. The cookies sound good, but the pancakes and crepes with lemon curd sound even better. My dad used to make crepes for us for Sunday breakfast. (He called them Swedish pancakes after an old friend he called Swede who taught him to make them.)

  2. Oh how I miss the lemon trees in California! When I buy a lemon now, I cringe and think of all the free lemons I got while I lived in LA. I’ll try out this recipe sometime as I have never had a lemon cookie impress me…. yet!

    To be honest, I had to google what a posset was! Maybe I’ll make that just to try it out! you and Andy are such amazing chefs, seriously.

    1. I read about possets in everything from Shakespeare to historical mysteries. So it was fun to get one in real life. Way better than reading about scabies and one day discovering that your kid had been exposed to it at the YMCA’s child watch.

  3. Citrus is the one thing California really has going for it that I miss. Well, that and avocados! The oranges from my parents’ tree in Milpitas were the best I ever had, and their neighbor’s lemons would sometimes fall onto our side of the fence. Oops.

    I guess in Andy’s case, the answer to that age-old question, “What would you do for a Klondike bar?” is…not a damn thing!

    1. “The one thing” you miss? What about our amazing coastline, our sane state politicians, our incredibly diverse population, and the food (also incredibly diverse)? We might not have cheese curds, but we also don’t have bugs and poison ivy. Or mud season.

      At least, these are the things I remind myself of every time I miss the seasons, LOL.

      1. Yes on the politicians. The Oregon coast forever spoiled me (every bit as dramatic, far less crowded), though I’ll always have a soft spot for Monterey and Half Moon Bay. Yes, yes, YES to the food!

        Still wouldn’t trade this in for that, though. I’m exactly where I need to be!

  4. But why is your family saying they are just okay when they actually can’t stop eating them? Anyway I am so envious. Lemon trees are also very prevalent in SA (especially Joburg), but: 1) I no longer live at a house with a lemon tree; 2) It’s the wrong season here; and 3) I don’t really bake.

    1. My family is weird. I think they’re just spoiled by various rich Christmas cookies and the “plain” lemon ones don’t seem as tasty at first.

      It’s payback an envy for all your food blogs! Especially the Roadhouse series.

  5. When my grandparents retired to Spain, I soooo envied them their citrus trees. I am now re-visiting that self-same envy with you 🙂

    I absolutely <3 Olivia's Mum blaming not only Olivia, but Olivia's imaginary friend 😀 Thanks for the Monday morning chuckles.

    1. You’re welcome! My nieces on the East Coast are very jealous of Baby D: “So you can just go pick an orange or a peach when you are hungry?!” Baby D is envious of their weather: “So you get SNOW? And when there’s a lot of snow they CLOSE THE SCHOOL?!”

    1. Being able to grab a fresh lemon, especially when someone has a cold, is very handy. We use a lot of them in hot tea. According to Kickass Niece, the increase in sugar aids the caramelization of the cookies.

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