This past weekend, I volunteered to prepare the food for a reception and art auction attended by 150+ people in NYC. It was a benefit for Circle of Women (CoW), a non-profit organization that was started and still functions as a student-run organization at Harvard with affiliates at other colleges and also high schools. There is a national board of recent graduates, which hosted the fundraiser. CoW builds secondary schools for girls in developing countries and creates contexts for college students to learn how to run non-profits. Current and past projects include schools in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. In our opinion, one school will affect one community and one community can make a world of change. www.circleofwomen.org
The menu was largely made up of substantial appetizers given that the event lasted for three hours, 6:30 – 9:30. I didn’t want to make a full dessert setting, so I opted for simple cookies. I have an all-purpose sugar cookie that is sturdy enough to withstand being made and served in volume and light enough to be snappy rather than doughy. The original recipe was a Christmas cookie intended to withstand complicated cut-outs and multiple rollings, and came from my mother, although my grandmother made a similar version. The recipe, source unknown, was so scrambled that I completely rewrote it. At Christmas, we flavor the cookies with anise and frost them with anise-flavored confectioners’ sugar icing, but at other times of year, we sprinkle them with sanding sugar or cinnamon sugar.
I had so many requests for the recipe that I’m sharing it here. Made in multiple sizes of circles and sprinkled with yellow sugar crystals (obvious reference to CoW’s signature color), these cookies were flavored with lemon juice and lemon rind. The crunch of the sugary topping seemed to make the flavor pop. A few people remarked they were hard to stop eating.
1 c butter, softened
2 c granulated white sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp lemon zest (grated rind)
1 ½ tsp baking soda dissolved in 2 tbsp milk
4 ½ c all-purpose white flour (divided, see instructions below)
1 ½ tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp salt
Cream butter and sugar together, Add the eggs, lemon juice and zest and the baking soda dissolved in milk.
Sift 3 cups of the flour with the cream of tartar and salt. Stir the flour into the batter. Add enough additional flour to make a dough that can be rolled. (I find that I need all 1½ cups.) Chill the dough for at least an hour or up to two days.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Separate the dough into four sections and roll it out on a lightly floured surface to about 1/16-inch thickness.
Cut into shapes and sprinkle with sanding sugar (colored sugar crystals).
Bake on ungreased cookie sheets for 7-8 minutes, or until just turning golden. Depending on the thickness of your sheets, the cookies could take more or less time but watch them since they turn brown quickly at the end.
Makes about 100 1-inch to 1 1/4-inch cookies.