Most decorative cookies are flat and one-dimensional, their shape defined by the cookie cutter. Though cut out with round cookie cutters, these lemon cookies are stacked into three-dimensional constructions. The larger, bottom cookie makes a brim, while the smaller cookie crown on top sandwiches the lemon curd in between. Accessorized with a fennel-frond feather, these Lemon Hats will never go out of fashion.
Total Timeunder 4 hours
Make Ahead RecipeYes
OccasionBuffet, Cocktail Party
Equipmentblender, food processor, spice grinder
Mealdinner, snack, tea
Taste and Texturecrisp, nutty, spiced, sweet, tart
Type of Dishcookie
- 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons lime juice
- 2 teaspoons lime zest
- 1 extra-large egg
- 1 extra-large egg yolk
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1½ ounces unsalted butter, slightly softened
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 cup (2½ ounces) whole unblanched almonds
- ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon powdered sugar, plus extra for sifting over the cookies
- 3 tablespoons fine yellow cornmeal
- 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons finely chopped lemon zest
- 2 extra-large egg yolks
- 1 cup unbleached pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
- 16–32 small fennel-frond sprigs
TO MAKE THE LEMON-CURD FILLING: In a medium stainless-steel or other non-reactive heatproof bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, lemon zest, lime juice, lime zest, egg, egg yolk, and sugar.
Bring a pot of water to a gentle simmer. Place the bowl over the pot, making sure that the bowl isn’t touching the water. Rotate the bowl from time to time, and stir the mixture occasionally. Cook it for about 25 minutes, until it’s very thick.
Using a fine-mesh sieve, strain the lemon curd, and cool to room temperature.
Transfer the mixture to a blender or a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the butter 2 tablespoons at a time, mixing a few seconds after each addition, just long enough to incorporate the butter. Chill the curd for 30 minutes to an hour, or up to 2 days.
TO MAKE THE COOKIE DOUGH: In a small skillet, over medium-high heat, toast the fennel seeds until they release their aroma. In a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle, grind the seeds coarsely.
In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, process the almonds and half of the powdered sugar until they’re a fine meal. Add the cornmeal and fennel seeds, and pulse to combine.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and lemon zest on low speed for about 2 minutes. Turn the mixer off, and add the almond mixture and remaining powdered sugar. Turn the mixer up to medium, and mix another 3–4 minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the egg yolks one at a time, mixing the first in well before adding the second. Turn the mixer off, and add the flour in 3 batches, mixing on low speed until it’s just combined.
Gather two-thirds of the dough into a ball, and flatten it into a disc to use for the bottom cookies. Gather the remaining dough into a ball, and flatten into a disc to use for the top cookies. Wrap the discs with plastic, and chill them for about 30 minutes to an hour, until firm.
Adjust the oven racks to the lower and middle positions, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
TO ROLL OUT THE BOTTOMS: Remove the larger piece of dough from the refrigerator. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out until it’s 1/8 inch thick. Using a 2½-inch round cookie cutter, cut out the cookies as closely together as possible, and place them ½ inch apart on 1–2 parchmentlined baking sheets. Gather the scraps, roll out the dough, and cut out more cookies in the same manner. Chill them for about 10 minutes, until firm.
TO ROLL OUT THE TOPS: On a lightly floured surface, roll out the remaining dough until it’s ¼ inch thick. Using a 1½-inch round cookie cutter, cut out the cookies, cutting as closely together as possible, and place them ½ inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Gather the scraps, roll out the dough, and cut out more cookies in the same manner. Using a ¾-inch round cookie cutter, cut out the centers of the cookie tops. (Reserve and bake the cut-out centers into tiny button cookies, or gather them together, chill, and reroll to use for additional cookies.) Chill tops for about 10 minutes, until firm.
TO BAKE THE BOTTOMS: Bake for about 15 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through.
TO BAKE THE TOPS: Poke the ends of the fennel fronds (you may need more than one frond) into each cookie top, and bake for about 18–20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through. Allow the cookies to cool for at least 30 minutes.
Flip the bottoms over. Using a spoon or a pastry bag fitted with a #2 tip, spoon or pipe about 1 teaspoon of the lemon filling onto the center of each bottom cookie.
Sift a fine layer of powdered sugar over the tops. Center the top cookie over the filling, and press it down gently.
2002 Nancy Silverton