Soleils (French lemon butter cookies)
These are offered in baskets at Poilane Bakery in Paris. April has loved them ever since visiting the first time. She was lucky enough to find a recipe. This is by Catherine Lamb.
Makes around 50 cookies.
3/4 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
1 lemon, zested (or other citrus if desired)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
In a small bowl, combine granulated sugar and citrus zest with your fingers, rubbing the zest to release the oil. This will ensure that the zest is incorporated evenly throughout the cookies.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or by hand, cream the butter and sugar together until just combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl to make sure it is evenly mixed. Add the egg and mix until just incorporated, then mix in the vanilla. Add the flour and mix until just combined, scraping down the sides one more time. *Do not overmix!* The dough should still be a bit crumbly, but hold together when pressed.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured surface and form it into two disks. Cover tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least an hour. (At this point you can leave the dough in overnight - just be sure to let it sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes or so before rolling so it isn't too chilled.)
Preheat the oven to 400F and cover a few baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat. Take out one of the disks and roll it on a lightly floured surface until it is 1/4-inch thick. Using a 1 1/2 inch cookie cutter, cut out the cookies. Transfer to the baking sheet, leaving one inch between them. (Note: if you want very clean cut cookie shapes, refrigerate the cut cookies for 30 minutes to an hour before putting them into the oven.) Bake for 8 - 10 minutes, or until beginning to turn golden brown at the edges. Take out and allow to cool before packing.
These cookies freeze well when stored in a tightly-sealed bag or tupperware container. You can also frost them with sanding sugar before baking, use them as sandwich cookies, or stick a sugared pecan on them before baking.