Positano was an absolute dreamy dream. Italy is Paradise! If you’ve been there you understand the sentiment.
One of my most favorite things about Positano — I mean besides the cliffside dwellings, painted in colors of sunset. Besides the abundance of readily available margarita pizzas (I DIE over that fresh, bright white mozzarella)! And besides the orange umbrella-lined beaches, which attract flocks of the happiest, most beautiful tourists and locals —Is the fact that lemons are piled high, everywhere!
They sit in bright yellow mounds, in every corner market, and on every fruit cart that lines those narrow Positano roads. The citrusy fruits are everywhere, and they are the size of small melons! Lemons also make their appearance in every local shop in the form of lemon soaps, shampoos, hand creams, chocolates and candies, beverages, and my personal favorite, chilled lemon sorbet, which is served to you in a hollowed lemon rind. A hallowed lemon rind, kids! A DREAM.
As I was browsing the gift shops, deciding which kitschy mementos were worth the space (and weight) in my suitcase, my gaze kept returning to the sour citrus candies. Which isn’t strange, if you know me— my Love Language is Sugar. So I grabbed all the lemon chocolate bars and lemon candy that my hands could carry and left as one happy tourist.
It was only on my nine hour flight home, when I realized my head phones, computer AND phone charger were in my checked bag— that out of sheer boredom I was rummaging through my gift bags trying to find something to eat (because food is sometimes the best answer to in-flight boredom)— that I remembered I don’t actually like lemon hard candies. The Positano variety are very similar to regular old Lemon Drop candy, I actually hate lemon drop candies. But I quickly remembered that lemon candy is the perfect ingredient in a cookie recipe my aunt shared with me, that quickly became a favorite recipe of mine.
Lemon flavoring seems bright, cheery and SO quintessentially “summer” in my books. So before Summertime withers away completely, I dare you to make these sweet treats! You won’t be disappointed. The cookies are tangy, yet sweet. The added lemon candy gives the cookie a surprising caramelized “crunch.” And a glaze applied just minutes after they come out of the oven, keeps these cookies soft and tender. Get baking, Kids — It’s what the Italians would want.
2 Cups Granulated Sugar
1 1/2 Cups Butter Flavored Shortening. **This will seem atrocious to any of you who are committed to butter-only recipes. I’m the same way. Use shortening, though. I swear it keeps these cookies soft and delectable.
3 eggs *Always keep eggs at room temperature before baking.
1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla
1 teaspoon Lemon Extract *Gives the cookies a powerful lemon punch!
4 Cups All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Salt *I always bake with Kosher salt, totally a personal preference.
Zest of 2 Lemons
1 cup of Lemon Drops (any lemon hard candy should work!)
For the Glaze:
2 1/2 cups Powdered sugar *add more if the consistency is too thin
Juice of 2 Lemons
In a mixing bowl, cream shortening and sugar. Never skimp on the creaming process— fully mixed ingredients yield better cookies. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing between. Scrape the sides of the bowl, add vanilla, lemon extract and lemon zest.
In a separate bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and whisk together. Add dry ingredients to the wet, slowly. Mix fully.
In a blender or food processor, crush lemon drops. Add to cookie dough, leaving out a small amount (2 Tablespoons) for the cookie garnish.
After dough is fully mixed, use a cookie scoop to secure 1.5-inch mounds, then placed on a parchment lined baking sheet and chill for 1 hour. If you don’t have a cookie scoop, get one immediately, you’re nuts!— But if you’re not into the whole “uniform, perfect-looking cookie,” use your best eye-balling judgement to roll the dough into uniform balls. Chilling the dough is also essential, in my cookie baking rules. CHILL THE DOUGH. I do this for almost every single cookie recipe. I think it makes for a softer cookie that doesn’t flatten into a crispy puddle in the oven.
After chilling, cook on lined baking sheets for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Lining the sheets with parchment paper will ensure that your cookies won’t stick— since you’re adding a hard candy to the mix, sticking is very likely. Line the sheets! (Also, parchment paper works better than silicone baking mats, FYI.)
Take the cookies out of the oven when the edges are barely golden. And I mean BARELY golden. You want to take cookies out of the oven before they seem completely done, and let them rest on the hot baking sheet, cooking for a couple more minutes. Again, another trick for softer cookies!
After resting, I transfer cookies to a piece of parchment paper on the counter (no, not a cooling rack). Parchment paper. Then apply glaze and reserved crushed candy.
Then enjoy, thoroughly! Because if there’s one thing I learned in Italy is that I believe in La Dolce Vita, or “The Sweet Life.” Enjoy those cookies fully, because carbs also don’t matter in Italy— at least not until your trip is over, then somehow they all add up. Weird.