Few of our contestants bake (and ship) as many cookies as Arleen Acton, who ended up winning the taste category of our Holiday Cookie Contest with her iced lemon cookies.
The Leander-based baker, who moved to Central Texas from Indiana a few years ago, starts making cookies before Thanksgiving so she can make any tweaks to the recipes and test out new ones to add to the rotation. She packs them up carefully by placing layers of bubble wrap and parchment paper — cut to match the size of the tin — between the cookies, so they won’t shake around. She then sends dozens of these cookie packages to friends and families all over the country.
The pistachio-topped lemon cookies she brought in were just perfect, in part because they were bite-size but also because they were baked and iced with such precision. Each was uniform, and the judges loved the salty, tart, sweet combination of the shortbread, nuts and lemon icing.
Iced Lemon Cookies
Acton makes these cookies a little smaller than you might expect them to be, so, as with all cookies, the yield will vary greatly depending on the size of the dough you place on the pan.
For the cookies:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. grated lemon peel
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. sugar, for flattening cookies
For the topping:
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 to 3/4 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup coarsely chopped shelled pistachios
In large bowl, beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, oil and lemon peel until well blended. Beat in flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt until well blended. Cover dough with plastic wrap, refrigerate 2 hours.
Heat oven to 325. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten cookies into 2-inch rounds with bottom of glass dipped in sugar. Bake 9 to 11 minutes or until light golden brown.
Blend powdered sugar and enough lemon juice for desired spreading consistency. Spread frosting on cooled cookies. Sprinkle pistachios on frosting before it sets.
— From Arleen Acton