1-2-3 Lemon Cookies

My mother is a baker; the kitchen barstools, something of a counseling couch in my childhood home.

This isn’t breaking news to anyone who befriended any of our family in the last 1-to-30 years, plus is likely 100% responsible for my personal sweet tooth and affinity for knowing my way around a spatula. I spent hours of adolescence sitting at the counter watching my mother bake, talking, and consciously or not, committing her motions to memory. A love of baking for me is as much about the sugar as it is about the bond it gives us.

In no small part due to our regular kitchen-counter counseling sessions, there are parts of baking & cooking that come as naturally to me as laughing. I don’t remember exactly when or where I actually learned some of it all. In the same way, there are “recipes” that I just know. One of them is this 1-2-3 Cake Mix Cookie -a lifesaver on a day I want to bake, but not really really bake, you feel me?

God bless you, Betty Crocker & Sandy Mosier for the gift of these cookies.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 boxed cake mix of choice (in the summer for me, it’s always lemon. Give me lemon EVERYTHING in the summer.)
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/3 Cup Vegetable Oil

Today, I added a good squeeze of 1/2 a lemon because I had one, and I wanted to for a boost of lemon flavor (non-essential, obviously).

INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Preheat oven to 375.
  • Mix up all of the ingredients. The dough will be a bit sticky-looking.
  • Drop about a teaspoon size onto your greased cookie sheet, or in my case, my pizza stone that I cook everything on (ungreased).
  • Bake for about 9 minutes! Brown the little cookie bottoms, and expect them to be delightfully chewy.
  • I sprinkled the tops with powdered sugar today as they cooled, because I’m nothing if not vain about cookie presentation, #priorities.

(Dough to Done for reference.)

One of the best cookies I’ve ever made ever.

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Thanksgiving a few weeks out, I was poking around looking for something sweet to try and found one of those “oh my goodness that might be one of the best cookies I’ve ever eaten in my life” kind of cookie recipes:  Salted Caramel Coconut Thumb Print Cookies.

(Did your mouth water a little reading that? It should have –mine just did a little.)

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The classic shortbread. The toasted coconut. The smooth caramel. The gritty sea salt. Heaven.

When my timer rang, I was too anxious to wait for them to cool before immediately taste testing to see how they turned out. My first thought was oh wow, should I even add topping? That cookie could stand on its own…

But then while waiting for them to cool, I took a piece of one that had crumbled apart in the oven and dunked it in a little caramel drizzle just to see and oh my goodness, that seriously kicked it up a notch…

And then they actually all cooled, and I topped them with caramel and a little sprinkle of sea salt and BAM– there it was, these cookies were on a whole new level. Thank you Pinterest, thank you Mom for the baking genes, thank you whoever realized salt and caramel belong together, and thank you Martha Stewart for your genius recipe. 

afterlight (2)

Now mine aren’t quite as pretty as Martha’s (and let’s be honest, probably not as delicious either), but these cookies are pretty darn delicious –and I had a pretty great time making them.

Are they involved? Yes. If you exclusively bake with break and bake dough then these might feel like an undertaking, but they’re nothing crazy. This is the kind of recipe that really lets you work with your hands, be inside your head for a little bit, and feel like you’ve truly made something –right before scarfing down a whole heaping plateful with a glass of milk.

I’ll give you Martha’s recipe, then a few notes of my own.

CaramelCookies

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • Table salt
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 12 ounces sweetened flaked coconut
  • 44 small soft caramel candies (12 ounces)
  • 6 tablespoons heavy cream
  • Large, flaky sea salt

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat together butter and sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. With mixer on low, gradually add flour and 1/2 teaspoon table salt, and beat to combine. Press dough together in plastic wrap, then roll into 1 1/4-inch balls. Dip each ball in beaten egg, and roll in coconut. Place balls on parchment-lined baking sheets, and press an indentation into each with your thumb. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove sheets from oven, and re-press indentations. Bake cookies until golden, 9 to 10 minutes more. Let cool on wire racks. Repeat with remaining dough.

  2. Place caramels and heavy cream in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the caramels are melted and mixture is smooth, 4 to 6 minutes. Spoon into indentations in cookies, and sprinkle with sea salt. Rewarm caramel if it hardens before all cookies are filled.

ROBIN’S NOTES

  • I actually didn’t do the whole melt the candies and mix with cream thing, but I wish I would have. For the sake of shortcuts and not being able to find caramel candies at my Kroger, these are topped with caramel sauce out of a jar. It’s a bit runny, and of course didn’t set like the melted candies would have. I think it could have totally helped my presentation to do it the right way. (But they are mmm mmm good.)
  • I also didn’t press my dough in plastic wrap, which again could have aided the presentation, but I probably will always skip this step for no other reason than because I don’t want to. I did find the cookies I made in the first round that went in the oven turned out best. I definitely spent the most time packing and rolling those little dough balls tightly and got a little sloppy toward the end, and as I mentioned above some of those fell apart in the oven. (If you have a husband, he’ll eat up the little broken pieces gladly while he waits for you to let him touch the others –experience speaking.)
  • Wow, did I get a little crazy with the coconut? I thought I sort of nailed it until I compared photos and realized I may have gone a little coc-o-nuts (Ha! Aren’t I hilarious?) And I’ll  probably always do it like this because I really like coconut.
  • When cookie-recipe-makers say something like roll dough into 1” spheres…I don’t really know what that means. I feel like it’s something similar to telling your hairdresser you want to take an inch off –an inch means thirty different things to thirty different people. I usually just make what I feel like is a good sized cookie dough ball and go from there. I decided I thought mine might be a little big, and added about 1-2 minutes of cooking time because they weren’t quite done after the 20 minutes. Doing this, this recipe still yields about 30 cookies (and a couple little crumble snacks.)

For gifting, for feasting, or for personally pigging out in front of Netflix from under a cozy blanket, this is the best time of year for trying out fun, new food. Let me know what you think if you’ve tried this recipe or plan to, comment below or using the little talking-bubble-thing near the title!