Lemon Poppy Seed (or anything your heart desires) Slice & Bake Cookies

Now, as delicious as those Margarita Cupcakes were, you didn't really think that I would stop at one birthday dessert, did you? After all, only a fully sane person would stop at one - if any - self-made dishes on their Special Day. You see, I was all set to have a smorgasbord of alcoholic cupcakes for dessert: I'm talking margarita, Strawberry Daquiri, and - one that I was particularly intrigued by - Irish Car Bomb.

The first fly in the ointment was the price of alcohol. A huge reason why I bake for my own birthday (though not the main one) is that cakes are borderline astronomical these days, and just not worth it...in my humble opinion. So, had I loaded up on three separate types of alcohol and used just a tablespoon or so of each per recipe, my birthday dessert would've gone from frugal to bank-breaking in a matter of seconds. The second fly in the ointment was the amount of time I had to create all of these desserts. The weekend before my birthday coincided wonderfully with the end of a beach vacation, meaning I would get home Saturday afternoon and have less than 24 hours, including sleep time, to make this all work. And the third and final fly was the fact that apparently, I am not the only one in this Whole Wide World or even my entire family who shies away from alcohol, and some people just might not appreciate having to choose between negligible amounts of intoxication in their desserts, or no dessert at all (totally unacceptable, I know).

Basically, I needed another option, and thought that a nice cookie would do the trick. In keeping with the citrus/summer theme and my love of all things Smitten Kitchen, I turned to one of SK's recipes: slice and bake cookies with a thousand-and-one mix-in options, including lemon poppyseed. This recipe not only gave me a simple, well-reviewed cookie (complete with enticing pictures), but it is also a dough that can be frozen. So, a week and a half before the Big Day, I was able to crunch these cookies out, roll them into logs, stick them in the freezer and be on my merry way. My mom was loving enough to slice and bake them for me while I was off getting a shorts tan on the beach, so I have to give credit to her, as well.

Lemon Poppyseed Slice & Bake Cookies, courtesy of Smitten Kitchen
Yield: Roughly 50 cookies, says Deb...I 100% forgot to count. I'd say, if anything, a little less.
The Ingredients
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature (or, salted butter and omit the salt later on)
2/3 C powdered sugar, sifted
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
*pinch of salt
1tsp. vanilla or almond extract (I used vanilla, but more on that later)
2 C all-purpose flour
Mix-Ins: the zest of 2 lemons, 1/4C poppy seeds to coat or mix* (I also added 1/2tsp. lemon extract)

The Method
Cream the butter on medium speed until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and continue beating until the mixture reaches a smooth and silky consistency again. Beat in the egg yolks, salt (if using), lemon zest, and poppy seeds (unless coating). Reduce the speed on the mixer to low and add the flour, mixing until it just disappears. If in doubt, it's better to under beat here, incorporating the remaining specks of flour with a spatula. Turn the dough onto a counter and form it into a ball. Divide the dough in half, wrapping each separately in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Once the dough has chilled, remove it from the refrigerator and form each ball into a log measuring about 1 to 1 1/4in. thick. Now, I found this to be much more troubling than it probably should have been, but maybe I'm too much of a perfectionist. Yes, I did pull out a ruler and measure, and yes, I did adjust the logs when I got a measurement of 1 1/3 or 1 1/2. I cannot tell you how necessary this is, though I get the impression that aside from altering the number of cookies you will wind up with and maybe the cooking time, it really doesn't matter. Anyway, once you have gotten your well-measured (or not) logs in order, wrap them in plastic and chill for two hours. At this point, you may freeze them for up to 1 month or refrigerate for up to 3 days, just make sure they go in an airtight container. I used plastic wrapped followed by a freezer bag, which was ultimately a poor decision because the logs were too long, and so I wound up with crooked logs (because you know I sat there until they "fit," anyway).

When you are ready to bake them (remember to thaw the dough a little if you opt for freezing first!), divide your oven into thirds using the oven racks and preheat it to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets (or as many as you need) with parchment paper.

Meanwhile, roll the cookies into the poppy seeds if you're coating them with it, and use a sharp and slender knife to portion them into roughly 1/3in. slices. If you make them any thicker, just be aware that the baking time will likely need to be increased. Place the cookies on the baking sheets with around 1/2in. space between each one.

Bake the cookies for 12-14 minutes, watching for them to set but not brown. Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack to cool to room temperature.

*Note: My first intention was to mix the poppy seeds in, but seeing that I only had a meager tablespoon or two of poppy seeds left in the container, I changed plans. I mixed in what I had, and decided I would add them to the shopping list and coat the logs with the remaining amount, so that there was a little of both. Plans changed again when the poppy seeds were accidentally left stranded in the grocery store, and so I just used the small amount that had been originally mixed in. I thought they came out fine, both aesthetically and in terms of taste, and probably would not mix the whole 1/4C in next time, even if I have it on hand.

These lemon poppy seed cookies were big hits in my family. I think L would have gladly eaten the entire batch himself, as would several other people. They're light and crumbly (in the good kind of way, not in the I-just-bit-into-this-cookie-and-now-more-than-half-of-it-is-in-my-lap kind of way) and the citrus flavor is strong but not overpowering. They're buttery and full of flavor, as they should be with two sticks of butter thrown into the mix. Also, they keep well. They didn't last more than a couple of days in my house so I can't give you any conclusive evidence, but I didn't notice a change in quality at all in that time frame. They were apparently easy to bake, and definitely easy to make, and more than that, this is a great base recipe to have in your pocket. You should go to Smitten Kitchen and look at all of the other options she has listed, and then sit down and think of some of your own. I plan to make these again, both in lemon poppy seed form and in countless other forms, too. Plus, who doesn't love having a frozen log of cookie dough on hand to pick at without cooking every time you open the freezer be able to whip up at a moment's notice?

And that brings an end to the birthday desserts, but have no fear, because L's birthday is in just a few days and I have all sorts of plans for that. Ushering in people's 21st birthdays with "alcoholic" food might just be my new specialty...

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