If a lemon meringue pie and a sugar cookie had a (very delicious) baby, Erin McDowell’s lemon meringue cookies would be it.
“These are softer and cakier than your typical cookie,” McDowell tells us, “and they have a ton of lemon flavor. You rub the lemon zest into the sugar before you start, which releases more of the natural oils and makes the cookies taste even more citrusy.
“Put the meringue on top in a very casual swipe,” she advises, “because you don’t want too much. You want to keep that tart-sweet combination.” And while it isn’t required (the topping is fully cooked), you can toast the meringue as a final touch.
They look like little works of art, but don’t let that stop you from eating one…or a few.
1 cup (198g) granulated sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
½ cup (113g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large (56g) egg, at room temperature
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon lemon oil (optional)
2 cups (256g) all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
2 large (71g) egg whites
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ cup (99g) granulated sugar
Small pinch of fine sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)
1. Make the Cookies: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, rub the sugar and lemon zest together until well combined. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and lemon-sugar together until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the egg and beat until well combined, then scrape the side of the bowl well. Add the lemon juice, vanilla and lemon oil (if using), and beat until fully incorporated.
4. Add the flour, baking powder and salt, and mix until uniformly combined.
5. Scoop the dough into mounds (approximately 2 tablespoons each) on the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches of space between them to allow for spreading. Stagger the rows as you scoop.
6. Bake the cookies until they just begin to brown at the edge, 16 to 18 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through. Cool completely on the baking sheets. (At this point, the cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to three days.)
7. Make the Meringue: Fill a medium saucepan with 2 inches of water and bring it to a simmer over medium-low heat. Set a medium bowl over the pot, add the egg whites, cream of tartar, sugar, salt and vanilla (if using), and whisk to combine. Heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture reaches 160°F on a thermometer.
8. Remove the bowl from the heat and continue to whisk until the meringue reaches stiff peaks or transfer the heated mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment and whip the mixture on medium-high speed until it reaches stiff peaks, about 3 minutes.
9. Scoop a tablespoon of meringue onto each cookie and use a small spatula to swipe it across the cookie. Use a kitchen torch to lightly toast the meringue. Serve within 8 hours.