Lemon Star cookies are a Chanukah tradition in my family, even though there is nothing traditional about them. Neither cut-out cookies nor lemon have anything to do with Chanukah. They are a tradition for us simply because after I baked these tender, sweet-sour Lemon Stars for the first time many years ago, they have been requested every year since.
I found the original recipe for Lemon Stars in a 1985 Redbook magazine. There obviously was no internet back then, and magazines were a common source of my newlywed culinary adventures. Some of those recipe adventures, such as these cookies, were successes worth repeating. Some were best forgotten. I still have several recipe albums and a box or two filled with yellowing recipes lovingly clipped from magazines and newspapers. The recipes in the albums have been enjoyed many times. The recipes in the boxes I still hope to get to “someday”.
Though I started making Lemon Stars before my kids were born, annually creating these cookies became more of a tradition, and certainly more of a happy mess, once my kids were involved. This is really a wonderful recipe to bake with children. The dough is smooth and easy to roll out, just like edible playdoh, and is forgiving of multiple roll outs when little hands don’t make the best use of space while cutting out shapes. Icing the cookies with random squiggles is a skill that even a toddler can master.
When my children were little, Lemon Stars were our home baked gift of choice for teachers and friends. Year after year we would roll out numerous batches and cover our kitchen table with dozens of cookie stars. The kids had the most fun icing themselves, and occasionally the cookies, with holiday colors.
Do not skip the icing on Lemon Stars. It is perfectly matched to the cookie. The dough is only mildly lemony and not very sweet. When tasted plain, these cookies are unimpressive. However, the tart yet sweet icing is a game changer. Both the tender texture and the flavor are even better after a day or two! Stored in an airtight container at room temperature, Lemon Stars stay delicious for at least 7 days.
In this season of chocolate-mint and gingerbread, lemon is an unexpected flavor. Variety is a good thing. Change up the icing colors and Lemon Stars will shine at any holiday celebration.
- 3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ⅔ cup butter, room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- For icing:
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Food coloring
- Decorating sugar
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy
- Add eggs, lemon juice and zest, until well combined.
- Gradually add flour mixture until just blended.
- Shape the dough into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight until firm enough for rolling.
- When ready to roll out the dough: Preheat oven to 375˚F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Working with one half of the chilled dough at a time, roll out the dough between two sheets of parchment paper to ¼” thickness.
- Cut shapes out of dough and place on the prepared baking sheet 1” apart.
- Bake for 8-10 minutes until the edges just begin to brown.
- Cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes, then move to wire racks to cool completely before icing.
- For the Icing:In a medium bowl, mix confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice until smooth. Divide the icing into small bowls, one for each color of icing desired. Stir in a few drops of food coloring.
- Spoon each color of icing into a ziplock sandwich-size bag. Snip off a tiny piece of a bottom corner to pipe the icing.
- To create the cookies pictured: Pipe one color onto each cookie in a random zigzag pattern, then allow the icing to set for about 30 minutes. Pipe the second color onto each cookie and sprinkle with matching decorating sugar.
- When all layers of icing have been applied, allow the icing to set for at least 2 hours or overnight, before storing or wrapping for shipping.
- Stored at room temperature in an airtight container, Lemon Stars will remain tender and delicious for at least 7 days.