12 December 2016

Sometimes, the Best Things Come from a Need to Adapt (plus Recipe: Lemon Snowball Cookies)

When I was preparing cookies for our very first cookie party (in December 2009), I pulled out all of my favorite recipes. Cookies I'd made for years. Tried-and-true recipes handed down from parents, in-laws, and grandparents. Especially my favorite Christmas cookie: Russian Teacakes (a melt-in-your-mouth little bite-sized cookie full of chopped pecans). But then I realized that, for an open-house party like we were planning, not knowing the allergy profiles for every guest, it wouldn't be wise to serve anything with nuts.

I decided to tweak and adapt that Russian Teacakes recipe to something a bit more allergy-safe. I decided to use the delicious lemon bars my great-grandma used to make for every family Christmas party when I was a little girl as inspiration ... and my Lemon Snowball Cookies have been the biggest hit at our cookie parties ever since!

My friend, Susie, loved the Lemon Snowball Cookies so much that the unofficial name for the recipe in our house is "Aunt Susie's Christmas Cookies." And whenever I make them for the party, I hold several dozen in reserve until she arrives, so she can be sure to get some. And recently, Susie has adopted a mostly-vegan diet, so these cookies are perfect for her, as they have no eggs and can be made with margarine or shortening instead of butter, so they're great for a vegan diet.

This year, I tweaked the recipe even more. My brain tumor has been acting up lately, and the latest development (since September) is that I'm having allergic reactions (itchy, tingly skin, swollen tongue and throat, not being able to breathe...) to almost every food I try to eat (and not being able to breathe just because you wanted to eat lunch is no fun!)

I've identified about 30 safe ingredients so far, and I try to keep my food intake to these ingredients only. The Lemon Snowball Cookies easily adapted to my new, even more restricted diet, and you can find that recipe variation at the bottom of this post.

Original Lemon Snowball Cookie Recipe:

You’ll need:
1 c. butter (or margarine or vegetable shortening)
1 c. powdered sugar (divided)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. lemon extract
2 1/4 c. flour (whole wheat gives the most full flavor, but all-purpose works almost as well)

Cream together margarine and 1/2 c. powdered sugar.

Add lemon flavoring and salt. Beat until light and fluffy.

Stir in flour.

Chill dough 3-4 hours. (If you skip this step, your cookies will not hold their shape.)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Roll into balls approximately 1/2″ in diameter (I use a mini cookie scoop, but you can use your hands, if you don’t have one.)

Place dough balls on an ungreased baking sheet. Cookies don’t spread when baked (unless you forgot to chill the dough), so you can place them close together, as long as they’re not touching. I can usually fit the entire batch of cookies onto one large baking sheet.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until cookies are set, but not browned. Cool slightly on the baking sheet, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Put the remaining 1/2 c. of powdered sugar into a gallon-sized zip-top baggie. Place the cooled cookies into the bag and zip closed. Shake the bag gently to coat each cookie in powdered sugar. I’ve found that 1/2 c. sugar is just about perfect for one batch of cookies, but you can use more or less, depending upon your personal taste preferences. (recipe makes approximately 8 dozen cookies)

These delicious little bite-sized cookies are so good, you’ll probably need to make several batches, if you want enough to share!

Gluten-Free, Vegan Lemon Snowball Cookies 
You will need: 
1 c. coconut oil
1/2 c. powdered sugar (+ 1/2 c. more to roll finished cookies in)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. lemon extract
1/4 c. cornstarch
2 1/4 c. Gluten-free All-purpose flour (I used Bob's Red Mill 1 to 1 All-Purpose GF Flour)

Follow mixing & baking directions for regular Lemon Snowball Cookies (above) with the following changes:
     * Add cornstarch with the salt and lemon extract (before stirring in the flour).

     * Because the coconut oil solidifies much faster than butter or margarine when chilled, I scooped the cookie balls BEFORE chilling the dough for this version. Place dough balls on parchment-lined cookie sheet and chill in refrigerator for 1 hour or in the freezer for about 30 minutes. (If you try to chill it first, the dough may be too hard and crumbly to portion properly.) You do still need to chill the dough (AFTER rolling into balls), but only for about an hour (instead of 3-4, as needed for the original recipe).

Make-ahead instructions for both versions:
     * Freeze individually-portioned cookie dough balls on parchment-lined cookie sheets until solid (30 minutes for GF version, 4-5 hours for original version). Then, transfer to large zipper-seal freezer bags.
     * When time to bake, preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake cookies from frozen (no need to thaw!) for 12-15 minutes, until set but not browned. Cool, then roll in powdered sugar as before.

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