I have a problem with my internal monologue. You see, whenever somebody eats something store-bought and swoons over how delicious it is, my little wheels start spinning over how there must be a better way, how can I make it happen, and if I even know any recipes that could mimic it. The baker's voice in my curly-haired head starts chattering away about how that grocery store cookie is probably loaded with chemicals and corn syrup (sorry, corn sugar) and other junk to rot you from the inside out and, as a decent human being, I should try and remedy the situation as quickly as possible.
It happened. Again. This time at a Labor Day picnic at my uncle's house over a box of gluten-free lemon ginger cookies my Aunt Jessica and Uncle Chris brought to the party. They are a very posh couple, the sort of people you'd like to hang out with when you have questions about feng shui or SCUBA diving. They've been across the globe and back and can tell you about the erratic scooter drivers in Rome or the monstrous waves in Lanai, but it's really their home life I'm interested in the most.
Their house just feels calm (until I let Kona inside and he skids across the hardwoods and body slams himself against the wall). I think a lot of it is just the good vibes my Aunt Jessica puts out - she can zero balance you if you're feeling a little off and she fixed my shoulder last Christmas after I hurt it playing some sport I'm not qualified to play and never got my mojo back. She's tiny and soft-spoken and smiles a lot and this is silly, but I just learned this past weekend that she's half Portuguese. What the heck have I been doing the past twenty-four years that I never learned this, you ask? Listening to my internal monologue too much, that's what.
Their house has a certain fluidity to it, and this past weekend I was putting cocktail shrimp into a bowl in their kitchen and glanced around at the grocery piled up on the counters. Organic lemonade and Blue Sky root beer with vintage looking labels I'd never seen before, champagne flutes with 8-inch stems in a rainbow of colors, gluten-free hamburger rolls and sparkling apple cider tucked in between the brown paper bags from Whole Foods - we don't even have a Whole Foods within 50 miles of where I live. Yes, that's jealousy you hear.
Aunt Jessica eats as much gluten-free as possible, and I wanted to make my own version of those lemon ginger cookies, but my last rodeo with gluten free baking tossed me off the metaphorical horse. I justified it by the amount of butter - 1 stick per cup of flour so they basically cancel each other out. Right? Anybody out there?
These cookies are quite a bit different than the boxed cookies - the latter were ginger cookies with lemon cream sandwiched in between, like a lemony, spicy Oreo of some sort. These are shortbreads, crumbly like a sandie, flecked with bits of sweet-hot candied ginger and fluffy coconut shot through each cookie - not enough to notice, but it gives a gentle cloud for all that chewy ginger to rest. The original recipe for these calls for candied lemon peel and I have never, ever seen it in one my small-town stores but once baked, these cookies lost their lemon punch, a problem that probably wouldn't have reared its ugly head had I used the lemon peel. Don't make my mistake, dear friends.
Lemon Ginger Shortbreads
Adapted from Use Real Butter
2 cups unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 lemons’ freshly grated zest
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp vanilla
4 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup crystallized ginger, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup candied lemon peel (I skipped this)
Cream the butter and sugar together until lightened and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in the zest, lemon juice, and vanilla. Add flour and salt and mix until well blended. Stir in the coconut, ginger, and candied lemon peel, if you're using it.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and shape into a log (or whatever shape you want) and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Preheat the oven to 325F. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and slice the dough about 1/4 inch thick. Set on baking sheet with enough space for spreading. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the edges are golden brown, cool on a wire rack.
These cookies will keep in an airtight container for about 5 days.