When I was a little girl I spent a lot of time at my grandfather's house. We were lucky enough to have him living just 2.1 miles from us, a distance I wouldn't think twice at running these days but didn't even dream of walking back then. I never had the experience of having a teenager down the street sit with me when my parents went out with friends because Papa was so close - he was always my babysitter. Staying with him was such fun. I am his only grandchild so, of course, I could do no wrong.
One of the best aspects of going to Papa's house was his well-stocked kitchen. And by well-stocked I don't mean fresh produce, top-quality olive oils or a superb selection of dried fruits and nuts (my grandfather used his oven for storage and ate most of his meals at the local all-you-can-eat buffet). Instead, he stocked all of the classic junk food that I wasn't allowed to eat at home - "t.v. dinners", Little Debbie cakes, KoolAid popsicles, frozen Snickers ice cream bars, Campbell's Chicken + Stars soup. I'd run straight to the kitchen as soon as we arrived to see what goodies he had picked out especially for my visit (because of course, it was all about me).
My favorite treat, and his too, were the Danish Butter Cookies that were always on his counter. You know the kind I'm talking about...blue tin, 5 or 6 different varieties of perfectly crunchy yet melt-in-your-mouth, bite-sized, sugar-topped, golden, butter cookies. I loved them all, but my favorites were the squarish sugar-crystal topped variety - Papa saved them just for me and I ate them by the handful.
Papa was recently moved into a new assisted living facility that provides a more home-like environment than his last residence. For some reason, when discussing his new home with my mother, I get images of him sitting in his wheelchair at a sunny window with a butter cookie tin in his lap. I've had him, and those cookies, on my mind for the last couple of weeks. It was only a matter of time before I searched out a recipe to replicate them, and only appropriate that my adaptation of them involved another of Papa's favorite flavors - key lime. He is the 6th generation of Floridians in our family after all, making me 8th until I moved 5 years ago. Key lime juice is practically in our blood.
The above picture is misleading...please don't follow its direction. My first batch of these delights was baked on a cookie sheet with no grease, as the recipe specified. The result? Cookie shrapnel, as pictured below.
My trusty Silpat saved the day, as always. I really don't know why I even bother to try baking without it, except that this time the recipe specified an ungreased baking sheet. The recipe is wrong, and the Silpat is necessary. Also, lean closer to the 1/4" dimension when slicing the log than the 1/8" - I think that thinness may have contributed to my first batch of shrapnel.
I sprinkled unsweetened coconut over the tops of my cookies (except for one batch, on which I forgot it and regretted it) and loved how the subtle toasted coconut flavor complimented the key lime. Also, I really like citrus. Really. So if you don't, you might want to reduce your key limes to 4 instead of 6.
One last thing - these cookies are addicting. If you don't want to eat all 36 of them I highly suggest that you share them with friends and co-workers. Because if they are in your kitchen you will eat them. I promise. By the handful.
Key Lime Butter Cookiesadapted from epicuriousmakes about 3 dozen cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1-1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
zest of 6 key limes (about 3 tbsp)
juice of 6 key limes (about 3 tbsp)
course sugar or shredded coconut for topping (optional)
Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes in a stand mixer, 6 with a hand-held mixer. Beat in egg, vanilla, lime juice and zest.
Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture. Mix until just combined.
Form dough into a 12-inch log (2-inches in diameter) on a sheet of plastic wrap. Roll dough log in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours.*
Put oven rack in middle of oven. Preheat to 375F. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat or other silicon baking mat.
Cut dough log into 1/4" slices, just enough to fill baking sheet with 1" between cookies. Refrigerate the rest of the dough until ready to bake. Sprinkle cookies with course sugar or shredded coconut.
Bake cookies until edges are golden, 14-16 minutes. You may want to rotate the cookie sheet midway through baking if your oven bakes unevenly, as mine does, or you will have some brown cookies and some golden. Watch the cookies CAREFULLY. Each of my batches took a slightly different amount of time and it doesn't take long for them to over-bake.
Cool on sheets for 3 minutes, then remove to wire rack to cool completely. Bake remainder of cookies on cooled cookie sheets. Cookies will keep in an airtight container for several days, but don't count on them sticking around for that long.
*Dough can be chilled for up to 5 days or frozen (wrapped in a double layer of plastic wrap) for 1 month. If frozen, thaw dough in refrigerator just until it can be sliced.