Thursday, December 23, 2010

Lemon Cookies - My Father's Favorite

Lemon Cookies are bare bones cookies: just the basics with a lemon flavor. They seemed particularly unpalatable to me when I was a child, especially compared with, let's say, chocolate chip cookies (and my opinion hasn't chanaged), but my dad never thought much of putting candy (like chocolate chips) in cookies. Another reason the cookies were unappealing is because the recipe calls for ammonium carbonate: when my mother mixed and baked them they smelled more like she was cleaning!

I think Mom made these around Christmas time for my dad. I don't remember him commenting about who made them when he was growing up or whether my mom's were just like the ones he remembered. (I think every baker has a signature, so to speak, a touch that causes one person's recipe to taste a little different when made by someone else.) I remember Dad commenting that when he was a child they were stored in a crock and became crisp and crunchy. As an adult, that's just the way he liked them because they held up when he dipped them in coffee. My preference would have been to have them softer, like a soft, plump sugar cookie.

I haven't made these for many years. Ammonium carbonate used to be available at Mounier's, the local pharmacy in Mineral Ridge, but became increasingly more difficult to find. A number of years ago I found it in little packets at a local German bakery. Since my dad passed away more than 20 years ago and since they're not a favorite of anyone else in the family, I don't bake them.

I don't know the history of this recipe but I suspect it came from Dad's German ancestors and that his grandmother, Tressa Froman Doyle, was the one who made them. I know the recipe came from a time when the quantities of ingredients were not exact but were determined by the baker. The recipe calls for "enough flour" and "lemon oil." In parentheses on my recipe I noted "8-9 cups flour." My notes for the lemon oil changed from "1 tsp." to "2-4 tsp." to "up to 1 oz." How much lemon you use depends on how lemony you want the flavor to be.

Lemon Cookies
Put 1 oz. ammonium carbonate into 1 pint milk. Let soak an hour or more.
Cream together 2 1/2 cups sugar and 1 cup shortening.
Add 2 eggs and mix.
Slowly add the milk mixture and up to 1 oz. lemon oil.
Add enough flour to stiffen. Roll thin and cut in shapes.
Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.
If you bake these, I hope you enjoy them.


  1. I have never heard of ammonium carbonate. What was it used for? My father would eat any sweet known to mankind. He had to have two desserts atany meal, not including breakfast.

    After my mother passes he settled on one dessert per meal.

  2. These sound good. I wonder if there is way to make them softer, but I bet they would be good dipped in hot chocolate too!


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