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Crisp Lemon Thin Cookies

Lemon Thin Cookies are, as the name suggests, crisp, thin and lightly lemony. This lovely little cookie is the perfect tea-time or snack-time treat.

lemon thin cookies and a cup of tea

This is a simple little cookie. It has no nuts or chunky chips or gooey filling, and that simplicity is exactly why I worked so hard to perfect this recipe.

Like all “simple” recipes, for example Angel Food Cake, Shortbread Cookies or a perfect Creme Brulee, when a recipe is short on ingredients, the quality of the ingredients and the technique becomes even more important. With no extraneous ingredients to hide behind, this cookie all all about getting that one perfectly light and crisp bite.

How to create the perfect Lemon Thin Cookie recipe:

I started my Lemon Thin quest a few months ago as I was perusing my old recipe notebooks looking for inspiration. I started keeping these notes at my first job out of pastry school. In these binders I collected techniques and recipes from all my pastry jobs over the years. I can’t tell you how often I refer back to these books.

At the back of one book I found a folded up recipe for “Lemon Thins” that I used to make when I worked for a local caterer. I remembered liking those cookies and set out to make them for the blog.

The first step was to resize the recipe from one that made several hundred cookies to one that made several dozen. I baked a batch and was sorely disappointed to find that, although the cookies looked pretty, they didn’t have the texture that I remembered. I wanted a classic thin and crisp lemon cookie with a light open texture. The cookies I baked had a cakey, soft crumb.

I soon got sidetracked testing the recipes for my book, Easy Baking From Scratch and the Lemon Thin recipe was put on the back burner (no pun intended). So now that my book is all done, I decided to tackle this recipe again.

Click through the step-by-step process photos to see how to make Crisp Lemon Thin Cookies:

batter for lemon thin cookies

The dough for Lemon Thin cookies is really more of a batter. The soft dough will spread in the oven.

a small scooper filled with lemon cookie batter

A .75 oz scoop makes portioning cookies very easy and the the cookies bake more evenly.

scooped batter for Lemon Thin Cookies on a sheet pan

Leave at least 2″ between the cookies since they do spread quite a bit.

Experimentation leads to a great Lemon Cookie recipe:

My first thought was to adjust the amount of sugar in the recipe. I know that more sugar generally leads to a crisper cookie, so I upped the sugar a little bit.

The cookies were better than the original recipe but still not quite what I was after. Although the cookies were less cakey, the centers were still soft and chewy and the cookies were more dense than I wanted.

I reduced the eggs from 2 to 1 to reduce the amount of moisture in the dough. Less moisture means more crispness.

I also decided to add a little baking soda. Even though I wanted a flat cookie and not a puffy cookie, I wanted a light texture.

So why doesn’t the baking soda make the cookies puffy? We know that, baking soda will react with acidic lemon juice and release carbon dioxide into the batter. The carbon dioxide expands the air bubbles in the batter which should cause the cookies to rise.

But, once again, this is why baking is both a science and an art. I figured that the soft batter would not be able to hold onto the bubbles and I was right. The bubbles ended up popping and the cookies collapsed a little as they baked.

Normally we don’t want things collapsing in the oven. But I was happy to see it happen this time. The result is a cookie that has a light open crumb, but is still nice and thin.

a Lemon Thin Cookie with baking soda and one without on cooling rack

The bottom cookie is made without the baking soda. The top cookie has a more open and lighter texture from the baking soda.

I made one last test batch. I had been working with confectioner’s sugar in the recipe because, with it’s smaller crystals, confectioner’s will more readily absorb moisture in the dough. When the sugar absorbs more moisture, the cookies spread more. For this Lemon Thin Cookie recipe I wanted the cookies to spread because I wanted them to be, well, thin.

But I also know that more folks keep granulated sugar in the house than confectioner’s sugar. For convenience sake, I decided to test the recipe with granulated sugar. Right out of the oven the cookies made with the granulated sugar seemed pretty close in texture and crispness to the one’s made with confectioner’s sugar.

But I found that the cookies made with the confectioner’s sugar held on to the crisp texture longer than those made with granulated sugar. Even the next day they had a good crisp bite.

Finally, after baking about 101029102190 Lemon Thins, I had the exact texture and flavor I was after. Put on the kettle and enjoy a couple of these little beauties.

a stack of lemon thin cookies

lemon thin cookies and a cup of tea on a table

If you love this recipe as much as I do, please consider giving it a 5-star review.

lemon thin cookies

Lemon Thins

Yield: 24 cookies
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 9 minutes
Total Time: 24 minutes

A simple and perfect little cookie. Thin, crisp and lightly lemony.

Ingredients

  • 1 stick plus 2 tablespoons (5 oz, 140 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 oz, 170 g) confectioner's sugar
  • finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1/4 tsp table salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup (5 oz, 140g) all purpose flour

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (see note).
  2. Cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy. Scrape the bowl. Add the lemon juice and lemon extract mix until well combined. Add the egg and mix until well combined. Scrape the bowl. Add the salt, baking soda and flour and mix until incorporated.
  3. Use a .75 oz scoop or a tablespoon to scoop the cookies onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving 2" between the cookies. They will spread as they bake so make sure to leave enough room.
  4. Bake until the edges are golden brown and the middle of the cookies are set, about 8-10 minutes.
  5. Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
  6. Store at room temperature in a covered container.

Notes

Parchment paper is the best surface for these cookies to have just the right thickness and texture.

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

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Regina W-P

Monday 18th of April 2022

I am very picky about cookies ever since I was a kid and back then I would only eat one store bought cookie: trader joes lemon crisps. They were soft sugar cookies with barely lemon in them and stripes of chocolate on top. I made the above recipe (very straightforward, good instructions thank you) but left out the lemon extract so it would have just a hint of lemon. One thing to note for amateur bakers like myself is it may take some trial and error in your oven! The top rack of my oven turned brown much faster and less evenly than the bottom which looked more like the pictures but had darker bottoms. Regardless, theyre delicious cookies. I put some chocolate stripes on them and theyre very good in coffee. Great recipe 5/5

doni walker

Sunday 10th of April 2022

Incredible! They are amazing! Recipe changes; I added three tbsp of lemon zest and 3 tbsp of lemon juice and 1/4 cup more sugar. They were delightfully crisp around the edges and softer in the middle. Just the way I like them. This recipe is a keeper! Thank you!

Danelle Dehne

Tuesday 5th of April 2022

If you chilled the dough could you cut this out for a shaped cookie? I want to use for a star themed dessert.

Eileen Gray

Wednesday 6th of April 2022

I don't think that would work. Even if the batter is chilled it probably would be too soft to roll and cut. Even if you managed the cut-outs the cookies will spread and you'll probably loose the shape.

Carol

Friday 25th of March 2022

Made these using exact ingredients but they were puffier than I thought they would be and not as thin. It made 3 dozen and the last dozen I flattened the ball of dough before putting in the oven, those turned out crisper and thinner. They have a good flavor but we’re not the thin crispy cookie I was looking for

Theresa

Monday 7th of February 2022

I've made them 4 times now. They came out great every time. Your instructions were terrific. I am still trying to get them more consistent in size. But they still taste awesome. I also made them with lime since I didn't have a lemon. They are just as good. Thank you so much for sharing the recipe.

Eileen Gray

Monday 7th of February 2022

Thanks, Theresa. Do you use a cookie scoop? That's the best way to get consistently sized cookies.

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