Cream cheese is so often the source of such simple pleasures, and these cookies are no exception. Lemony, fluffy, and festive, with a powdery dusting of sugar, they're tasty, sure, but perhaps what these cookies really have going for them is their ease. Ready? Go.
This cookie dough is pretty reminiscent of cheesecake batter. But with extra flour, these are firm enough to stand on their own, without a crust (or a water bath!), and as a result, they taste more of actual cream cheese and less of cheesecake.
In all, once you have your ingredients mis-en-placed, the batter will take you about five minutes to make. And you can prepare the cookies ahead of time, too, by chilling the dough after you make it, or by scooping the cookies in advance and chilling after you've formed them. With only 15 minutes in the oven, you can bake 'em fresh and eat 'em warm.
A couple of recipe notes:
Be sure all of your ingredients are at room temperature, especially your cream cheese and butter. You want a cohesive batter, with no lumps!
If you find that your cookies lose their shape when you drop them into rounds, chill the dough for at least one hour. It may be too warm.
Try other add-ins: lime or orange zest, a teaspoon of cointreau or sambuca, a pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg, or a scraped vanilla bean instead of extract.
Lemony Cream Cheese Cookies
1 cup all-purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt 1/4 teaspoon baking powder 1 cup (one 8-ounce package) cream cheese, softened 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened 1 cup granulated sugar 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 1 large egg Powdered sugar, for dusting
Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add sugar, gradually, and mix until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add zest, vanilla, and egg. Beat to combine. On low speed, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Do not overmix. If batter seems loose or warm, chill in the refrigerator until firm.
Drop by tablespoonfuls onto parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing 2-inches apart. Use a small ice cream scooper for uniform cookies and ease.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, rotating halfway through, until barely golden on the bottom. Do not overbake! Let cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool. Dust with powdered sugar. These cookies are best eaten the same day that they are baked.
Nora Singley is an avid lover of cheese, and for some time she was a cheesemonger and the Director of Education at Murray's Cheese Shop in New York City, where she continues to teach cheese classes for the public. She is currently an assistant TV chef on The Martha Stewart Show.