I have been looking so hard for a foolproof chewy cookie recipe. Mine always turned out too puffy, too crispy, too cakey, or too crunchy. I want crisp, brittle edges and that toffee-like chew in the middle. But then I found Debbie's fantastic chocolate chip cookie recipe — the best chewy cookie yet. So far it's baked up many batches of reliably chewy cookies.
The thing is, once we start getting into the hot days of summer, I don't feel so much like eating chocolate. So I cooked up something new, something a little different, with Debbie's cookie as the base. I added a swirl of coconut cream cheese in place of chips, and sparkling bits of candied lemon peel for zest. They're perfectly chewy, gooey, and full of tropical lemon and coconut.
If, like me, you're a lover of all things lemon, these cookies are calling your name. Can you hear them? The sweet, tangy zing from the lemon is subtle, yet very present in every bite. But the best part of all is the secret hidden gems that lie buried through the cookie dough — the small pieces of candied lemon peel.
There are those cookie recipes you can whip together quickly and pop in the oven when your craving for an after-dinner sweet kicks in, and then there are recipes — like these swirled lemony coconut cookies — that come together slowly, in steps. You'll make the candied lemon peel, and then the cookie dough, and then the coconut cream cheese filling. It will be chilled and rolled, and chilled some more — until finally the cookies are sliced and baked. For your time and patience, you receive a sweet, delicious reward.
For the cookie dough:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, slightly softened and cut into pieces
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Zest of one lemon
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup candied lemon peel, store-bought or homemade, chopped
For the cream cheese filling: 2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 large egg
1/2 can coconut cream, like Coco Lopez
Zest of one lemon
1 1/3 cup sweet flaked coconut
Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt, and set aside. Beat the butter and sugars together on low speed in the bowl of a stand mixer until smooth and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the vanilla, zest, and eggs, and fold in. Immediately add the flour and slowly work it in. Stir in the chopped lemon peel by hand. Refrigerate the dough for at least an hour, preferably longer.
While the dough chills, make the filling. Beat the cream cheese until light and whipped, then whip in the egg. From the can of coconut cream, scoop off the thick, opaque part of the cream and leave the oily liquid behind; beat this into the cream cheese. Beat in the lemon zest and coconut. Refrigerate or freeze until quite firm. (Save and freeze the leftover coconut liquid for some impromptu piña coladas!)
Divide the cookie dough into 4 equal parts. Pat each part out to about 1/2-inch thick on the counter and dollop a smooth layer of the cream cheese mixture on top. Roll up each part of dough like a cinnamon roll. It won't be neat or pretty — don't worry if the mixture oozes out the sides. Refrigerate the rolls until quite firm, or stick in the freezer for an hour.
Heat the oven to 375°F and line 2 large cookie sheets with parchment or a Silpat. Slice the dough into cookies about 3/4-inch thick and bake for 14 to 17 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through.
Leave on the cookie sheets for at least 5 minutes before attempting to move the cookies, then move to cooling racks and leave them alone until almost completely cool. This is hard, I know, but they're even better the next day! The coconut flavor comes through much better, so if possible, leave some for tomorrow.
This recipe has been edited — originally published June 2007.