About a million years ago, Rana, Elsbeth and I traveled to the north rim of the Grand Canyon, where we stayed in a lovely and inexpensive motel (perhaps the Kaibab Lodge) with the best food of the entire trip - not very challenging considering that Denny's dominated our meals on the South Rim (despite my protests) and Rana, with a sensitive stomach, always seemed to be suffering from food poisoning.
One of the treats I remember from that trip was a cookie that I could not stop eating, a soft cakey cookie made with zucchini and lemon. I'm a huge fan of cookies anyway - soft, crisp, chewy - it doesn't matter as long as they are sweet and made without raisins. I'm rather indiscriminate in my love for cookies. But these zucchini and lemon cookies were something else. They were iced with a simple lemon fondant and yet were not too sweet. The zucchini added a pleasant moistness without adding any off flavors. I was in love.
About six months later, those cookies still on my mind, I began to teach myself to bake by making a version of this cookie every day for nearly a week until I had a recipe I really liked. This included making fondant from dextrose using simple syrup - something I don't know if I would ever attempt again as it was extremely time consuming and labor intensive, though the results were perfect. Thanks Julia Child.
Of course I lost the recipe and forgot about it. As you get older you tend to forget about things. After perfecting the recipe (it had elements of scone and cake...a batter amalgam) I never used it again. And then I got a taste for the cookies again, like a bolt of lightning, when I saw yellow zucchini at the farm stand near my mom's house.
I looked at a few recipes for zucchini cookies online to get a feel for ratios - baking is all about ratios, and plenty of improvisation can be done as long as ratios are observed, understood, and in the case of substitutions, compensated for.
I ended up with two recipes - neither is perfect, but the cookie is very cakey (or muffiny, or however you want to think about that), moist, and lemony (or lime-y, if you go with lime instead). The icing is simple - lemon juice + confectioner's sugar plus a tiny amount of fat. It acts to enhance the lemon flavor and give it a kick of sugar. Sugarrrr.....
I initially used extra virgin olive oil in the recipe,and the results were extremely moist and a little flabby - as if there had been more gluten development. The butter version was less moist but was more tender and short. Both are good - the butter version is more neutral tasting, but the olive oil version stays moist for longer and has less cholesterol and sat fat, if that matters to you.
Note: I personally do not like nuts in my cookies, but you can always add them at your peril.
Glazed Lemon-Zucchini Cookies
Yield: 1-1/2 dozen large cookies or about 5-6 dozen small, piped cookies
1 C Granulated Sugar
1/2 t Sea Salt
1 ea Egg
2T Lemon Juice, fresh
1/4t lemon essence or lemon oil
Zest of two lemons
1-1/2 C Zucchini, grated
Dry Ingredients - sift together
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Optional flavors (be careful if you mix and match. Use about 1/4 t any given flavor):
ginger - dry or fresh grated
1 t olive oil or melted butter
1 pinch salt
Optional: 5 turns of fresh ground black pepper
2 C Confectioners sugar
Preheat oven to 350. Line two pans with parchment paper.
1.If using butter, cream butter and sugar and salt together in bowl of mixer. Scrape down. Add in egg, mix, scrape down again. Add zest, juice, essence and mix. Scrape. (if using oil, just combine all ingredients)
2. Add sifted dry ingredients to the mixer and run until just combined. Scrape down.
3. Add in zucchini (and any other optional flavors you want). Mix until all ingredients are well-combined.
4. There are three ways to scoop cookies: 1) use an ice cream scoop and scoop each cookie onto the sheet - it will spread, so don't use a huge scoop; 2) drop by rounded spoonfuls (always messy, but sometimes you just don't have a choice); 3) put in piping bag and pipe out each cookie to a diameter just larger than a quarter. Remember, give them a little space, as they will spread.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on how you like your cookies. They shouldn't brown at all, but I like to leave room for difference in taste (and size! obviously different size cookies will cook in different amounts of time. I know you know this, but the bigger the cookie, the longer the time).
While cookies are baking, combine juice, salt, and oil (or butter) in a bowl (and pepper if you want the cookies to look dirty but taste spicy). Slowly add in confectioner's sugar, beating after every addition to prevent lumps. If it is too thick (it should leave a coat of glaze on the cookie) thin with more lemon juice.
When cookies are done (if you don't trust yourself, the toothpick trick works...after all, it is just like cake or a muffin, just in cookie form), remove from oven and allow to cool.
When cooled, dip each cookie, top side down, into the glaze. Allow excess to drip off and set unglazed side down on parchment and let sit until dry...or not.
Unless you live in a dry climate, store these in an air-tight container in a single layer OR separated from other layers by parchment. They should be eaten right away - they do not age well with time.
A note about the optional flavors: I have made this recipe with different spices to see how it would come out, and the experiment has left me feeling lukewarm. Of course the addition of spice makes it more interesting, but it isn't necessary. Ginger added a nice zip and the black pepper, other than looking dirty, added a bit of tingle. Feel free to adjust as you like.