It’s important to my daughter that we each have a favorite color. She categorizes us by our preference, making it a simple task when she distributes candy or ceramic mugs, assigning us the shades we supposedly love. Green for DH, Black for DS, and Pink for herself. I don’t actually have a favorite, but when I feel the urge to paint our walls, I’m drawn to some shade of yellow. So in all things that require a preferred tint, DD identifies me as yellow.
It’s true that almost all yellow hues please me: butter, sunshine, canary, citrus, mustard, goldenrod, chartreuse, school-bus, gold, and corn. And while yellow clothes wash me out, I have dreamed of Italian tiles in rich saffron as the future backsplash in my kitchen. (Part of an elaborate fantasy where I get to redesign the cabinets and counter space as well). Yellow also holds a retro mod appeal for me (think rain slickers, Warhol’s banana, and the Beatles’ submarine). It feels cheery and hopeful, but laid-back and effortless, too. But my appreciation of yellow doesn’t mean that I love fire-engine red or lilac blue any less.
When I was pregnant with DS, I craved the perfect lemon frozen treat. Tart and not too sweet, made with fresh citrus, in shaved ice. I went to all the local delis and gelato shops, sampling their sorbets, but everything was either too syrupy or lacking in lemon zest. I even bought an ice cream maker in hopes of creating it myself, only to find my own concoctions failed to satisfy. The right combination of acid and sugar proved just out of reach—making the longing all the more acute and ineffable. In retrospect it seems possible that the flavor I sought didn’t exist.
Lemon curd may not have fulfilled my hankering then, but it captures the tart delight of lemon and the sweet pleasure of yellow. These shortbread cookies will bring a little sunshine to a gloomy winter afternoon. Serve with hot tea, please.
Butter Cookies with Lemon Curd from Fine Cooking
30 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 ¾ cups all purpose flour
½ cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
3 egg yolks
¾ cup sugar
Confectioner’s sugar for sprinkling
In a large bowl, use a mixer to cream the butter at a low speed. As it softens, increase speed to medium, add sugar, until well-blended. Reduce speed and mix until soft dough forms. In a small bowl, whisk egg yolks and vanilla. Add to butter mixture, mixing on medium speed. Add the flour in two stages, mixing each time until combined, about 1 minute. Shape into ball, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. For the lemon curd, bring a large pot of water to simmer. In a large metal bowl that fits the pot without touching the water, whisk the lemon juice, zest, eggs, egg yolks, and sugar until combined. Whisk over the simmering water, and cook until the foam disappears and the mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Pour through a fine sieve into a bowl and let cool. Heat oven to 325 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut out cookies and bake for 10-15 minutes. After the cookies cool, spread the curd, and match similar shapes to make sandwiches. Press the cookies gently together, then sprinkle with powered sugar.