These Lemon Cream Cheese Cookies are flaky, lightly sweetened, with subtle lemon flavour. They taste almost like lemon pie dough. Extremely addictive and delicious!
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For me, different months are associated with different flavours. October is all about pumpkin. November is for cranberries. December is definitely gingerbread.
July sees me reaching for strawberries. September means that I crave apples.
May is when I buy dozens of lemons.
Lemon is such a happy and bright flavour. It’s perfect throughout the year but in May it reminds of new beginnings, flowers, green leaves, lush emerald grass, and endless possibilities.
These Lemon Cream Cheese Cookies are my first foray into lemon recipes of the season and there will be a few more in the coming weeks.
If you love pie pastry and always crave those little extra bits of crunchy and flaky pie dough that cling to the pie pan, then these Lemon Cream Cheese Cookies are for you!
They are closely reminiscent of pie dough. They are flaky, very lightly sweetened, and have a subtle and almost elegant lemon flavour. These cookies are also extremely addictive. I bet you won’t be able to stop at just one (or three).
Ingredients to make Lemon Cream Cheese Cookies
Ingredients are actually very common and you most likely already have everything in your fridge and pantry. And also, yes, these Lemon Cookies are egg-free!
- Cream cheese
- Lemon juice
- Lemon zest
- Baking powder
How to make Lemon Cookies
Technique for making these Lemon Cookies is actually quite unusual by North American standards but it is something very common in Russia.
- Start by mixing cream cheese and butter together with a fork. No need to make sure that the ingredients are perfectly softened and room temperature. Also, no need to use ice cold ingredients like you’d need for a pie pastry. I usually take butter and cream cheese out and leave on the counter while the oven is preheating.
- Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, one tablespoon of sugar (yes, only one tablespoon), flour, and baking powder. Mix until soft dough forms.
- Roll the dough and cut out circles.
- Now for the fun part. Dip each circle into some lemon sugar, then fold in half, dip, fold in half again, and dip one last time.
- Bake until golden, puffed up, and delicious!
More similar cookie recipes
Although this cookie technique is not usual, I actually have more similar recipes on the blog that follow this technique.
- Farmers Cheese Cookies (this is the classic variation of this technique)
- Pumpkin Ricotta Cookies (I use ricotta instead of cream cheese there)
Tips for making Lemon Cream Cheese Cookies
Rolling the dough
Don’t be afraid to add more flour when you roll the dough if it starts to stick to the surface or the rolling pin. You might end up adding as much as 1/8-1/4 cup of flour. Just make sure that the dough is still soft and pliable.
Temperature of butter and cream cheese
As I mentioned above, the temperature of cream cheese and butter does not matter much but the texture of the cookies will be different based on how cold or warm the ingredients are.
My favourite way is to have cream cheese and butter just slightly softened. Basically, soft enough just so that you could use your fork to mix everything together. This way the resulting cookies will be quite flaky.
However, you could totally use fully softened ingredients, they will be much easier to mix but they will make softer and less flaky cookies.
It’s important to use a proper zester. I use my microplane zester. It’s a bit on an expensive side but it is very useful and durable. I bought mine over a decade ago and it’s still going strong, so it’s a great investment.
You want the lemon zest to be as fine as possible, this way it will actually mix well into the dough and will permeate the sugar with all the lemony goodness. If you use different zester that takes the zest of in strips, you might need to finely mince the strips with a knife.
Unlike plain sugar (or even cinnamon sugar that I use in my Pumpkin Ricotta Cookies), sugar mixed with lemon zest will not stick to the pastry dough well.
So, you have two options here:
Option 1: Use your hands and pat the lemon sugar onto the dough circles if it doesn’t stick.
Option 2: Dip (or brush) the dough circle with a bit of lemon juice and then dip in the lemon sugar. This will make the lemon sugar stick really well to the dough circles. However, because of the lemon juice on the dough, the lemon sugar will start melting quite soon. So, if you decide to go that route, try to spread the sugar onto a large plate, this way if it melts in one spot, you’ll still have unmelted sugar around.
I tried both options and they both work really well. They require equal amount of work and I wouldn’t recommend one over another.
Ingredients and variations for Lemon Cream Cheese Cookies
- Cream Cheese
- I have not tried using light cream cheese here so I can’t comment if it would work. If you try light cream cheese, please let me know in the comments.
- You could use ricotta instead of cream cheese.
- You could also use farmers cheese instead of cream cheese.
- You’ll notice that the actual cookie dough has only 1 tablespoon of sugar. This is not a mistake. These cookies are very lightly sweetened and are dipped in sugar. This is the way the recipe is supposed to be.
- You can add up to 1/4 cup of sugar to the pastry dough if you prefer sweeter cookies.
- Mint is not in the recipe but you could very finely mince it and add to the lemon sugar for a delicious and very refreshing flavour. Add a splash of rum extract to the cookie dough and you will end up with cookies that taste like Mojito!
These Lemon Cookies aren’t your regular cookies. They are very lightly sweetened and might not be sweet enough for some but to me they are perfect. And the slight tang of lemon adds a much needed freshness to the cookies.
Lemon Cream Cheese Cookies
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- zest of 1 lemon
Lemon Cream Cheese Cookie Dough
- 1/2 package cream cheese (125 g)
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- zest of 1/2 lemon
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 3/4+1/8 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- More flour for dusting and rolling
Make lemon sugar
- Mix the sugar and lemon zest until very well mixed. Sometimes it's easier to use your fingers to do so.
Make Lemon Cookies
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Prepare a large baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese and unsalted butter. Mash with a fork until well mixed.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and mix to combine until soft dough forms.
- Turn the dough onto a floured working surface and knead a few times to get it smooth. It may not be fully smooth, don't worry about it. Once you start rolling the dough, all the little pieces will come together.
- Flour a rolling pin and roll the dough until it's about 1/4 inch (about 0.5 cm) thick or even a bit thinner. Add flour as needed so that it doesn't stick to the surface.
You might need to add 1/8-1/4 cup flour as you roll. That is fine.
- Using a round cookie cutter dipped in flour (or a glass or a mason jar) that is 2.5 inch (about 7 cm) in diameter, cut out round cookies.
- You can re-roll leftover dough and cut out more circles.
- Option 1: Dip each round cookie circle into the lemon sugar on one side. If it doesn't stick, then press it with your fingers.Fold in half with the sugar inside. Dip the half moon into the lemon sugar just on one side. Again, press with fingers if the sugar doesn't stick.Fold in half with the sugar inside.Finally, dip the resulting triangle into the lemon sugar on one side and place on a baking sheet sugar side up.
- If the lemon sugar doesn't stick.Option 2: Spread the lemon sugar in a thin layer over a large plate.Dip (or lightly brush) each dough circle with lemon juice before dipping into lemon sugar. This will ensure that the lemon sugar sticks.Lemon juice will also melt the sugar, so it's imperative to spread the sugar around to keep it out of reach of lemon juice for as long as possible. You might need to use more lemon sugar as it will melt.
- Bake the cookies on the prepared baking sheet for about 30-35 minutes until they are golden and puffed up.