In related news, we are also praying for rain because we attempted our first transfer of a volunteer tree on our property. I’ve been thinking about trees a lot lately, given this huge blank slate I have to work with. One of the trees I found online that I was interested in was the Heritage River Birch tree, prized for it salmon colored, peeling bark, leaving a beautiful bone white skeleton exposed. It’s a great winter tree. Anyway, lo and behold we have tons of them down by our creek. So John and I tried to dig a baby (about 4 1/2 feet tall) up and move him to directly behind the house. Because he is a river birch, he needs loads of water–and of course it was dry here for 5 days, and hot and sunny. We planted him in wet soil (our property runs wet), watered him as much we could (we went out of town) and he is still alive, so the rain that is currently falling is much needed. He is directly behind our house now, out near those tall grasses (you cannot see him in the pictures because he is all branches, no leaves yet).
We spent the past weekend at the Columbus Zoo. I have to give a serious shout out to the zoo–it is the zoo I grew up with and I of course have always thought it was the best zoo in the world (John feels I am quite biased), but they have taken it to a whole new level with a program bringing keepers out to talk to the crowds near various animals. Because the animals know the keepers, they are active and very close to the people–plus the keepers are interacting with the animals as well as the crowds. We saw bears and orangutans this way and it was awesome.
I also finally got to meet my brand new baby nephew! I made dinner for them and we stayed a few nights, letting the girls play with their 19 mos old cousin. He (Luke, the baby) was gorgeous! Unfortunately we wore out our welcome pretty fast when on the morning of the 3rd day Sammy woke up with a fever of 103. I am still hoping none of them caught it but it might be wishful thinking for their toddler.
We got home yesterday and I made these cookies. I have been craving a lemon cookie for a while now and these really hit the spot. I probably used almost 4 tablespoons of zest. I made some of the cookies with the jam baked in and some where it was added after. Not sure which I preferred–one was less messy (baking it in), but adding it after kept it brighter and more zingy. Try both and see what you like.
I used strawberry-rhubarb preserves, which I loved, but if I had been shopping for the cookies (as opposed to using what was in my pantry), I would have made sure to use jam (I don’t care for jelly but it would work too), because some of the chunks in the preserves were too big for the thumbprint holes.
Lemon Thumbprint Cookies
Bon Appétit August 1999 (Epicurious link)
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks
3 T lemon zest
1 T fresh lemon juice
1/4 t salt
2 1/2 cups AP flour
6 T (about) jam or jelly*
*For a chewier filling, spoon in the jam or jelly before baking.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone. Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in large bowl until well blended. Beat in egg yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice and salt. Add flour in 2 additions and beat just until moist clumps form. Gather dough together in bowl to bind dough. Form dough into 1-inch balls. Place balls on prepared baking sheets, spacing 1 inch apart. Using finger, make deep indentation in center of each ball.
Bake cookies until firm to touch and golden on bottom, about 22 minutes. Remove from oven. Immediately fill indentation in each cookie with scant 1/2 teaspoon jam or jelly (*see notes above re: timing of jam). Transfer cookies to racks and cool completely.