Chewy Lemon Gumdrop Cookies

If ever there were a way to categorize Chewy Lemon Gumdrop Cookies, I'd venture to say they'd be in league with some of the world's Ultimate Happy Things. See also: baskets full of kittens, Hello Kitty stickers, baby shoes, rolling meadows full of sunshine, soft grass and wildflowers. Really, guys, cookies don't come much more cheery than these little gems. Lemon! Sugar! Candy! Cookies! This could only get more fun if we were eating them at a slumber party while braiding each other's hair.

I first started thinking about putting gumdrops in a cookie after I had some positively addictive ones that Stacie contributed to our recent bakesale. Hers had oatmeal and soft spice and strictly used orange gumdrops, but I couldn't stop marveling about the whole thing--it was a candy-cookie hybrid, a celebration of chew. I was hooked. I knew I wanted to rework the idea in some way, but seeing as I'm sort of short on time to work on recipes that don't have a deadline, I figured I'd bookmark the idea in my increasingly feeble mental file and wait for inspiration to strike at a later date.

Well. Inspiration indeed struck, in the beautiful sort of slap-yo'-mama way that the best ideas so often do. One morning last week, I had actually managed to drop Little C off at school at a time that wasn't considered late, and thought I'd cruise through the nearby Trader Joe's to pick up a few things for dinner.

So if you've ever been to a Trader Joe's, you know that it's equal parts Kingdom of Awesome, Den of Little Personal Space and Spiral of Shopping Cart Traffic Hell. But as it turns out, at a few minutes before 9:00 a.m., it's sort of a ghost town, and therefore akin to a spa day for a food geek. I strolled the aisles, childless and with great leisure, murmuring to myself when I came upon a particularly interesting item. I loaded my cart with approximately 110 more things than I'd intended. I was having a glorious Trader Joe's experience.

As I approached the checkout line, I perused the little kiosks of insanely delicious impulse buys that live near the registers. And like a beacon of confectionery hope, there it was, practically singing and waving to me--a glossy, adorable little package of citrus gumdrops. Pink grapefruit, tangerine, key lime and lemon. They would be tucked into a soft, chewy sugar cookie heavily scented with lemon. I added the package of gumdrops to my pile of wasabi peas, savory rice crackers, string cheese and dirt cheap organic apples and deemed it so. Happy, happy, happy.

Chewy Lemon Gumdrop Cookies

I used Trader Joe's Citrus Gumdrops for these cookies, but any fruit-flavored drops will do. If the drops are on the smaller size, halve them. If they're the larger ones, cut them in quarters or smaller. After cutting the drops, toss them in a small amount of granulated sugar just to prevent them from sticking together.

Let these cookies cool completely before serving--piping hot gumdrops rival pizza cheese burn.

I'm a stickler for using organic lemons when zesting them for cooking or baking. But that's just how I roll.
Makes about 2 1/2 dozen
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
Zest of 2 lemons
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 cup small gumdrops, halved and tossed in sugar (see note)
Position oven racks to the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat it to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl.
Place the sugar in a small bowl with the lemon zest. Use your fingertips to work the zest into the sugar until the sugar is moistened and fragrant.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until soft and creamy on medium high speed. Beat in the lemon sugar and vanilla extract until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs. Scrape down the bowl. Set the mixer on low and gradually stir in the dry ingredients. When just a few streaks of flour remain, stir in about three-quarters of the gumdrop pieces.
Using a small scoop or two spoons, portion the dough into balls, 2 tablespoons each. Place the dough balls on the baking sheets about 4 inches apart, or about 8 to a standard sized baking sheet (the cookies will spread). Dot a few of the remaining gumdrop pieces artfully atop each dough ball. Bake until the edges are lightly golden and the centers are still pale, 10-11 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet for a minute before transferring the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely before serving.
CookiesShauna Sever