Bake

Preserved Lemon Crinkle Cookies From Jesse Szewczyk

December  7, 2021
4.6 Stars
Photo by MJ Kroeger. Food Stylist: Lauren Lapenna. Prop Stylist: Molly Fitzsimons.
Author Notes

The secrets to the best crinkle cookies are in how long you chill them (at least 2 hours), which sugars you snowball on the outside (granulated, then confectioners'), and—in this simple stunner from food stylist and author Jesse Szewczyk—swapping out the salt for preserved lemon peel, a pantry ingredient that adds life, balance, and umami (yes, umami) to the cookie-swap classic.

As Jesse writes in his cookbook Cookies: The New Classics, “Preserved lemons are a popular ingredient in Middle Eastern and North African cuisines, used in a variety of recipes, from tagines to stews. They’re made by soaking whole lemons in a salty brine, transforming them into an earthier, tangier version of their former selves. Here, the preserved lemon peel is used to give classic crinkle cookies a robust, intensely lemony flavor and subtle salty bite. You can usually find preserved lemons in glass jars in well-stocked grocery stores, or you can easily order them online. But if unavailable, you can make this recipe with 2 tablespoons of grated fresh lemon zest with an added 1⁄2 teaspoon of kosher salt in the dough—but the flavor will not be the same.”

A few more tips: This dough is great made ahead, and the preserved lemon and vanilla flavors will get more complex as the dough chills. Rolling the balls is an excellent activity for kids and other nearby folks you want to keep busy. And if you err on the side of slightly underbaking them so they’re soft (but not squishy) inside, they keep well enough to ship for the holidays.

Recipe adapted very slightly from Cookies: The New Classics (Clarkson Potter, October 2021).

This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. As an Amazon Associate, Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.

Hear more about this recipe from Jesse himself on our podcast The Genius Recipe Tapes. Genius Recipes

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Preserved Lemon Crinkle Cookies From Jesse Szewczyk
  • Prep time 2 hours 45 minutes
  • Cook time 15 minutes
  • makes 22 Cookies
Ingredients
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons/113 grams) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/3 cups (267 grams) granulated sugar, divided
  • 2 tablespoons (20 grams) chopped preserved lemon peel (see Author Notes)
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups spooned and leveled all-purpose flour (320 grams)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cup (75 grams) confectioners’ sugar
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, 1 cup (200 grams) of the granulated sugar, and the chopped preserved lemon peel. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl halfway through, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the mixer off, add the eggs and vanilla extract, and mix until pale yellow and very light, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the mixer off, add the flour and baking powder, and mix on low speed just until a soft dough forms, 1 to 2 minutes. Tightly cover the bowl with plastic and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours (overnight or a few days ahead is fine).
  2. As the dough chills, place the remaining 1/3 cup (67 grams) granulated sugar in a shallow, wide bowl or on a plate and put the confectioners’ sugar in a second shallow bowl or on a plate.
  3. Heat the oven to 350°F and set the racks at the upper-middle and lower-middle positions. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats.
  4. Using a medium 1 3/4-inch (#40) cookie scoop or 2 tablespoons, portion out the dough and roll into balls. Working with one dough ball at a time, roll in the granulated sugar, then in the confectioners’ sugar, then roll in the palms of your hands above the bowl of confectioners’ sugar to reshape them. Place the dough balls 3 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets (11 per sheet).
  5. Bake both sheets at the same time, swapping the top sheet to the bottom rack and bottom sheet to the top midway through baking, until the cookies are puffed, the cracks no longer look wet, and the dough feels soft but resists slightly when poked with a finger (it shouldn’t cave in), 13 to 15 minutes. Let cool completely on the baking sheets.
  6. Note: Two medium preserved lemons will yield about 2 tablespoons of chopped peel. To prepare them, run the preserved lemons under cold water to wash off some of the salt, then cut the peels into quarters. Using your fingers or a fork, pull the peel away from the flesh, and finely chop the peel. You will only use the peel in this recipe.
  7. Make ahead: The dough can be stored in the bowl in the refrigerator, tightly covered with plastic wrap, for several days before baking. If the dough is too hard to portion, let it sit at room temperature for 10 minutes and try again.
  8. Storage: The cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Diane
    Diane
  • Aliwaks
    Aliwaks
  • Joanne
    Joanne
  • lois evans
    lois evans
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Recipe by: Genius Recipes

14 Reviews

Joanne January 27, 2022
The suggested two preserved lemons gave up over 40 g of lemon peel; used it all and refrigerated the dough for more than a day. Subtle lemon umami and pretty crinkle cookies. Wd bake at the lesser time suggested.
 
lois E. December 27, 2021
Soooo delicious and pretty! I'd share a photo but there isn't a cookie left!
To me, these taste like a light, giant Italian cookie! Very easy to make. I especially like the addition of the preserved lemon. I may add a bit more to my next batch.
As a final touch, I added a dab of white chocolate and variations of pink and gold sprinkles and white dragee to make them more festive!
 
pettestaats December 25, 2021
I was very disappointed. They had very little lemony taste. I used 21 grams of preserved lemon rind. Could it be the type of preserved lemon? (Found in a Hannaford's Indian cuisine section). Please advise.
 
amy S. December 28, 2021
We were also disappointed the first time we made these. I wonder if there was a discrepancy about the weight to volume? We used 20 grams of lemon the first time and could barely taste it. We just tried again and measured by volume, and 2 TBS was more like 24 grams, and was the rind from 2 smallish lemons. Definitely better, but I wonder if the direction in the note that indicates it’s the total from 2 medium lemons should be in the ingredient list itself?
 
Genghis9 December 24, 2021
These cookies didn't crinkle. They didn't really spread out and result in large cracks. I wonder if they were too cold and that's why they didn't spread? I chilled the dough for 3 hours but it was soft enough to form balls easily. Or maybe I didn't use enough sugar to coat them. Either way, they're tasty but look a mess.
 
beko February 6, 2022
I made these cookies twice. The first batch didn’t crinkle but the second batch did perfectly. The crinkle is very dependent on the chilling of the dough. I put mine in the freezer for a few minutes before baking and it did the trick. You may just have warm hands or a warm kitchen. Hope this helps!
 
Mary B. December 14, 2021
These were absolutely fantastic! The preserved lemon makes these extra special, like no other cookie I've tasted. I also like the full tablespoon of vanilla, which really makes these bloom with flavor. I made these as one of four different types of cookies to send to loved ones afar for the holidays. My husband was skeptical but was bowled over in cookie contentment once he tried them. He is begging me to make another batch just for him.
 
LisaO December 13, 2021
I was disappointed by the flavor of these cookies. It could have been the quality of the preserved lemons which I ordered from Amazon but I wouldn't make these again. I wanted to love them!
 
MissyMiller December 10, 2021
Just took these out of the oven and they’re delicious! Used preserved lemons I made last summer with bay leaf and black peppercorns so I was a little concerned about those additions but they’re great. And the amount of vanilla is a real game changer.
 
Diane December 10, 2021
Where do you purchase preserved lemons?
 
Diane December 12, 2021
Yes I can do that and a friend just gave me beautiful lemons from her lemon tree!
 
lois E. January 27, 2022
Amazon has a section. I bought the organic ones.
 
Jo December 8, 2021
https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/quick-preserved-lemons-12760 Here’s a link to a quick recipe for preserved lemons I’m sure the are others if you do a google search. Jesse’s cookbook is full of wonderful recipes he writes in a download to earth manner I have really enjoyed it. Looking forward to making these cookies.
 
Aliwaks December 8, 2021
My love for preserved lemons knows no bounds these are terrific AND if you are making ottolenghis double lemon chicken this is an excellent place to use that leftover preserved lemon paste (also maybe I ground a wee bit of black lime in the confectioners sugar just for fun)