At some point I ended up with very definite ideas about what a party spread entails. For example, items should be okay served at room temperature (which eliminates most of my favorite fried foods) and should be largely eatable with one’s fingers. There should also be a good mix of sweet and savory; within the sweet category, there should be some chocolate and some not-chocolate, and the items should take different forms. It simply would not do to have, say, both chocolate cake and lemon cake.

So after I’d settled on a chocolaty cake recipe (coming soon!), I had to find some additional dessert that was neither chocolate nor cake. An added challenge: the chocolaty cake called for buttermilk. Usually, when I buy buttermilk for a recipe, I end up throwing the majority of it away. But if I could manage to use the buttermilk for my cookies, I would feel so terribly efficient and thrifty!

Enter these cookies to save the day. Not only do they meet my party specifications and use buttermilk, but they are tangy and moist and altogether lovely.

Not chocolate, not cake.

I still have some buttermilk left, so I might have to make many more batches of these.

Buttermilk cookies with lemon zest
From Orangette

For the cookies:
1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
¼ teasoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup well-shaken buttermilk

For the glaze:
¾ cup confectioners sugar, sifted
1 ½ tablespoon well-shaken buttermilk
¼ tsp. vanilla extract

Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, zest, baking soda, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large mixing bowl, if you’re going to use a handheld mixer), beat the butter briefly, until creamy. Add the sugar, and beat until pale and fluffy. Add the egg, and beat well to mix. Add the vanilla, and beat briefly again. Mix in the flour mixture and the buttermilk in batches at low speed, beginning and ending with the flour. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. The finished dough should be smooth and pale yellow.

Drop the dough by level tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 1 ½ inches between each cookie. (If you have a very small ice cream scoop, one with a capacity of about 1 tablespoon, it’s perfect for this job.) Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until the cookies are puffed and their edges are golden, about 11 to 15 minutes per batch. Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for 1 minute; then transfer them to a wire rack.

To prepare the glaze, whisk together the sifted confectioners sugar, buttermilk, and vanilla. The mixture should be very smooth, with no lumps of sugar visible. Brush or spoon the glaze onto the warm cookies. (I wound up with leftover glaze, so don’t be surprised if you don’t use it all.) Allow cookies to sit on the rack until they are fully cooled and the glaze is set.

Yield: about 40 small cookies [FYI: I had a larger scoop and ended up with about 15 large-ish cookies that took much longer to bake].

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