When I hear "lemon tea cookies" I am thinking of something delicate with a jeweled dab of clear yellow jelly on top. Something like this:
My coworker gifted me some lemons last week, and so I proposed to my baking buddy that we try Pillsbury's recipe for Lemon Tea cookies. She was elated, as she'd just come into a windfall of Meyer lemons. So, a plan was made. Lemon bars. Lemon cookies. Lemonade with ginger. Lemon everything.
The 1987 Pillsbury Best Cookies Cookbook has a lot of comfort cookies in it. Things like Fudgy Butterscotch Bars and Cherry Winks. The kind of cookbook that has margarine as an allowable substitute for butter in practically every recipe.
It's a simple shortbread-ish cookie base of flour, sugar, butter, and vanilla. But I found that it was a little short on practical information. Most pressingly, although it advises to cook the lemon filling "until smooth and thickened," it doesn't actually say for how long. My baking buddy looked at it after twenty minutes of stirring and advised stopping there. But it wasn't actually thick yet. Just kinda thick. So I kept stirring. That is how I ended up with lemon caramel instead of lemon curd. Because if you cook the egg, sugar, and lemon too long, it turns into something chewy and dense. Pellets of lemon caramel. This caused me to shake my hand in the air and say unladylike things about Pillsbury. I won't repeat. Okay, I will. "Fudge you, Pillsbury, fudge you!"
It also belatedly occurred to me that although I should've had 72 cookies from a double batch...I had about thirty. That would explain why they took double the time to cook. Toward the end, I abandoned ship and just added jam instead of lemon pellets.
Now that they've had a day to cool in the fridge, I have to say, they are very tasty. If I make these again, I will just buy some lemon curd or lemon jelly from the store and use that. As for my baking buddy's lemon bars...well, they are glorious!
Even though zesting 20 lemons was a challenge, and I may or may not have zested part of my knuckle, it was quite worth the effort. Making cookies, even if you mess up, is good for the soul.