At Christmas, I made a variety of cookies, both here in Redmond, and in Montreal with my Mom. One of the favorites was definitely the lime snowball cookies I made using a recipe from Bon Appétit magazine. They are shortbread-like, but packed full of lime flavor since you add lime juice, lime peel, and lime oil. Lime oil, you might ask, what’s that? Well, that’s what I asked anyway, because I’d never heard of such a thing. I wondered if this was one of these strange, impossible-to-find ingredients recipes in food magazines often call for that I would have to order online for some overblown price. Actually, this was one option, but the magazine also said that the oil could be found at Sur La Table stores. Sur La Table? I thought. There’s one of those right near me! So, I bundled up, hopped on a bus, and headed over to the Sur La Table location near me. Yes, I took a bus to buy one ingredient for a recipe, an ingredient that I would only need half a teaspoon of, but if I didn’t and found some kind of substitution for the ingredient, I would drive myself crazy wondering how the cookies would have come out if I had found that elusive lime oil. Also, I love going into Sur La Table—it’s kind of a culinary fantasy world. Even though I can barely afford anything in the store, I like to wander around and drool over the gorgeous pots and pans, fancy cooking utensils, and shiny appliances.
So, one twenty-minute bus ride later, I made it to the store and immediately began to search. I’m not going to get into the entire story, but I will tell you that finding that tiny little bottle of lime oil was something of an ordeal. The bottle had to be bought as part of a set, but half the set was missing. After more searching, the rest was eventually found, but then there was no SKU for it, so I almost didn’t get my oil. I was a cook on a mission, though, so I did eventually get what I had come for, along with a small bottle of lemon oil and a small bottle of orange oil.
After all that trouble, I figured I had better make the most of my tiny little bottles of citrus oils. At the time, I was focused on making the recipe the way it was written, so I made the lime snowballs and they were fantastic. I was itching to try making lemon snowballs and orange snowballs as well, which brings me to my most recent baking experiment. I call it an experiment because I was straying from the recipe a little—something I pretty much never do with baking—but I guess it wasn’t exactly the riskiest of experiments. I simply wanted to make the snowball recipe with lemon, lime, and orange and compare the different cookies. I decided to make one batch and divide it into thirds rather than making three full batches, since I figured that would be more cookies than Andrew and I could (or should) handle. I divided all the different ingredients into three bowls:I kept everything exactly the same except, of course, for the fruit juice, peel, and oil. Here is where my lovely little bottles came into play:
After mixing the ingredients, the important thing was to make sure to keep track of which fruit was in which bowl. I took note of the order the bowls were in, and also the order that I placed them on the baking sheet. I did a row of each: lemon, lime, and orange. Before and after, they all look the same, right?
That’s why I thought it would be fun to add a few embellishments to these guys. I got some gel food coloring and decorated the cookies, using yellow for lemon, green for lime, and orange for orange:Certainly not necessary, but definitely fun. When the world gets you down, decorate cookies! Maybe that should be my new motto.
So as for the results? The cookies were all delicious. My favorites are still the lime cookies—I find the lime flavor comes out the best in the cookies, but the lemon and orange are good too. In fact, I find the subtlety actually works in favor of the orange cookies—I had been concerned that those ones would have too much of an orangey flavor. And a hint for when you make these yourself: they taste best about a week after you make them. When they’re fresh, the citrus flavors are very muted, but after some time, they are much more prominent. My guess is that as the cookie dries out a little, the fruity flavors are absorbed more deeply into the cookie, bringing out their taste more than when they are fresher and a little moister.
Finally, I have a question for you: what should I do with the rest of my lemon, lime, and orange oils? I only used a very small amount of each one, and I am curious to know what else I could use these odd little oils for. I would love to hear all of your brilliant ideas!
The recipe for Lime Snowball Cookies can be found here: http://www.bonappetit.com/magazine/2008/11/lime_snowballs