You may remember that I am deeply enamored of the rhubarb plant and all the ways that it can be paired with sugar. I don’t know if it is because my roots are Midwestern, my tongue favors tartness, or because the stalks are a gorgeous red color, but I just cannot get enough rhubarb. Luckily for me, my grocery store has had it in stock these past few weeks. Even more luckily for me, it was cool enough this morning to turn on the oven! I ended up chopping most of my latest batch and freezing it for a future use since this good weather is unlikely to last long and our AC is still broken.
Typically I make a pie, crisp, or crostata with rhubarb. This season I also made a delectable compote for our pancakes one morning. Today I decided to try putting them in my grandma’s recipe for sugar cookies. I wasn’t sure about putting straight up rhubarb into the cookies with no flavor compliment, so I paired the rhubarb with lemon since sugar cookies and lemon are a match made in heaven.
I diced the rhubarb up in fairly small pieces to avoid having huge uncooked chunks of rhubarb in each cookie. Then I added the zest of two limes, squeezed the juice of a lemon over the bits, and added 1/2 Cup of sugar. Do this first so it can sit while you get everything else ready. This step lets the flavors marry, but also softens the hardy rhubarb pieces.
I then prepared the sugar cookie dough for drop cookies (not the kind that you role out on a board and cut into shapes). This recipe is a fairly standard one, but it was passed down to me from my maternal grandma, so I KNOW it’s good. This dough will be sticky and wet, but it should still be scoopable, so add enough flour to make the consistency right. At the end is when you mix in the rhubarb mixture. Be sure to mix it thoroughly to avoid having cookies with no rhubarb pieces in them. You also want to make sure that lemon juice-sugar combo gets distributed well.
I used a 1.5″ ice cream scoop to drop even balls on a lined dark-coat cookie sheet and baked them for precisely 9 minutes at 350 degrees F. My oven is a hot oven, so you may need to adjust your baking time accordingly.
The results of my little experiment were AWESOME. I am so pleased with not only the flavor of the tart lemon-rhubarb, but the texture of these light, fluffy, slightly sweet sugar cookies. Anyone who has made sugar cookies from scratch before knows that they can come out tasting a little bland which is why we add a sugar glaze to the top and/or flavor the dough itself with something strong like citrus. These were perfect! The rhubarb added a little texture, which I can take or leave in a cookie normally, but here they were like biting into little pockets of joy. The tartness played so well with the slightly sweet, buttery cookie dough…..YUM. On top of all that, these cookies look beautiful. Aren’t they pretty with the little pops of red rhubarb peaking through?
Notes for next time: I might add even more bits of rhubarb since they taste so good! For the sugar glaze, I initially used a rhubarb simple syrup, but that ended up just tasting like sugar on top of a sugar cookie. I quickly switched it out for a lemon-powdered sugar glaze which goes very well with the cookie. Next time I might cook the rhubarb down like I did for the compote and then strain out its juices to mix with powdered sugar – hopefully that will be sweet without losing the rhubarb flavor. Of course the lemon glaze is super yummy.
Grandma’s Sugar Cookies w/ Lemon and Rhubarb
2 cups fine dice rhubarb stalk
Zest of 2 lemons
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup sugar (for rhubarb filling)
1/2 Cup softened butter (one stick)
1 Cup Shortening
1 Cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda in 1/2 tsp warm water
Preheat the oven at 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silmat. Wash rhubarb stalks well, trim ends and any leaves (these are toxic). Finely dice rhubarb to make 2 cups of diced rhubarb. Add zest of two lemons. Add juice of one lemon. Add 1/2 cup of white sugar, stir, and let sit while you make the dough. To the bowl of a stand mixer, add 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup softened butter, and 1 cup shortening—mix together until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and mix until incorporated. Add vanilla, baking powder, and wet baking soda, then mix. Measure 3 cups of flour (taking care to level it off, not pack it in) and add a little at a time with the mixer running. Check the consistency and add more flour if needed. Finally add the rhubarb mixture and incorporate well. Use a 1.5″ ice cream scoop or spoon to drop balls of dough onto cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees F — until the edges are just golden. They should be ready to transfer to a cooling rack right away. Add a sugar glaze on top if desired (juice of 1/2 lemon and 1/2cup or more of powdered sugar mixed together).
Do you like rhubarb? Do you have any awesome recipes? Please share! I have a ton of frozen rhubarb now and will probably buy more next grocery run!