Baileys Adventures

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine…-Proverbs 17:22

Lemon Crackers December 23, 2010

Filed under: Domestic Goddess,Recipes — andreabaileys @ 2:00 pm
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When Mama was a child, she and her brothers would spend Christmas Eve with her father’s family.  One of the things she remembers from Christmas with the Dickensons are her grandmother’s lemon crackers.  These thin cookies are one of the few things I remember from my Great-grandmother’s house as well.  We didn’t see Great-grandmother Dickenson very often, and she died while I was in middle or high school, but I remember as a small child visiting her at Christmas time, having lemon crackers, and playing quietly in a small foyer while the grown-ups visited.  Once Great-grandmother passed away, lemon crackers became a thing of the past.  My aunt tried to make them one year, but wasn’t satisfied with the way they turned out.

This year, I decided to tackle the cracker.  My first batch turned out pretty well, and I sent them home with my students and some friends.  Mama said they were close to right….but not quite.  Apparently the trick to lemon crackers is to get them super thin, so they’re crispy but not burnt.  I made another batch last night to take to our Dickenson Christmas Eve party tomorrow, and since several people had requested the recipe I decided to do a full-on tutorial.  These aren’t as hard as they look, and the result is pretty impressive.  The recipe in full is at the end.  Enjoy!

Before you begin, you’ll need a few special ingredients.  One is Lemon Oil, which is easily found at any pharmacy or candy making supply store.  It’s sold by the dram, which is .75 teaspoon.  The recipe calls for 2 teaspoons, so it’s two drams and a little bit.  Buy 3 drams.  The other is Ammonium Carbonate, called Baker’s Ammonia or powdered ammonia. My great-grandmother’s recipe notes that it can be “easily procured from any pharmacy”, but I found mine in a bulk food specialty shop. If you’re local, it was at Grandma’s Pantry in the Shenandoah Heritage Farmer’s Market.  You’ll need 1 ounce.

Before you begin, measure out one ounce of ammonia, and soak it in 1/4 cup water until soft.  I cannot stress to you how much this stinks.  Don’t sniff it, and brace yourself.  It is ammonia, let there be no doubt!  Use a kitchen scale to figure out an ounce, but it was close to 5 1/4 teaspoons.  That’s five and one fourth, not five-one-fourths. Seriously, just use a scale.

Assemble your other ingredients:

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup shortening (I usually use coconut oil for shortening, but stick with Crisco for this!)

2 cups sugar

3 eggs, slightly beaten

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cup milk

6-7 cups flour

Cream the butter, shortening, and sugar.  Add the eggs and mix well.  Add salt and lemon oil.  It should smell fabulous at this point….remember it, because this is the last time these crackers smell good until they’re cooled.

Add the ammonia to the milk.  Begin adding the flour, alternating with the milk, until a soft dough is formed.  Use just enough flour to insure the dough isn’t sticky, but just barely.  This is a really soft dough!

Scoop out a portion of the dough onto a well-floured surface.  This is KEY, because you’re about to roll this stuff super-thin.  Flour your new, awesome French rolling pin, too.  In hindsight — don’t start with as much dough as I did.  It warms up and gets sticky too quickly if you have too much to work with.

Roll out the dough to about 1/8 of an inch.  It’s seriously almost see-through at this point.

Cut out circles or square.  Don’t try to make shaped cookies — they will not hold their shape as you try to get them off the counter.  Even the circles and squares will be slightly off-kilter from handling.  Place cookies on a baking sheet.  They barely spread at all, so you can probably fit four in a row, and five rows on a cookie sheet.  My circles are about an inch and a half across.

I’m totally serious about getting them thin.

Prick cookies with a fork.

Bake at 375 degrees for 6-7 minutes. You’ll have to play with the time a little bit, because these go from raw to burnt in a flash.  When the edges are just the slightest bit darker, they’re ready to go.

WARNING:  When you open the oven door, you will be surrounded by the smell of ammonia, tinged with lemon.  Hold your breath or look away until it clears.  Eventually you’ll be used to it, but it really does stink.

Allow to cool completely.  This allows the smell to dissipate, and insures the cookies won’t stick together.

Box ’em up and share the wealth.  This recipe makes at least 8-10 dozen, and probably more if I really counted.  It all depends on how thin you roll the dough.  I made a variety, because while Mama prefers them wafer-thin, I like a little more depth to my crackers so they’re just a little bit soft in the middle. All in all, it’s not a hard recipe, and I think these will become a Christmas tradition in our house, too!

Lemon Crackers

1 ounce ammonia

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup shortening

2 cups sugar

3 eggs, slightly beaten

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons lemon oil

1 1/4 cups milk

6-7 cups flour

Soak ammonia in water to soften.

Cream butter, shortening, and sugar.  Add eggs, beating well. Add salt and lemon oil.

Add ammonia solution to milk.

Add flour, alternating with milk, to form a very soft dough.

Turn out on a well-floured surface, and roll to 1/8 inch thickness.  Cut into circles or squares.

Bake at 375 degrees for 6-7 minutes.  Cool completely.

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