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Little lime cookies deliver a pop of sweet-tart flavor

Recipe: Refrigerator cookie dough also can be frozen for later baking

A simple lime-and-sugar icing gives these refrigerator cookies a bright sweet-tart finish.

A simple lime-and-sugar icing gives these refrigerator cookies a bright sweet-tart finish. Kathy Morrison

Citrus comes along just when we need it. Limes and mandarins in late fall are followed by Meyer lemons and navel oranges, grapefruit and all the other backyard tree delights of winter.

Three limes of varying ripeness
These limes show varying stages of ripeness,

So here we are, with shorter, darker, colder days, and my little lime tree is bending under the weight of ripening fruit. They’re changing from classic (but underripe) green to pale yellow, still delicious but less acidic.

I found a refrigerator shortbread cookie that delivers a really nice spark of lime. Without icing, it’s just barely sweet, and with icing it’s a perfect sweet-tart combination. Either version goes well with a cup of tea on a chilly afternoon. 

Since butter is pricey these days, I baked a small batch, but typically I would double this recipe to make 3 dozen cookies. 

Or double it anyway, and freeze one of the rolls of dough. Freeze some juice and zest, too, for the icing and you’ll be able to bake a bright citrus treat weeks after the limes are harvested.

Iced lime shortbread cookies

Makes 18; easily doubled

Ingredients:

Cookie dough:

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature 

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Grated zest from 1 lime, about ¾ teaspoon

1 cup all-purpose flour

⅛ teaspoon salt

A log of dough and a black ruler showing it's 6 inches long
A single batch makes a 6-inch log of dough.

Icing:

½ cup confectioner’s sugar

½ teaspoon lime zest

1 tablespoon or more fresh lime juice

Instructions:

Make sure the butter is soft, but don’t melt it in the microwave – you need to be able to beat some air into it.  Cream the butter and the confectioner’s sugar until light, then stir in the vanilla and lime zest. 

Whisk together the flour and the salt, and add to the butter mixture, combining until the dough looks like crumbs but holds together when pressed.

Shape into a log about 6 inches long and about 2 inches across. Wrap in wax or parchment paper and chill thoroughly, a few hours or overnight. (Or wrap in a second layer, of plastic wrap or foil, and freeze.)

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove the roll of dough from the refrigerator and let it soften slightly while the oven is heating – it’ll be easier to cut. Line a baking pan with parchment paper.

Cut the log into ¼-inch slices (I’ve found a serrated knife works well) and place the cookies on the parchment. They don’t rise or spread much, so can be an inch or so apart on the paper.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, just until the edges start to turn brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool thoroughly.

Baked cookies on a black cooling rack
Allow the cookies to cool before icing.

Make the icing by stirring together the ½ cup confectioner’s sugar, the zest and the lime juice. Add more juice if needed to make the icing easy to spread but not runny. Spread it on the cooled cookies and allow to set for about an hour before serving.

Note: If you don’t want icing but do want to dress up the cookies a bit, try this: Before baking, sprinkle onto the cookies a bit of coarse sugar or colored sugar that’s been combined with some lime zest.

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Garden Checklist for week of April 14

It's still not warm enough to transplant tomatoes directly in the ground, but we’re getting there.

* April is the last chance to plant citrus trees such as dwarf orange, lemon and kumquat. These trees also look good in landscaping and provide fresh fruit in winter.

* Smell orange blossoms? Feed citrus trees with a low dose of balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) during bloom to help set fruit. Keep an eye out for ants.

* Apply slow-release fertilizer to the lawn.

* Thoroughly clean debris from the bottom of outdoor ponds or fountains.

* Spring brings a flush of rapid growth, and that means your garden needs nutrients. Fertilize shrubs and trees with a slow-release fertilizer. Or mulch with a 1-inch layer of compost.

* Azaleas and camellias looking a little yellow? If leaves are turning yellow between the veins, give them a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim dead flowers but not leaves from spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Those leaves gather energy to create next year's flowers. Also, give the bulbs a fertilizer boost after bloom.

* Pinch chrysanthemums back to 12 inches for fall flowers. Cut old stems to the ground.

* Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and control weeds.

* From seed, plant beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melons, radishes and squash.

* Plant onion sets.

* In the flower garden, plant seeds for asters, cosmos, celosia, marigolds, salvia, sunflowers and zinnias.

* Transplant petunias, zinnias, geraniums and other summer bloomers.

* Plant perennials and dahlia tubers for summer bloom.

* Mid to late April is about the last chance to plant summer bulbs, such as gladiolus and tuberous begonias.

* Transplant lettuce seedlings. Choose varieties that mature quickly such as loose leaf.

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