Improvising: Almond lemon butter cookies

After bragging about my well-stocked kitchen on Twitter, I settled in to bake Spicy Lemon Butter Cookies — a long-standing recipe in my “to be baked” folder — only to discover . . . well, my pantry was stocked. Until I used up all my ingredients.

Gone were two staples of any baker’s repertoire: nutmeg and vanilla extract. Vanilla extract. I mean, seriously? We’re out of vanilla? Rookie mistake to not check and see if we had vanilla. I was cocky, friends, and I’ll admit it: I was wrong.


Still, I was in the mood to bake. So I improvised. The vanilla became almond, my most favorite of all flavors; and the nutmeg became extra cinnamon, which I added generously. If I’d been on my A-game, I would have thought to substitute cardamom — the most exotic of all spices in my pantry.

But I wasn’t. I was flustered.

Despite my frequent dessert-baking, I still consider myself an amateur. Cookies scare me. Unlike cupcakes, which have a foolproof pull-out-a-toothpick way of checking doneness, you can’t really tell if cookies are done until they’re . . . done. Or, in my case, “extra crispy.”

They were still delicious. Light, fluffy, and with a very distinct almond taste (and aroma!) I love. I could definitely see these at a summer or spring party, and I’m sure they’d be pretty if you didn’t make them as large as I did! Abide by the 1-inch-size cookie ball rule, friends. Abide. They spread.

Almond Lemon Butter Cookies

Adapted from WordFlux’s Spicy Lemon Butter Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) of unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 egg
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp lemon zest
2 cups unbleached flour

Beat butter, sugar, salt, egg, almond, cinnamon and lemon zest in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in flour on low-speed until well mixed. Refrigerate 1 hour. Alternatively, you can shape the dough into a log and wrap in a parchment paper before putting in the fridge.

Preheat oven to 350Β°F. Shape dough into 1-inch balls or, in case you have made a log, slice the dough. Place on ungreased baking sheets. Flatten with a fork.

Bake 12 minutes or until lightly browned around edges. Cool on baking sheets 1 minute. Remove to wire racks; cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

For more delicious and food-related posts (recipes, novels, and more!), head over to Weekend Cooking, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

18 thoughts on “Improvising: Almond lemon butter cookies

    • I have room in my heart for both almond and vanilla, Rufus! One is not a substitute for the other, no doubt, but they’re both quite delicious. I would definitely try these again using the actual ingredients originally called for — I bet that one would be fab, too!


  1. Just stumbled upon your blog. Love it! These cookies look so tasty. I applaud you for keeping your cool. If I’m missing ingredients I either decide to just forget it, or (worst case due to poor prep) only realize when I’m half way through the steps!


  2. I hate that feeling when you find an ingredient you were absolutely sure you had just isn’t there. I always blame my husband, but he’s never fooled when I try to oh-so-innocently ask, “Do you know where the cumin is?”


  3. These look delicious. I’m impressed how well you improvised. I would have had to run to the store to get the ingredients the recipe called for. I’m not very daring.


  4. These look delicious! Maybe I will try them some day in the near future πŸ™‚ but due to the fact that I’m just as addicted to vanilla as I am to almonds, I might use a bit of both πŸ˜‰ thanks for sharing!


  5. Almond extract is a staple (I checked — it’s really here!) in my pantry. It adds a lovely flavor and aroma. Good job on the improvisation … can’t wait to see what new cookies come out of your oven.


  6. It looks like your substitutions turned out great. I can’t remember exactly how the old saying goes but it applies in this case. I think it something like this: Necessity/No vanilla or nutmeg is the mother of all inventions.


  7. This actually happened to me too πŸ™‚ Almond does substitute well doesn’t it? And now, do you have vanilla extract back in stock again? πŸ˜‰
    Your cookies look really scrumptious!


  8. They sound yummy. I recently had a vanilla crisis of my own while making cookies. Luckily my mother lives down the street so I sent my daughter running down there to borrow a tsp. My mother gave her an extra 1/2 full bottle of it for me. Thanks, Mom.


  9. I started to salivate as I was reading your post. I still make the mistake of assuming that I have that special ingredient, but am getting better at getting off my tuff and checking.


  10. Not sure about the almond cinnamon, but I can always vote for cardamom. My top fave in cookie flavors. And they are done when they look right AND a light pat with the tip of your finger springs back a bit. If the dent just sits there, not done. And of course, no black edges! That means the heat was too high, at least to start.


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