When I was nineteen, I worked at an Italian bakery. This place made everything from unbelievably flaky Sfogliatelle to delicate pastry cream-filled eclairs. But for a long time, my main job was cookies. I didn't make the dough or bake them—those two tasks were for more advanced bakers. I dipped anginetti cookies in lemon glaze and coated them in rainbow sprinkles, I pipped mounds of fudge icing into the center of big chocolate cookies, and I pressed M&M's into sugar cookies. M&M's duty, by far, was my favorite. In the midst of the busyness of the bakery, it relaxed me to just stand at my bench and press M&M's into cookies.
You might wonder why anyone would do this by hand when it's easy to just add M&M's to cookie dough, like you do with chocolate chips for chocolate chip cookies. Victor, the head baker and owner, didn't like how the M&M's looked when they broke during mixing. Even when making treats that only kids ordered, he was a perfectionist. And this method, although time-consuming, stayed with me. Whenever I bake cookies with M&M's, I stand at the counter and, one by one, press the chocolate pieces into the top of the cookie. There's no longer a 50-pound mound of dough on my right, like there was at the bakery, but I still find joy in placing each colored candy.
The dough for these cookies is a soft sugar cookie with just a hint of lemon. At the bakery, we used shortening for the cookies, so I do the same here. If you avoid shortening, replace it with butter, though keep in mind that with butter they'll spread a little more in the oven. After making the dough, you spend some time pressing M&M's into each cookie. That process is a sweet reward in itself; the cookies are just a bonus.