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It's no secret that I like making copycat cookies at home—half my cookbook is devoted to re-creating store-bought snacks—but my cravings aren't limited to iconic American treats. Aside from Belgian Biscoff and quintessentially British chocolate digestives, I'm a big fan of Carr's Ginger Lemon Cremes.
They're as elegant as a mass-produced tea biscuit can be, with a pair of dainty ginger cookies sandwiched around a refreshingly tart lemon creme. With the first bite, it's hard to register anything but crunch; then, as the crumbs dissolve across your tongue, there's a spicy hit of ginger, followed by sweet molasses and a burst of lemony brightness.
The only thing more impressive than serving ginger lemon cremes at teatime is being able to say you made them from scratch. And why not? They're super easy, and, while I've designed my recipe to be as close to the original as possible, the spice blend is easily tweaked to taste.
To start, I use a mix of butter, sugar, molasses, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt, plus lemon zest—lots of lemon zest. Despite the simplicity of those ingredients, it's worth noting a couple things. The first is that, while plain ol' cinnamon works perfectly well, the floral aroma of Ceylon cinnamon is a knockout when paired with lemon and ginger. It's not a make-or-break ingredient, as it is for my homemade Biscoff, but if you happen to have some on hand, it makes an especially fragrant cookie.
The second thing to remember is that when I call for molasses, I'm talking about plain, unsulfured molasses, not blackstrap (never blackstrap). I've written about this before, but blackstrap is too high in sodium, too low in sugar, too thick, and way too bitter to taste or behave like plain molasses, which is more mellow and sweet but less viscous.
Combine everything in the bowl of a stand mixer, and cream until the mixture looks fluffy and light—you should notice a stark difference in both color and texture when it's done. If not, not only will this recipe yield fewer cookies, but they will also be far too dense, so don't rush the process! Keep beating the butter and sugar until you've noticed a significant change, and bear in mind this may take much longer than the recipe suggests if you're using a hand mixer instead. For those curious to learn more, here's my deep dive on the importance of proper creaming process for cookies.
When the mixture looks soft and light, sprinkle in the all-purpose flour (I use bleached Gold Medal for its fantastic balance of protein and starch), then drizzle in a little cream. It takes the place of egg, providing a bit of water and protein for the dough, while giving the cookies a texture more in line with shortbread than a typical drop cookie. Plus, all the lactose in cream helps the cookie dough brown more flavorfully in the oven.
After giving the bowl and beater a good scrape, fold the dough a few times with a flexible spatula to make sure it's well mixed from the bottom up. A rogue streak of unincorporated butter will really wreak havoc on how these little cookies spread. And "little" is the operative word—these require no more than three-quarters of a teaspoon of dough each (three-eighths of an ounce, or 10 grams).
That's because the cookies' thickness will be more than doubled after they're sandwiched with the "creme," so, to keep the finished products from being obnoxiously thick, it's important that they start out dainty and small. Trust me, when beefed up to a larger size, these crunchy cookies will only seem hard.
I use a one-and-a-half-teaspoon cookie scoop to initially divide the dough, then I go back through to cut each portion in half, then round them all up by hand. This is a lot faster than individually weighing each tiny portion out on a scale, but you can absolutely go that route if you prefer.
However you go about it, do take the time to make each portion smooth and round. If haphazardly scooped or just dolloped onto a baking sheet, they'll spread into irregular shapes that make sandwiching a pain. Due to their small size, the cookies will bake fast—just about 10 minutes in a 350°F (180°C) oven. While they're cooling, whip up a simple filling from refined coconut oil, fresh lemon juice, salt, and powdered sugar.
Since coconut oil is solid and firm below 74°F (23°C), it stiffens up more than butter and makes a nice and sturdy filling. And, unlike butter, coconut oil is a pure fat, so there's very little moisture in the filling to soften the crunchy cookies over time. Plus, its neutral flavor makes the lemon seem more zippy and bright. (This is why I prefer making my lemon bar filling and lemony scones without any butter at all.)
Transfer the whipped filling to a disposable pastry bag fitted with a half-inch pastry tip. (If the filling seems too soft or too stiff for piping, that just means it's too warm or too cold, so briefly chill or warm it over a water bath to adjust.) Flip half the cookies over, pipe a heaping teaspoon of filling into the middle, then sandwich with the remaining cookies.
Freshly made, the filling will be squishy and soft, but it'll set up as it cools. To speed things along, I like to transfer the cookies to an airtight container and pop 'em in the fridge. Once hardened, the filling will stay firm without refrigeration, so long as your kitchen is below 74°F.
That means they're a great make-ahead dessert for family gatherings, and a great cookie for packing and shipping in cooler months (or simply gifting to a friend). And, despite the super-crunchy cookies above and below, the lemony filling won't go squishing out the sides with every bite.