The Lemon Drop Lady

Sweet, sugary Brach's lemon drops. Made with r...

Brach's Lemon Drops, Image via Wikipedia

Today is Valentine’s Day and I have just returned from a highlight and cut. Not because of the day but because it was the only appointment my stylist had open for quite some time and I really needed refreshing. 

In the course of conversation with my stylist, I mention my blog about all things lemon.  The stylist at the next station overhears and inquires, “Well, you must know the ‘The Lemon Drop Lady.’  She is stopping by for a bang trim.”  But no, I have not heard of The Lemon Drop Lady. I don’t often experience such serendipitous moments and am curious to find out more.   The talkative stylist obliges. 

The Lemon Drop Lady was an elementary teacher, now retired and substitute teaching. She is a little woman and as cute as can be; sweet and known for always having lemon drops on hand.  If a student doesn’t feel good?  A lemon drop is the cure.  Having a hard day?  A lemon drop will make it better.  Of course, students may take advantage at times, but no matter.  Mrs. Lemon doesn’t turn anyone away.  Sadly, Mrs. Lemon’s husband died two years ago.  There was a huge turnout for his funeral, for he was almost as also well-loved as Mrs. Lemon.

I am excited to meet this fixture of our community.  I can almost picture her: small floral print blouse, faded denim skirt, comfortable shoes, and gray hair in curls.  And then Mrs. Lemon breezes in.  “Oh, I had the class from hell today!” she exclaims all a-flurry before lighting in the salon chair and crossing her slender legs clad in camel leggings and neatly tucked into dark brown Etienne Aigner riding boots.   She reviews her requirements with the stylist who then graciously introduces us. “I tell you, classes aren’t what they used to be!” she says by way of introduction and I can’t help but nod along. 

We settle back into our seats, continuing to converse even though we are now separated by a mirror petition.  “You know, a few years before I retired,” she shares, “the Superintendent visited our school and I told him, ‘In 46 years no one has ever stopped me from giving out my lemon drops.'”  This was shortly after our board passed a health law about snacks and treats not exceeding a certain sugar and fat ratio.  “I wanted him to know that no one from the district had complained before,” she lowers her voice, as if we are in cahoots.  “And don’t you know!  When he met with our staff at the end of the day, he ended the meeting by telling everyone, ‘I will never be the one to stop her from giving out lemon drops, by God!’  That’s what he said, ‘By God!'”

“I’ve seen a bag of lemon drops go from 79¢ to $2.49,” she continues. “One year, Brach’s called the store I was buying their lemon drops from and wanted to know why they kept selling out when none of the other stores did.  The store told them about me and they gave me a free case!”

“What’s your best lemon drop story?” I ask, thinking of all the children she has encountered over the years. 

“Oh, there are so many,” she sighs.  “You know, my last name is really Melon, but they call me Mrs. Lemon.  I still run into students who are adults now and they remember.   They ask me if I still make those lemon drops!  You see,” she relays, “I used to tell them I made the lemon drops and Mr. Lemon sprinkled them with a special mix of powders and sugars that we gathered from our travels all over the world.  When Mr. Lemon died a couple of years ago,” she confides softly, “students were afraid to, you know, ask me for them anymore.  But I told them it was okay because Mr. Lemon shared his special recipe with me and now I sprinkle on the powders and sugars.”

Mrs. Lemon’s trim is complete and she wraps up our conversation.  “It was so nice to meet you,” she says standing where I can now see her.  I note the stylish petal pink cable knit sweater, manicured nails, and  matching pink quartz earrings.   

“Go home, have a glass of wine, light some candles, and take a hot bath,” my stylist tells her, knowing she will return to an empty house this Valentine’s.

“I will if you will, girlfriend,” I say and we high-five.   Mrs. Lemon schedules an appointment to touch up her highlights in a few weeks and breezes out the door as blithely as she entered.

If you know a Lemon Drop Lady, please don’t reveal the secret behind the magical powders and sugars that she gathers from her travels around the world and sprinkles lovingly over each drop.  And when their sweet and sour powers spread tingles on your tongue, just close your eyes and believe. 

Be Mine Valentine: Lavender Lemon Cookies

Okay, y’all!  Valentine’s Day is just around the corner!

I’m not trying to channel Paula Dean, but these beauties are buttery!  Yum!  This recipe, adapted from Wine Imbiber, will be updated with pictures of my own later.  Just thought you should have it in time for weekend Valentine’s Day baking.  They freeze well and are even better made ahead, allowing the lemon zest to permeate the cookie base.   I eliminated the 2 Tbs. of lavender blossoms from the cookie base as called for in the original recipe.  The lavender buds in the icing will carry plenty of flavor and fragrance.  Looking forward to using the light violet sanding sugar in my cupboard as well!

Bonus recipe: If your cupid loves cupcakes, try this Lemonade Cupcake with Fresh Raspberry Frosting.  Another frosting option for cookies, too!

Lavender Lemon Valentines

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract or lemon emulsion*
1–1/2 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest (about 2 large lemons, preferably Meyer)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cornstarch
2 to 2–1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Optional: Colored sugar for decorating

Cream together the butter and confectioner’s sugar until smooth. Mix in the lemon extract and zest. Set aside. Sift together the salt, cornstarch and flour. Add this to the butter mixture and stir until the flour coats the butter but isn’t completely worked in.   Using your hands, lightly rub the ingredients together until the mixture is no longer dry. You will know it is done when it forms easily into a dough ball. Try not to overwork the mixture or you will end up with tough cookies. Flatten the dough out into a disc and place in a plastic re–sealable bag. Refrigerate for 30 minutes (or up to three days).

Preheat the oven to 325° F.

Take the fully–chilled dough and place it on top of a piece of parchment or a Silpat.  Using a rolling-pin, roll the dough out to a thickness of 1/4 to 1/3 inch. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. This dough barely spreads, so don’t worry about leaving a lot of space between each cookie. Remove the scraps from between each cookie and re–form into a flat disc. (If dough has become too soft or warm, re–refrigerate it for a few minutes before attempting to roll it out.)  Note: If you prefer to decorate the cookies with colored sugar alone, sprinkle it on before baking.  Lift up parchment paper or Silpat and place on top of cookie sheet.  Transfer sheet to upper third of oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until the edges of the cookies just start turning golden on the edges.  Allow to cool before icing.  Tip: to get a perfect cut on the first roll, use Wilson’s Hearts Combo Cutter.  No scraps left behind!  I purchased mine, along with the lemon emulsion, at my local mall from The Kitchen Collection.

*Professional bakers almost always use emulsions over extracts. Unlike extracts, emulsions have a more potent, robust flavor that won’t bake out as they are alcohol free.  Available at Kitchen Collection.

Lemon Lavender Icing

1 cup confectioner’s sugar
3 teaspoons dried lavender flowers
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest (about 1 large lemon, preferably Meyer)
1–2 tablespoons lemon juice

Whisk together first three ingredients. Start mixing in lemon juice by using one tablespoon at first, then continue adding in only enough to produce a smooth, fluid icing. You can add glaze over already sugared cookies for an extra special touch.  It is easiest to ice the cookies by dipping the tops into the icing and turning them over onto a wire rack with a paper towel underneath to catch drips.  

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz package cream cheese, softened
1/4 c. butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon zest
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
4 c. powdered sugar
A drop of two of yellow food coloring, for a soft, pale yellow

Using an electric mixer, combine the cream cheese and the butter. Add the vanilla, lemon zest and lemon juice, mixing to combine. Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Frost cookies then run knife under warm water and smooth over frosting for a nice finish.  Decorate by adding a few lavender blossoms beneath the heart dimple or sprinkle with colored sugar. 

Wine recommendation from wine imbiber: A Champagne or sparkling wine pairs best with these cookies. We enjoyed them with a bottle of Bailly Lapierre’s Crémant de Bourgogne Brut Réserve sparkling wine.