RECIPE: Little rays of sunshine in the form of Petit Soleils

Adding lemon zest to a simple butter cookie transforms it into something special, bright, and delicious
Courtesy of Marie Restaino

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Adding lemon zest to a simple butter cookie transforms it into something special, bright, and delicious Courtesy of Marie Restaino

There is a bakery in Paris famous for simple things. For nearly 90 years, Maison Poilâne has enjoyed international renown for big, beautiful rustic loaves of sourdough baked in wood-fired ovens, hearty, seedy rye breads and small, deceptively simple-looking butter cookies called punitions. These small cookies are offered gratis to Poilâne’s many customers, an act that, to me, has always represented the highest expression of the generous spirit that runs in the food world. These cookies are simple tokens of neighborliness, and also happen to be quite delicious.

When I started Root Baking Co. in 2015, this homage to Poilâne’s famous punitions was the first recipe I tested. As is my way, I added a good bit of lemon zest to a very simple butter cookie. I wanted them to brighten people’s days like little suns, so the name seemed to fit. The recipe is simple, and it makes a lot of cookies, so feel free to freeze the unbaked cookies for any occasion.

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Petit Soleils
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) salt
  • 3/4 cup (185 grams) soften high fat or European-style butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 1/4 cups (306 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, use your fingers to rub together sugar, lemon zest and salt, until the mixture is fragrant.
  • Attach the bowl to stand mixer and fit it with the paddle attachment. Add butter to the bowl and mix together with lemon-sugar mixture on low speed 10 seconds. You don’t want to aerate the butter at all. Add egg and mix again on low speed 15 to 20 seconds, just until combined. Add flour and mix on low speed 20 to 30 seconds, until no dry bits of flour remain. Dough will be very soft. Turn dough out onto a large sheet of plastic wrap, form it into a rectangle and wrap in the plastic. Refrigerate 20 minutes.
  • Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  • Roll out dough to 1/4-inch and stamp out cookies with a 2-inch round cutter – fluted if you’re feeling fancy. Remaining dough can be rolled again and stamped until you use it all.
  • Place the cookies on the prepared sheet pan and bake 15 to 16 minutes until cookie edges are set and your kitchen smells like lemons and cookies. Makes 50 cookies.

Chris Wilkins has been a professional baker for 12 years. He is a two-time James Beard Award nominee and the founder and co-owner of Root Baking Co. and Pizza Jeans. Submit your baking questions to bakebetterajc@gmail.com.

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