Lemony cookies set an Easter mood

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For most people, Easter means it's time for chocolate bunnies and colored eggs. For me, this season is about all things lemon.

If you want an even bigger burst of lemon, you can add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon extract to the dough and 1 teaspoon of unsweetened lemonade mix to the powdered sugar used to coat the cookies. You also can add a drop or two of yellow food coloring to make the cookies yellow and more in keeping with Easter colors. If you make them small and oval instead of round, they even look a little like miniature eggs.

The recipe is easy to adapt to other nuts and other flavors — even chocolate (add about 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder to the dough and substitute orange zest for the lemon). The cookie dough is so easy to make that you could whip up several variations for Easter brunch.

Even easier, serve ham sandwiches and these cookies and call it an Easter tea.

Lemon Wedding Cookies

Start to finish: 1 hour; Makes 3½ dozen cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1½ cups powdered sugar, sifted, divided

¼ teaspoon fine-grain salt

Zest of 1 very large or 2 small lemons

1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

1 drop yellow food coloring (optional)

1½ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup lightly toasted pecans, finely chopped in a food processor or nut chopper

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter until fluffy. Add ½ cup of the powdered sugar, then beat well. Add the salt, lemon zest and vanilla and beat until creamy. Add the food coloring, if using. A little at a time, beat in the flour just until mixed.

Add the nuts, using a silicone spatula to stir them in. Place the dough in a small bowl or a plastic bag and chill for 30 to 60 minutes, or place in the freezer for about 15 minutes. At this stage, the dough also can be frozen for up to 1 month.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the remaining 1 cup of powdered sugar in a medium bowl.

Once the dough has chilled, divide it into ½-inch balls. Arrange the balls on the prepared baking sheet, leaving 1 inch between them. Bake on the center rack for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the cookies are set on top and lightly golden on the bottom.

Let the cookies cool for 2 to 3 minutes on the cookie sheet. A few at a time, place the cookies in the bowl of powdered sugar and toss gently to coat well. Transfer the coated cookies to a rack to cool completely. Once cool, repeat the coating process to add a second layer of powdered sugar. Store in an airtight container.

Per cookie: 90 calories; 60 calories from fat (67 percent of total calories); 6 g fat (3 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 10 mg cholesterol; 8 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 4 g sugar; 1 g protein; 15 mg sodium.