This recipe takes us back beyond the 1960s to the very beginning of American cooking. In fact, its roots are in the first cookbook ever published here, a 1796 work called American Cookery, printed in Hartford, Connecticut, by Hudson & Goodwin. Its author, Amelia Simmons, described herself simply as “An American Orphan” and left behind few records of her life. Her recipes for British-inspired cookery are her legacy.
The book includes just two cookie recipes. One is “Another Christmas Cookey,” which begins, “To three pound of flour, sprinkle a tea cup of fine powdered coriander seed, rub in one pound of butter, and one and a half pound sugar …” Spices such as aniseed, coriander, and caraway seeds were prized in 18th-century British and American cooking, and caraway cookies remained popular in New England over the decades, appearing many times in Yankee. This recipe comes from a December 1962 story, during a period of renewed interest in historic foods. The cookies were delicious but a little plain, so we made some adjustments, including a lemon glaze. Now they’re perfect: fragrant, buttery, and just sweet enough.
Using a hand-held or standing mixer, beat the sugar and eggs in a large bowl until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the butter in a slow drizzle, beating as you go. Add the lemon extract and beat to combine.
In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry mixture to the wet ingredients and beat until evenly combined.
Divide the dough into two equal portions, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until chilled, at least 30 minutes, or up to 1 day.
Preheat your oven to 350° and set two racks to the middle, with space in between. Grease two baking sheets or line with parchment paper.
Dust the counter with flour and roll out the first portion of dough about ⅛ inch thick. Sprinkle all over with 1 tablespoon of caraway seeds; then roll once more with the pin.
Cut into shapes with cookie cutters and arrange on the prepared baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Gather and reroll dough as needed. Repeat with the second portion of dough.
Bake until golden around the edges, 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through. Transfer to wire racks to cool.
Make the glaze: Drizzle 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice into 2 cups of confectioners’ sugar, and stir with a fork until it forms a smooth paste with the consistency of honey. Add another tablespoon of lemon juice if needed. Set the wire racks over waxed paper and drizzle each cookie with a teaspoon of glaze, using the back of a spoon to spread. Sprinkle with a pinch of caraway seeds. These cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to 1 week.