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Dog Days and Rosemary Lemon Icebox Cookies

July 25, 2012

Rosemary Lemon Icebox Cookies

It’s been a long, hot summer and it’s only July. But as anyone who’s been plagued with temperatures that sound like numbers on the FM radio dial can attest, “hot” doesn’t do it justice.

Sweltering? Torrid? Oppressive? It’s the kind of heat that makes you snap, “stop touching me!” when your beloved caresses your thigh, your sweaty–not “glistening”–thigh.

I’m not one for talking about the weather. I like to dig a little deeper than “nice day,eh?” even in casual conversations. But when record-setting temperatures hit the three digit mark for days at a time, and are accompanied by muggy air so hot and thick it weighs heavy on my lungs, causing me to wince with every inhalation, well, it’s hard to talk about anything but the weather.

In the 1800s these “dog days” of summer were popularly believed to be an evil time:

“The Sea boiled, the Wine turned sour, Dogs grew mad, and all other creatures became languid; causing to man, among other diseases, burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies.” (John Brady, Clavis Calendaria, 1813)

Sour wine and no air-conditioning? Evil times indeed.

Maybe a heat-induced “phrensy” is to blame for my recent kitchen antics. Why else would I fire up the oven on one of these dog days? Before you begin to speculate on my mental state, you should know that it was for a good cause–cookies, buttery and crisp, sweet but ever so savory, and brightened by a generous amount of fresh lemon zest. They’re the kind of cookies that catch you by surprise, like the naughty librarian, all buttoned up and plain Jane on the plate, but layered with flavors that unfold rather than burst. These rosemary lemon cookies are perfect on their own, but on a sweltering dog day of summer it’s hard to resist a vanilla ice cream sidecar.

Rosemary Lemon Icebox Cookies

Adapted from Martha’s recipe for Icebox Butter Cookies in Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook.


    1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
    3/4 cup powdered sugar
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 large egg
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
    zest of one lemon
    1/3-1/2 cup granulated or raw sugar for rolling the edges (optional)


  1. In the bowl of a mixer, combine the butter, powdered sugar, and salt. Beat on medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat to combine. Scrape down the bowl. Add the flour, rosemary, and lemon zest and mix on low just until the flour is completely incorporated.
  2. Remove the dough from the bowl. Working on parchment or waxed paper, form the dough into 2 logs about 1 1/2-inches in diameter, wrap, and chill until firm or overnight. (The dough also freezes well for up to two months.)
  3. Preheat the oven to 325Β°F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats.
  4. Roll dough logs in remaining sugar, coating them evenly, and slice into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Place about 1-inch apart on prepared baking sheets.
  5. Bake until golden brown on the bottoms, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Makes 4-5 dozen.

Now that you’ve got the oven on, whip up a batch of Chocolate Chip Cookies too.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. July 26, 2012 1:23 am

    Oh, I want those! I want everything you post. The solution is clearly for you to just post recipes while fanning yourself and then I’ll bake in my cold Seattle kitchen & send things your way. πŸ™‚

  2. July 26, 2012 7:53 am

    The fact that you snap at Greg occasionally makes me like you even more! I will definitely be heating up my already sweltering kitchen to try these.

    • July 27, 2012 8:43 am

      πŸ™‚ I try to keep the snapping to a minimum, but when it happens, cookies are Greg’s favorite form of an apology.

  3. July 26, 2012 8:58 am

    I’m not usually drawn to cookies if they don’t have chocolate in them, but these look refreshing and lovely! I think I’ll try them this Saturday!

    • July 27, 2012 8:44 am

      Danae, “refreshing” is a great way to describe these. Hope you enjoy them!

  4. July 26, 2012 1:40 pm

    Sour wine must be evil πŸ˜€ Though we don’t really do air conditioning here. These are a great idea… I imagine they must taste properly good πŸ˜€

    • July 27, 2012 8:47 am

      Our house is over a hundred years old and until three years ago it was without air conditioning. I can’t imagine surviving this summer without it, but I’m desperate for the heat to break so we can swing the windows open wide again.

  5. July 26, 2012 8:07 pm

    I just love herbs in cookies. And, if there’s something that can make this awful summer bearable, this is probably it.

    • July 27, 2012 8:50 am

      Not everyone appreciates herbs in their cookies. I’m hoping to try this recipe with lavender sometime soon. Cheers Michelle!

  6. July 29, 2012 10:13 am

    Ha! The naughty librarian. I love that analogy. These sound delicious. Wish you could come out to to land of misty mornings for a few days of relief. My heart is with you and everyone else in the country who’s sweltering. xo

  7. July 29, 2012 1:48 pm

    Being a Texas girl, Oh how I feel for you! I will make sure not to mention that it was 60 degrees this morning- crazy Washington! πŸ˜‰ These cookies look worth turning the oven on! I love rosemary in dessert.

  8. February 15, 2013 1:39 pm

    I wasn’t brave enough to turn on the oven last summer, so I’ve been saving this recipe! I made them as frosted cut-out cookies for Valentine’s Day (not a sugar cookie fan), but I couldn’t really pick up on the lemon flavor. Will try them again in log form, a little thicker, with some lemon extract. I posted a similar recipe for lavender cookies a while back – highly recommend them! The rosemary in these reminded me of those. YES to herbs!

    • February 19, 2013 5:36 pm

      Jen, thank you for taking the time to let me know how these turned out for you. My experience with the lemon has been mixed. Like you, I sometimes find it to be too mild, but I’ve blamed the rosemary as some varieties taste stronger than others and can overpower the lemon.

      I’ve been saving a bag of lavender from our garden for months. It’t going into your lovely tea cookies this weekend. Thank you!

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