Adapted from American Cookie by Anne Byrn. Reprinted with permission from Rodale/Penguin Random House, 2018.
¾ cup unsalted butter, vegetable shortening, or lard
2 cups dark brown sugar, lightly packed
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon warm water
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or grated lemon zest
3¾ cups flour, plus more for rolling out cakes
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and position a rack in the center. In a large mixing bowl, combine butter and sugar. Using an electric mixer, beat on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Dissolve baking soda in warm water, then spoon into butter mixture. Add salt and vanilla or zest; mix until incorporated.
While beating on low speed, slowly add flour just until mixture comes together into a stiff dough. (You may not use all the flour.)
Sprinkle flour onto a clean work surface and turn out dough. Roll dough to ¼-inch thickness, cut into 2-inch circles, and place on ungreased baking pans.
Bake until cookies are lightly browned around the edges and still a little soft in the center, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove cakes immediately from pan and place on a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.