Shortbread’s a Scots thing. Good with tea in the afternoon or a wee dram late at night.
below: Dave and I on the Isle of Skye tasting whisky (Scotch) off the northwestern coast of Scotland
It’s also the favorite cookie of Suzy, hence the name Suzy’s Lemon-Almond Shortbread Bars, in honor of my dear friend of nearly forty years. Suzy is not a happy baker, and every few years will declare she’s never baking again. She is, however, a top-drawer cook and a gelato-maker par excellence, and has always loved to entertain. An invitation to dinner at Suzy’s is a precious thing and much coveted in her circle of friends.
above: Suzy with puppy Tucker
While it’s fun to work on a new cookie, it’s also not exactly something I do on a daily basis like–you guessed it–soup and other one-pot wonders. But I’ve always been a big big cookie baker and so each season I’ll find a new something sweet to try right along with my forever favorites. Sometimes it’s a new recipe from a wonderful cookbook like DORIE’S COOKIES, but occasionally it’s a recipe I developed or created myself.
This year it’s my own Suzy’s Lemon-Almond Shortbread Bars; last year, it was Chocolate-Peppermint Shortbread Cookies. I think I see a theme here.
I’m a forever Hillary fan, but as a crazy-about-baking-cookies person always felt a tad fake-wounded by her quote,
I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession, which I entered before my husband was in public life.
Of course, by now, the quote has long been bandied about and even inspired a cookie-baking contest sponsored by THE FAMILY CIRCLE–all done in good-natured fun. In fact, last year, Bill Clinton entered.
Bar cookies are the best, the easiest, the least time-consuming, most popular, and often the least-expensive treat at holiday time, which was always a consideration for me as a baker. For many years, I would begin buying and collecting baking supplies in September so the cost of my baking addiction didn’t wreck the November and December food budgets. While I’m not quite in that tight situation any more, I’m totally in tune with it and enjoy things all the more if they’re penny-wise.
This cookie fits right in that profile with its simplicity… No special, expensive ingredients or methods. No rolling and cutting. No decorating or frosting. No log of dough in the fridge overnight. Just quick, sweet, lemony-nutty crispy cookies in a 9×13 pan to comfort and celebrate, to take to the book club, or to enjoy on the plane. Kids in the house? Have them make these with you. There’s nothing like baking to build relationships, confidence, and self-esteem. Try this:
SUZY’S LEMON-ALMOND SHORTBREAD BARS
makes one 9X13-inch pan of cookies
If you’re more of a walnut person, do swap the almonds out for walnuts and use a whole teaspoon of vanilla extract instead of 1/2 teaspoon almond extract and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Orange zest, rather than lemon, is a tasty variation, and pairs well with a dark chocolate, rather than a white chocolate drizzle.
- 1 cup salted butter (2 sticks), quite soft
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- Lemon zest from two fresh lemons (about 2 tablespoons)
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/2 teaspoon each almond extract and vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
- 1 cup sliced almonds, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup white chocolate chips for drizzling over baked and cooled bars*
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Place rack at center. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking pan.
MAKE THE COOKIE DOUGH IN MIXER/FOOD PROCESSOR: Beat the butter in an electric mixer or pulse several times in a food processor; slowly add the sugar and the lemon zest, beating/processing all until light and fluffy. Add in the egg and extracts; mix well. Slowly add first the flour and then the finely chopped almonds, beating/pulsing until the dough is well-combined and holds together.
PRESS THE DOUGH INTO THE PAN, BAKE, CUT, AND COOL: Press dough evenly into a lightly greased 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Bake 40 minutes or until light golden. Cool briefly. Cut into 42 or 49 rectangles while still warm. Place cookies on cooling rack and cool completely.
MELT CHOCOLATE AND DRIZZLE OVER COOKIES: In a small, heavy saucepan melt the white chocolate over very low heat, stirring, and drizzle over cooled bars.** Let dry completely. Store at room temperature in a tightly covered container in layers divided by pieces of waxed paper for two weeks or in freezer for six months.
*You could skip the white chocolate drizzle and eat the bars as is or dusted with powdered sugar (use a sugar shaker or a fine mesh strainer).
**Drizzle with fork. You can also spoon melted chocolate into a small plastic bag, cut a very tiny snip in the corner of the bag, and squeeze gently over cookies to drizzle.
Note: Recipe was inspired by “Almond Shortbread” from CHRISTMAS COOKIES, published by Oxmoor House, Inc., 1986.
Stay home, save gas, have fun, and bake a new cookie,