There might not be an easier cookie for changing, dressing up or down, or adding to than a basic shortbread cookie. When it’s Christmas and I need a new cookie, I often give shortbread the nod for just that reason — and because I love it so. What’s not to love? There are few (5) ingredients that go together with no special work or instructions. Chilling time? Sure, but it’s 30 minutes compared to 2 hours for sugar cookies. And shortbread can taste better than sugar cookies, can’t it? Of course it can and it’s perfect with a wee dram some chilly dark night, in case you didn’t know. And thank God it’s getting chilly again.
This week, needing a last cookie to round out a cookie tray for a Friday-night party, I thought I’d make one of my favorite shortbreads. But which one was it? Lemon came to mind, but I’ve only ever done lemon shortbread bars. A fluted cookie sounded right and I knew just the recipe to grab, wrestle with briefly, and know I’d come out with a top-shelf Lemon Shortbread Cookie. I added the word “Barely” to the title as it’s not overly lemon-y. Just enough to still love the shortbread all the while feeling quite happy from the little lemon buzz. Is there anything better than lemon and butter?Jump to Recipe
Suzy’s Lemon-Almond Shortbread Bars–the More Time Christmas Cookie for 2017
(above) CUTTING OUT THE COOKIES…. If you like fluted cutters with handles, a set of these is an excellent deal. (Mine aren’t this brand, but are similar.) You can make everything from tiny cookies to biscuits with them. They come in a square shape, too, and I do have the Hulisen squares!
(above) I made biscuits and gravy last weekend and you’ll see (upper left) I used a larger fluted cutter from the same set for my biscuits.
(above) PLACING COOKIES ON SHEET/ADDING SUGAR: There will always be a little dough left you can’t cut. Shape it into a small cookie and bake it anyway. You’ll notice it won’t taste the same as the rolled cookies, but it will eat. Back in the baking day, there was a tradition to only give as gifts first-rolled cookies and it’s precisely because re-rolled cookies aren’t as tasty. They’re often warmer, pick up extra flour from the board, and are also not flatly even, which provides for better contact with the cookie sheet and improved baking. The sprinkling of sugar isn’t totally necessary, but creates a pretty sheen and improves browning. At holiday time, you could swap in colored sugars or some other sparkly decoration.
(above) BAKE THEM DONE: One of the biggest cookie baking mistakes is to underbake cookies. These need that golden crunchy bottom for looks, flavor, and texture. Shortbread mustn’t be flabby.
(above) ON THE RACKS: Cooling cookies on a rack is an important step. They need to cool evenly top and bottom before being stored or they’ll become damp and/or soft. At altitude where everything is so dry, we store cookies in Tupperware or something similar the minute they are cool and sometimes even immediately freeze them–especially if we’re baking several kinds of treats for later. Freezing prevents the cookies from going stale so quickly even if we wish we needn’t do it. New altitude bakers often despair about ever having a variety of fresh baked goods all at the same time, but with the freezer, they have more of a chance. If you’re closer to sea level, cookies will keep a bit longer. Shortbread, or any cookie without eggs, lasts longer than cookies made with eggs. I’m unsure why, but it’s true.
My guess is these babies will disappear so quickly you’ll not have to worry much about how long to keep them when you try this, though of course you could share with someone you love or just someone who needs cookies, which is nearly everyone:
Barely Lemon Shortbread Cookies
- 3/4 – pound salted butter, 3 sticks, softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- Zest of one medium lemon
- 1-2 teaspoons lemon juice-if needed
- BEAT TOGETHER THE BUTTER AND SUGAR with an electric mixer until just combined. Add the vanilla and mix briefly.
- ADD THE FLOUR, SALT, AND LEMON ZEST on top of the butter mixture and mix on low until the dough begins to come together. If the dough is too dry and won’t hold together, mix in 1 or 2 teaspoons of lemon juice.
- TURN THE DOUGH OUT onto a floured counter and pat into an oval. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes. (If left longer, you may need to let it warm 10 or more minutes and/or beat it briefly with a rolling pin.)
- PREHEAT THE OVEN TO 350 degrees F and set rack at center.
- DIVIDE THE CHILLED DOUGH INTO THIRDS and pat each into a rectangle. Working with one portion at a time, roll the dough out to ¼-inch thickness and cut into cookies using a 2 ½-inch round, fluted cutter or another cutter of your choice.
- PLACE COOKIES on a cookie sheet one inch apart, and sprinkle each with sugar. Bake one sheet at a time 10 minutes or until just golden on bottom and edges. Cool on racks. Store in a tightly covered container for a week or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Want more than barely lemon? Increase the lemon zest; use the zest of 1 1/2 or 2 lemons.
Need vegan cookies? Use Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks in place of butter.
LIFE GOES ON:
Last weekend, I cooked for a fundraiser for our local Colorado Springs Youth Symphony, called “Night of White Lights.” It’s a ton of fun evening of dinner and dancing with everyone dressed in white….unless it chills off and begins to rain, that is! The location is held a deep, dark secret until the day before the event to increase anticipation, but it’s always a stellar spot. Dave and I were grateful for the invitation to White Lights from our friends Jim and Christa Mahoney and look forward to another year.
What did I make? The Greek Salmon Pasta Salad and two kinds of crostata–lemon-scented pear-almond and apple. Try them now while you can still eat outdoors! (Sorry to Joan and Harley for blotting out your faces, but I don’t have your permission to use the photos. Send it and I’ll change the photo pronto.)
Thanks for keeping me company as the days cool off and you hopefully start to bake again.