Shortbread is a glorious mix of butter, sugar, and flour. I added lemon zest and it became even better, with a nice zing cutting through that buttery amazingness! The dough can be refrigerated for a day before baking and the baked shortbread keeps very well. A great holiday idea!
I love shortbread. It's so easy to make and so difficult to screw up!
About this recipe
- Citrus zest: adding it really makes it stand out. There is a nice acidity that cuts through all that butter and sugar in the best way. Because it is a rich cookie.
- It's easier to make than the Citrus Coconut Shortbread because there's no need to make and glaze individual cookies.
- Storing: it keeps well in an airtight tin (preferably) and also you can make the dough a day ahead, pat it in the pan, cover it and refrigerate until ready to bake.
- Serving it: it can be used to accompany ice cream, to serve with after-dinner coffee, or simply as part of a dessert table with other more sophisticated recipes.
Easy, everyday ingredients
As you can see in the image above, shortbread ingredients are simple and I bet you have them at home right now.
The original trinity of ingredients is butter, flour, and sugar.
Most recipes nowadays usually include some salt (it enhances the flavors). And maybe powdered sugar or cornstarch to achieve a melt-in-your-mouth quality.
This particular recipe today uses powdered sugar for the dough and a small amount of granulated sugar for sprinkling the shortbread before baking; it creates a crunchy crust and a nice, golden color.
These will apply to most recipes, but let's get into the details for this lemon version.
- Cream butter. It should be at room t° so you should be able to do it with a spatula.
- Add lemon zest (image 1). I grate it directly over the butter.
- Add powdered sugar and mix well (image 2).
- Add flour and salt. You can do it in 2 batches. You might feel it's too much flour and that it will never combine well (image 3).
- But trust the process and keep on scraping the ingredients together with the spatula until you have a wonderful, smooth dough (image 4).
Filling the pan
The best way to fill the pan is to transfer the dough from the bowl to the pan in pieces, little mounds distributed through the bottom.
That way when you spread it will be evener. If you dump it all in the middle and start to pat it (with your fingers) it will be harder to distribute it as evenly as possible.
Shortbread will get a crisp top if it's golden enough.
In this version, we aid that step by adding a tablespoon or two of sugar before baking. It will stay there (not seep into the dough) and will add a nice crunch.
This is optional but highly recommended. You can use brown sugar for a more caramel crunch.
When is shortbread fully baked?
This is a great question as it usually has people going for the barely colored shortbread, or the golden finish.
just like cookies, it depends on personal taste. Do you like softer, lighter cookies, or go for the crisper more golden ones?
I alternate between both but tend to like a crispier, golden-colored shortbread (image below).
Cutting the shortbread
This part is essential that you do it while the shortbread is still hot. That is, about ten minutes after you take it out of the oven.
Using a smooth bladed knife, cut strips lengthwise and then do the same to the other side, creating a criss-cross pattern (see image above).
Alternatively, cut squares or triangles (cutting said squares in half diagonally).
I recommend cutting small portions as it is a very rich and buttery cookie.
Frequently asked questions
I find that it's better a few days after it's baked because the flavors are more balanced. You do have to store them in a tightly closed tin (ideally) so that they don't loose their crunchiness.
Yes, you can. Either the unbaked dough already in the pan or the baked cookies or fingers. This last option I recommend doing so after cutting and separating the pieces. And always remember to wrap the pan or the cookies well to avoid as much freezer burn and ice as you can.
To avoid the butter from melting before the shortbread is baked. This is crucial to get that crunchy bite. And also especially important if you're making cookies instead of a whole pan (as we do in this recipe), so that they keep their shape and prevent them from spreading too much.
In an airtight tin it can last several weeks. This will depend on how it was baked. Slow, even baking produces crunchier shortbread that lasts longer.
Holiday ideas with this recipe
It all comes down to different flavorings and toppings.
Make a large batch, double (or triple?) this recipe.
From there you can:
Flavorings - divide the dough in as many flavors you want and add to each portion a different citrus zest or spice or ground nuts. You can add more than one, like lemon zest and walnuts.
Different shapes - I cut them into sticks, but they can be cut in triangles, squares, diamonds.
Toppings - glaze them with a powdered sugar glaze or chocolate ganache. Before the glaze sets, you can sprinkle citrus zest, ground nuts, or even festive sprinkles.
Gift: put dry ingredients in a jar, attach a nice card with instructions and give them out as gifts.
Other recipes you might like:
Let me know if you make this recipe! I’d love to hear what you think about it.
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This Lemon Shortbread is a glorious mix of butter, flour, sugar and lemon zest. It has a nice zing cutting through the buttery amazingness!
- ¾ cup (175g) unsalted butter, at room t°
- 1 and ¼ cups (175g) all-purpose or cake flour
- Large pinch of salt
- Zest of 1 small lemon
- ½ cup (70g) powdered sugar, sifted
- 1-2 tablespoon granulated sugar, for topping
- Have ready a 9-inch (20x20cm) square pan, lined with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl mix soft butter with powdered sugar, salt and lemon zest.
- Mix well so there are no lumps.
- Add flour in 2 parts, mixing with the spatula until it is smooth, well combined and no dry spots remain.
- Transfer the dough to the prepared pan, scattering small amounts on the bottom.
- With your hand, lightly pat the dough until it covers the whole surface. Make sure the edges are covered.
- Make it as even as possible, but relax because it will not be very smooth.
- Refrigerate the whole pan, covered in plastic wrap, for 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
- Preheat oven to 325°F/160*C.
- Bake shortbread for 40-45 minutes, until top is dry, it has puffed a little and is beginning to color.
- You can leave a couple more minutes if you want a more golden shortbread. Just don’t let it dry out.
- Let cool 10 minutes on a wire rack and carefully cut into sticks or squares o triangles with a smooth bladed knife.
- Let cool completely, lift off the pan with the aid of the parchment paper and carefully break each piece.
- Keep in airtight cookie jars or tins.
Dough: once you have it patted in the pan, the unbaked shortbread can be kept for 24 hours in the fridge, or frozen for up to a month, always well wrapped. Bake directly from the freezer.
Make-ahead: shortbread keeps well for several days in airtight tins or jars.
Flavorings: use other citrus, add a teaspoon of your favorite spice, glaze after baked, add a tablespoon of ground nuts to the dough.
Keywords: lemon shortbread