Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Lemon Scented Shortbread

For full flavor minus tartness

Meyer Lemon Shortbread

The urge to use the Meyer Lemons in a dessert had been quite strong for a while, even though I was trying very hard to use them in healthy(ier) everyday things that use lemons anyway. A good squeeze flavored a batch of hummus, some went into guacamole, in dal, in rasam, in all good things that need a little tartness. However, other than some lemon zest in a pasta with broccoli, the zest had been largely neglected. It had also been a long time since I baked anything with just good old flour, sugar, and butter. So finally, I gave in, and decided to do something sweet with the lemons.

I used a recipe for Lavender Shortbread from pastry chef Gale Gand, but used Meyer lemon zest instead of dried lavender. Very tender, flaky, and pleasantly lemon flavored, these were delightful to bake, and even more so to eat. I have made shortbread cookies before, but this was the first time I used a recipe that calls for cornstarch, and I don't know if that was the reason but these were one of the best I have ever eaten. Dare I say, even better than some of those special packages of black and red tartan that come from countries yonder.

They are also likely to be easily adaptable to other flavors, as long it is something that can provide big flavor in small doses. Orange zest for sure, but I think cardamom, which is a huge favorite of mine, would also do well.

The recipe is perfect as it is but I used a food processor with the dough blade instead of a stand mixer. I thought that 1/4th teaspoon salt would be too much, and that just a pinch would suffice. I am noting the recipe here for future use, along with some changes that might make it more useful.

As an aside, this was easily the most distracting photo session I have had with food. At every moment I wanted to grab one of those cookies, making it very difficult to focus. Yes, pun intended.

Meyer Lemon Shortbread: b&w

Meyer Lemon Shortbread

Tender, flaky, and not too sweet


8 tablespoons (1 stick) cool unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
pinch of salt
zest of two lemons, about 1 teaspoon


Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8 by 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper.

Stir together the flour, cornstarch, and salt in a medium bowl.

Cream the butter until soft in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or in a food processor with the dough blade. Add 1/4 cup sugar and mix until incorporated.

Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix at low speed just until the ingredients are almost incorporated, then add the lemon zest, and mix until the dough starts to come together.

Flour a work surface, turn the dough onto it, and knead it 5 to 10 times, to bring the dough together and smooth it out. Reflour the work surface. With a rolling pin, roll the dough out to a little less than 1/4-inch thick to fit the 8 by 8-inch pan.

To transfer to the pan, roll the dough up onto the rolling pin, lift it up, and unroll into the pan. Or, press the dough thoroughly into the pan with your fingers. Prick the shortbread all over with a fork, to prevent any buckling or shrinking. Sprinkle the surface evenly with 1 tablespoon of the remaining sugar.

Bake for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, deflate the dough by knocking the pan once against the oven rack then rotate the pan to ensure even cooking and a flat surface. Bake 10 to 15 minutes more, until golden all over and very lightly browned. As soon as it comes out of the oven, sprinkle the surface evenly with the remaining tablespoon of sugar. Let cool about 5 minutes. Using a very sharp knife, cut into 3 rows by 5 rows making about 1 1/2-inch by 3-inch bars.

Let cool completely in the pan. Remove from the pan and store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Sending this to Jhiva - Lime and Lemon.


bee said...

i'd pay good money for those.

Ashwini said...

Better than Walker's? They sure look great. I am a citrus fan myself so I'd love the Meyer lemon tartness.
Read about a meyer lemon custard somewhere..wonder what that'd taste like.
PS - I lurrve that Mexican (?) bowl.

sra said...

The first thing that strikes me about this shortbread is that it looks so white (more of pale yellow, I know) and clean!

Miri said...

Yummy, and you said without the tartness?I'm sold ! for some reason I don't seem to like the tartness in lemon based desserts, so if it isnt tart Im sure I would love it!

TheCooker said...

The taste is as pure as their appearance, I'm sure.

Asha said...

I thought of making these too and changed into something Lemony at the last minute!:))
Looks yum.

Richa said...

u put those lemons to such good use :) isn't homegrown the best :)

evolvingtastes said...

bee, I would too, but sometimes I like to think that I can make these (and better) at home too.

Ash, to be fair, these shouldn't be compared to walkers, because they are different. These are more like the ones available in small bakeries here. Either way, what I liked is that these do not give you buttery fingers after eating. So that's great, eh!
The bowl you lurrve is 'made in portugal', bought here.

sra, the main ingredients are all in shades of white and cream, but the whiteness is also mainly because of the last sprinkle of sugar, and then the light that the sugar crystals reflect is magnified even more while taking a photograph. As for clean, uhhmmm, what did you really think of me, pal?

Miri, I am not fond of tart desserts either. So sweets with the zest, and juice for the rest. hah!

TheCooker, taste is very pure, yes. :-)

Asha, look forward to find out what you whipped up.

Richa, thanks. Homegrown is definitely great, but I am too lazy.

musical said...

Such a pristine looking lemon shortbread! LOVE those pictures!

evolvingtastes said...

Thanks Musical, appreciate that.

Cynthia said...

I bet these smell just as good as they taste.

sra said...

Hey, you know what I mean - okay, I'll be specific - no shades of brown, as is wont to happen in baking, and a lovely, even smooth surface.
But I've done this before - I said the same thing to a friend who'd made potato fry without any spices - oh my, they look so clean, I said, of the potato cubes, and she was very happy because she thought I was complimenting her about how clean her kids were!

evolvingtastes said...

sra, yes of course, I totally know what you meant! :)

Rasa Malaysia said...

Every other food blog that I read is raving about meyer lemons...I have gotta join the meyer lemons bandwagon soon. :)

evolvingtastes said...

Hi Rasa, I wasn't on any sort of bandwagon, but I just happened to have a whole bunch of them in my backyard.

Update for Manisha, if you read this: Since I usually buy limes for regular 'limbu' use, I had forgotten how thick the skin of regular lemons can be. Indeed, the Meyers have much thinner and softer skin.

ServesYouRight said...

Oye!!! Lovely lovely flavor - you got me wanting some :-D


Miz Threefivesix said...

This recipe is going straight on my next baking list. Sadly, Meyer lemons are not available in these parts, but I'll try and get Italian ones at least. Thanks!

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