The inspiration behind these lemon shortbreads is so cliché it’s not even funny. A little while ago, Life gave me lemons… and because I’m not really one for lemonade, I made cookies instead.
Let me explain: I’ve been using the Click and Collect service at Superstore for quite a while now, with really mixed results. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s basically what the name suggests – you order your groceries online, then pay a small fee to have someone shop for you and bring your order out to your car whenever you choose to pick it up. On one hand, the luxury of not going into the store has ruined me forever (I am naturally anxious and grumpy and avoid crowds of people at all costs); on the other hand, my Click and Collect order has never been 100%. There’s always something that’s “out of stock” (even if it actually isn’t), weird substitutions, damaged products, items straight up missing. It’s not great, but I keep using it. The convenience outweighs the annoyance for me, but just barely.
Anyway! One day I got home from clicking-and-collecting and found that the limes I had ordered were not limes at all, but lemons. Big ol’ lemons. To be fair, one of them had a bit of green on it, soooo…
Whatever! When life gives you lemons, you add sugar and butter to those lemons, that’s what I’ve always said. I decided to make a rich, buttery slab of shortbread and flavour it with my unwanted fruit, AND slather it in a bright, citrusy glaze for good measure. In hindsight, I may have been forcing myself to be optimistic and resourceful since my own misanthropy and laziness were the reasons I ended up with the lemons in the first place. I had better make the best of it.
I love shortbread, but only the dense crumbly kind, not the delicate whipped kind. Thick slabs of proper shortbread can be almost cake-like, especially if they retain some softness in the middle. If soft middles aren’t your jam, go back the way you came! These shortbreads are kind of a cross between a butter cake and a classic shortbread cookie. Scented with lemon zest and vanilla, they’re indulgent yet simple – elegant almost. In other words, the best possible use of accidental lemons.
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons (255g) unsalted butter, slightly warmer than room temperature
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1¾ cups + 2 tablespoons (255g) all purpose flour
- ½ cup + 2 tablespoons (75g) cornstarch
- ⅓ cup (70g) granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
- ¾ cup (90g) icing sugar
- 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Preheat the oven to 325°F/160°C and grease and line a 9"x5" loaf pan with parchment. Sift the flour and cornstarch together into a bowl and set aside.
- Before you start mixing, your butter should be very soft - close to the consistency of mayonnaise. Slightly warm it in the microwave in 5 second bursts if needed. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or by hand with a wooden spoon), combine the butter and salt and beat well. Add the sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla and mix just until combined. Add the dry ingredients and mix just until a soft dough forms.
- Tip the dough into your prepared pan and pat it down evenly. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the edges are lightly golden and the shortbread is firm in the middle. Let it cool on a wire rack for 10 or 15 minutes, until it's cool enough to touch but still warm. With a very sharp knife, cut the shortbread into 12 rectangles. Once cut, you can let the shortbread cool completely.
- With the aid of the parchment, very gently lift the shortbreads out of the pan and place them on a wire rack with a few inches of space between each one. In a small bowl, whisk the icing sugar and lemon juice together until smooth and thick yet pourable, adding more sugar or juice to get the right consistency. Gently spoon the glaze over each shortbread slice, allowing the icing to set for at least 30 minutes before serving.