really lovely lemon shortbread

belinda jeffery's recipes

My recipes are easy. They’re for the food I like to eat. Simple, fresh, full of flavour and just a bit different. You certainly don't need any great cooking skills for them, you just need to like food and like eating – just like me. The rest is simple.

really lovely lemon shortbread

Although rather plain-looking, these simple biscuits belie their buttery, quietly addictive lemon flavour and melt-in-the-mouth texture which I so love. They’re awfully quick and easy to whiz up in a food processor - so much so that I quite often double the recipe and freeze the extra dough to use down the track, as the biscuits go so well with everything from a cup of tea, to ice cream, to simple fruit desserts.

In the recipe I suggest making just one bon-bon of biscuit dough, however by all means make two squatter rolls and freeze one to use later – it keeps well in the freezer for 6 weeks, and just needs defrosting in the fridge before you slice and bake the biscuits.

1 1/2 cups (225 g) plain flour
1/4 cup (35 g) cornflour
1/4 teaspoon salt
250g unsalted butter, at cool room temperature, cut into rough chunks
1/2 cup (110 g) caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 packed tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (from about 2 lemons)
2 tablespoons flaked almonds
Up to 1 tablespoon white sugar, for sprinkling

Put the flour, cornflour and salt into the bowl of a food processor and whiz them together so they’re thoroughly mixed, then tip them into a bowl. Now, put the butter, caster sugar and vanilla extract into the food processor. Whiz them together for 40 seconds until the mixture is pale and creamy. (You’ll probably have to stop the machine once or twice as you do this to scrape down the sides with a spatula.)

Finally, add the lemon zest and flour mixture to the butter mixture and pulse the processor in short bursts until they form a dough that just comes together; try not to over-do this mixing or the shortbread may be a bit tough.

Now lay a large sheet of foil on the bench and cover it with a sheet of baking paper. Turn out the dough onto a chopping board and roll and pat it with your hands to shape it into a log about 40 cm long. If the dough seems too soft to do this (which it can be, particularly on a hot day), chill it for a little while first so it firms up a bit. Sit the log along one side of the baking paper and roll it up in the paper. Next, roll it in the foil. Twist the ends tightly in opposite directions so you end up with something that looks like a very long, neat bon-bon. Put this in the fridge and chill it for at least 4 hours or until it is firm enough to slice. (If you want smaller biscuits, make two separate bon-bons, as one long, skinny one gets a bit awkward to handle comfortably.)

Preheat your oven to 160C. Line 2-3 baking sheets with baking paper.

Unwrap the shortbread bon-bon and cut it into slices about 8mm thick – the ends are usually a bit oddly-shaped having been twisted tightly, so I have to confess I usually trim these off and pop them in my mouth (I find shortbread dough unbelievably delicious!). Sit the slices on the prepared baking sheets leaving a 3-4cm gap between each one, as they spread a bit. Sprinkle the tops with the flaked almonds then the sugar.

Bake the shortbread biscuits for 25 minutes, or until they’re golden around the edges and on the bottom. To check, break one in half; it should be virtually cooked through to the centre (once it’s cooled I always think of this broken biscuit as the cook’s treat!). Remove the biscuits from the oven and leave them to firm up on their sheets for a couple of minutes, then carefully transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Store the shortbread in an airtight jar or tin for up to a fortnight – interestingly the flavour is often deeper and richer after a few days. The baked biscuits freeze surprisingly well too; to freeze them, layer the cooled biscuits between sheets of freezer wrap or baking paper in an airtight container. Seal the container tightly and store it in the freezer for 4-5 weeks. (The mixture makes 35 biscuits.)

It’s useful to know that... Shortbread bakes most evenly at lower temperatures as the slow heat allows the centre to cook through and be as ‘short’ as the edges. However, it’s not always easy to tell when the biscuits are ready, so after they’ve cooled if you feel they’re not quite as cooked through and crisp as they should be, don’t hesitate to reheat the oven and put the biscuits back in on their baking sheets for a little longer. I’ve done this many times and it works a treat.

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