Lemon shortbread is crisp on the outside, buttery soft inside, with a lovely aromatic lemon flavor. This easy elegant dessert literally melts in your mouth!
lemon shortbread is so versatile
Lemon shortbread is a versatile dessert that can go from simple and rustic to all decked depending on the way you want to serve it. (I actually like to eat it for breakfast with a cup of coffee.) It’s a thick shortbread that has a nice crunch on the outside and a buttery melt-in-your-mouth texture. The surprise is the burst of lemon flavor, which really sets this recipe apart from others. This same dough can be baked up in a square pan, or even as cookies if you prefer. I love the tart presentation because it’s instant elegance that can easily be dressed up for company.
you’ll need 4 ingredients (plus 2 optionals)
- one lemon ~ peel the zest (the yellow part) off with a vegetable peeler.
- granulated sugar
- unsalted butter, softened.
- all purpose flour
- lemon paste or extract, optional, but boosts the lemon flavor.
- sparkling sugar for the top, also optional. I add a drop of yellow food coloring to my sparkling sugar.
the difference between lemon paste and lemon extract
Lemon paste is thick like honey and is made with the oils from real lemons. I prefer the flavor to most lemon extracts, which tend to be harsher. But you do need to use more lemon paste. 1 tablespoon of lemon paste = 1 teaspoon of extract.
Lemon extract is also made by extracting the lemon oils from the peel, but is a little more concentrated than paste. 1 teaspoon lemon extract = 1 teaspoon lemon zest or 2 tablespoons lemon juice.
We prick the surface of shortbread with the tines of a fork because this helps steam escape during baking so the shortbread doesn’t puff up. With shortbread what you put in the oven should be what you take out of the oven ~ no rising.
Shortbread dough is a simple combination of sugar, butter, and flour. Any excess moisture will change the texture of this classic dough. We achieve the lemon flavor in this recipe with zest (it’s where the lemon flavor is anyway!) and a little lemon extract or lemon paste. This shortbread is not tart and tangy like a lemon bar, rather it has a soft aromatic lemon flavor.
Yes, it would be delicious.
The best way to slice shortbread is while it’s still warm. I let it cool for about 10 minutes in the tart pan, then lift it out of the pan on the removable bottom. From there I usually gently remove the tart from the metal bottom plate. This can be tricky, and I find a very thin metal cake lifter or spatula works great. (You can slice the tart right on the metal plate if you like.)
I slice the shortbread using a large sharp knife. Sometimes it helps to make shallow score marks where you’re going to cut, but generally it is soft enough to slice easily when it’s warm.
Baked shortbread freezes well, just let it cool completely, then wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and then again in foil. Use within 3 months.
lemon shortbread serving suggestions
I cooked my shortbread in a tart pan, but you can also use a square baking pan, or roll and cut the dough into cookies. My slices, above, are super generous, you could easily get double the servings from this recipe.
- Serve alone, alongside coffee, tea, or after dinner drinks.
- Top with fresh berries and whipped cream.
- Add a scoop of ice cream ~ rhubarb or lemon would be nice!
- Omit the sugar topping and glaze the shortbread with a tart lemon icing: mix confectioner’s sugar with lemon juice to make a glaze consistency. Drizzle or spread it over the cooled shortbread.
- If you want to glam this tart up for a spring celebration, think about garnishing with edible flowers, pansies would be perfect.
we can’t get enough shortbread
- Sparkly Strawberry Shortbread Cookies
- Chocolate Chunk Shortbread Cookies
- Butter Pecan Shortbread
- Savory Herb Shortbread (and Party Printables!)
- Cranberry Orange Shortbread Cookies
- 10 inch tart pan with removeable bottom
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- zest of 1 large lemon, peeled with a vegetable peeler. Note: you want just the yellow part, not the bitter white pith.
- Preheat your oven to 350F Set the rack in the middle of the oven.
for the lemon sugar
- Put the sugar and lemon zest in the bowl of a full sized food processor fitted with the metal blade. Process until the zest is completely incorporated into the sugr and it is pale yellow. I like to pulse first and then process briefly. This should only take a minute.
for the lemon shortbread
- Put the lemon sugar into a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl and add the butter, salt, and lemon paste or extract. Cream together until well combined.
- Add the flour and blend just until completely incorporated.
- Transfer the dough to your tart pan. I like to drop pieces of dough all over the bottom of the pan to distribute it more or less evenly.
- Then press/pat the dough into a flat even surface across the pan surface. I like to use an offset spatula to help with this process.
- Use the tines of a fork to prick the surface of the dough all over. This will help prevent the dough from puffing up as it bakes. Sprinkle with sparkling sugar.
- Bake the tart for about 40 minutes, until just starting to turn golden around the edges.
- Let the tart cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then gently lift the bottom of the pan out from the sides. I like to lightly score my dough with my knife as a guide for slicing.
- While the tart is still warm (and soft) slice it into wedges. You can slice in 8 or 16 slices, depending on how large you want your servings to be.
- Serve as is, or with fresh berries and whipped cream.