Classic Lemon Shortbread

“After you have been a very good person for a very long time and are thin as a bean, you may decide to fall briefly into sin. You will want something simple and elegant that cannot be made without butter. There is only one thing that will do: shortbread.” – Laurie Colwin

I have written before about bookmarking pretty much every recipe out of Laurie Colwin’s books.  It’s hard not to. She writes about classic, unpretentious comfort food that is old-fashioned in a back-to-basics way yet modern in ease and speediness. Dinners, especially weeknight ones, focus on roasts and braises practically anyone can make. Desserts are equally unfussy.

She’s written enthusiastically about chocolate cakes, chocolate pudding, pies, and brownies, basically anything your sweet tooth would crave after a long day at work. And shortbread, which is about the simplest thing in the world to put together. “A child can make it, and often shortbread is the first thing children learn to bake,” she writes in More Home Cooking.

Since my fridge is home to about 3 pounds of butter at any given time, shortbread is also the most convenient dessert to whip up at 9pm, when I’m craving dessert but don’t feel like dashing to the store for ingredients. Recently I tried out Laurie’s Classic Shortbread recipe, while adding some lemon zest for a citrusy flavor. Her recipes tend to be written in a quirky conversational way without ingredient lists, so here is my adaptation.


Classic Lemon Shortbread

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. In a large bowl, cream the butter with the confectioners’ sugar. Add the vanilla.
  3. Continue to mix and work in the flour, baking powder, and salt. The dough will be pretty soft.
  4. Carefully pat the dough into an 8-inch circle on an ungreased baking sheet. Score the dough with a small knife, making 6 wedges. Mark  the outside edges of the circle with a fork by pressing down lightly with the tines.
  5. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, checking at the 18 minute mark, until the edge is golden brown.
  6. Cut the shortbread into wedges while it’s still warm, and transfer the pieces to a cooling rack.

Adapted from the Classic Shortbread recipe in More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchenby Laurie Colwin


More shortbread recipes to try:

Scottish Shortbread from Eating Out Loud

Earl Grey Shortbread from Appetite for China

Salted Honey Lavender Shortbread from Evil Shenanigans

Espresso Shortbread Cookies from Sweet Savory Planet

Honeyed Rosemary Shortbread from Seven Spoons

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Cookies, Desserts, Recipes

4 Responses to Classic Lemon Shortbread

  1. Jessica March 6, 2012 at 2:47 pm #

    This looks so simple and elegant. Would love to try it on a free weekend!

  2. donatella March 7, 2012 at 7:52 am #

    looks delicious and so lemony!!! love this!

  3. emily March 9, 2012 at 5:17 am #

    Pardon my ignorance, I’ve never heard of Laurie Colwin until I read your post. Sounds like her recipes are right up my alley, gotta check her out soon. Classic biscuits are always a winner!



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