Melissa Clark’s Lemon Shortbread

Melissa Clark's shortbread

As a matter of principle, I have always made my husband promise that we will not be swept into the commercialism that is unfortunately attached to Valentine’s Day. I do not like making an extra big deal out of that day, but we certainly do not let it pass unnoticed. After all, we have a lot of love in our family to celebrate and be grateful for.

Last Thursday, there were lots of little surprises throughout the day; beginning with heart-shaped toasts for breakfast (a low effort surprise that yielded much happiness from my daughter!), beautiful deep red roses from my husband, teuscher chocolates and these cookie hearts. For me, there was really no better way to say “I LOVE YOU, MY VALENTINES” to my kids than presenting them with these adorable lemon shortbread hearts to munch on. They are the biggest cookie monsters I know.

The recipe for these shortbread come from Melissa Clark and I made the citrus variation using the zest of two organic lemons. I admit that I often can’t help myself from adapting recipes to suit my mood or my laziness but when it comes to baking, I very rarely mess with the stipulated size of baking tins/pans. In this case however, I had to. The recipe required me to press the dough into an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan but I found it came 3/4-way up the sides of my 9-inch pan when I did so. That would give me shortbread of a brownie proportion and not the dainty cookies I intended for Valentine’s Day.

So I transferred the dough into a 9″ x 13″ pan and monitored it closely while it was baking in the oven, pulling it out only when it was golden on the edges. I didn’t take note of the time but it took no more than 35 minutes in my oven.

Do you like watching your cookie dough or cake batter baking in the oven? I do. I like to switch on the oven light and watch the heat transform raw dough or batter into baked cookies or cakes. The science behind all this fascinates me.

And I have to say I prefer the shortbread better baked in a larger pan. It came out about 1/4-inch thick and was perfect for using a cookie-cutter to cut out hearts with. These cookies cut/slice much better when warm as they have not totally hardened. They do taste better when completely cooled though, the flavours becoming more pronounced as they age. I especially like the salty edge these cookies have.

I like to enjoy my shortbread (a plain Jane cookie that is deceivingly rich) in delicate bites and this was perfect. My daughter, ever the one to gild the lily, likes to enjoy her hearts frosted with Nutella. There were plenty of cookie hearts to share from this single batch and I packed a little bagful for my friend and her sons to enjoy.

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