lemon shortbread

This tiny lemon shortbread cookie is soft and tender and buttery. A lovely variation on traditional shortbread.

This tiny lemon shortbread cookie is soft and tender and buttery. A lovely variation on traditional shortbread.

This isn’t a totally new recipe to me, but it is new to the blog – does that count? I hope so, because I’ve got a few more older recipes up my sleeve that I’m looking forward to sharing. I’ve only made this cookie once before – last Christmas – and I remember it being pretty popular. If you’ve read my blog before, then you must be well aware how much I love lemon cookies. And based on how quickly my friends and coworkers eat them, I’m not alone in this. 

This tiny lemon shortbread cookie is soft and tender and buttery. A lovely variation on traditional shortbread.

This is another recipe from the Miette cookbook. It doesn’t contain a lot of cookie recipes, but they’re all adorably tiny and I can’t wait to make them all. When I baked these last year and again this year, I had some trouble figuring out the sizing and quantity. From what I can tell from the photo in the book, this cookie is less than 1/4″ thick. But the instruction is to roll the dough out to 1/2″. So I thought maybe that means it spreads a lot? But the recipe specifies to cut them to 1″ square, and that the final cookies will be 1-1/4″ square. That’s not a lot of spreading. I tried one at 1/2″ thick just to see what would happen, and if anything it puffed up even more. So I ended up rolling them out to 1/4″ thick. And they puffed up to almost 1/2″ in the oven. *sigh*

It looks nothing like the photo in the book.

This tiny lemon shortbread cookie is soft and tender and buttery. A lovely variation on traditional shortbread.

I don’t really mind, though. It’s a lovely little cookie. It doesn’t have that crumbly melt-in-your-mouth sablé texture that I associate with shortbread, but is soft and tender. One of my coworkers asked me to bake another batch that she could give out at Christmas, so I had a busy weekend making these again, plus the two recipes I had already planned to make. I’m already out of flour again…

This tiny lemon shortbread cookie is soft and tender and buttery. A lovely variation on traditional shortbread.

The only thing I would do differently in future is maybe roll them even thinner. And maybe mix some extra zest in with the sanding sugar that gets sprinkled on top for an extra punch of lemon.

This tiny lemon shortbread cookie is soft and tender and buttery. A lovely variation on traditional shortbread.

lemon shortbread

<h2>lemon shortbread</h2>

Adapted from Miette: Recipes From San Francisco's Most Charming Pastry Shop by Meg Ray. The recipe states it'll make about 42 1-1/4" cookies when rolled 1/2" thick, but that didn't make sense to me based on the photo in the book. I rolled the dough about 1/4" thick and got around 60 cookies.


2/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (about 2 medium-sized lemons)

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

6 tablespoons heavy cream

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

for the topping

granulated or sanding sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Using a mortar & pestle or a spice grinder, combine the sugar and lemon zest together. I opted to just blend them together with my fingers until the zest was distributed and the sugar was fragrant.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and cold butter, and beat on low speed until the mixture is crumbly and resembles coarse cornmeal. Add the sugar/zest mixture, cream, and vanilla, and continue to mix until it clumps together and a dough is formed.

If the dough is too soft, it can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for about 30 minutes before continuing. Otherwise, on a lightly floured surface, a silpat sheet, or a sheet of wax or parchment paper (whatever your preference), roll the dough out to 1/4? thickness (or 1/2" if you want to try the original recipe recommendation – maybe it'll work better for you). Using a ruler as a guide, square off the edges and cut the dough into 1" squares with a sharp knife or a pizza cutter.

Transfer the squares to your baking sheet, about 2" apart, and sprinkle lightly with sanding sugar. Bake for about 10-12 minutes, until lightly golden brown, rotating the baking sheet halfway through. Allow to cool on a wire rack for a few minutes before removing the cookies from the pan and allowing them to cool completely.

Comments: 14

  1. Dina December 23, 2013 at 6:54 pm Reply

    these look amazing!

  2. Elizabeth @ SugarHero.com December 26, 2013 at 8:32 am Reply

    These sound delicious!! I love lemon AND shortbread, so I’m sure I would adore these! (PS you probably know this, but just in case you don’t, the Miette cookbook has tons of problems in the earlier printings and there’s a really long list of errata on the Miette site. It’s probably linked from the Amazon page if you can’t find it. Just wanted to let you know that you’re not alone in being confused by terrible directions!)

    • laurel @ wannacomewith December 26, 2013 at 9:47 am Reply

      Hi Elizabeth! Yes, I heard about the problems with the book after I bought it – they have the errata on their site and this is one of the recipes mentioned, but the only error listed for this one is that the recipe should yield 42 cookies rather than the printed 48. I’m still confused by the sizing issue… but no matter, it makes a good cookie regardless! 🙂

  3. Bianca August 6, 2014 at 11:06 pm Reply

    I made this lemon shortbread and it came out really soft and chewy! I loved them. This was also very easy to make and will definitely be one of my favorite recipes!

    • laurel @ wannacomewith August 6, 2014 at 11:12 pm Reply

      Bianca, I’m so happy to hear you liked them, and thank you so much for letting me know! 🙂

      • Barbara July 10, 2016 at 3:48 pm Reply

        Can these be frozen for 3 weeks? I’d love to serve them at an event but I won’t be able to do last minute baking. All the cookies I make will have to be frozen.

        • laurel @wannacomewith July 10, 2016 at 3:51 pm Reply

          Hi Barbara – I don’t see why not. I haven’t tried it with this particular recipe, but in my experience cookies always freeze well unless they’re frosted.

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  5. Tammy Zeller May 9, 2017 at 11:39 am Reply

    Made for mothers day for mother in law. Traditional English lemon shortbread my miter loved but passed away Christmas. So to honor them both. Glad they were friends or this would be really hard. But easy and great. Had to refrigerate. But if I could of kept my hands out of batter there would be more, but she is just one lady I love and respect. Hope she enjoys. She gets then early.

  6. Cheryl October 29, 2017 at 10:44 pm Reply

    Made these just now!!! I couldn’t be happier. Finally going to show my sister up. Yippee

  7. Stella December 27, 2017 at 10:00 am Reply

    My cookies came out good. Dough was sticky at first but I followed your instructions and I had no problems.I am sure they will make a nice holiday surprise when they arrive in the mail.

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