Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Lemon-cornmeal shortbread

I love shortbread. It is so easy and so satisfying.
I grew up making a basic butter-flour-sugar version. It was simple and the ingredients were always on hand.
Lately I have been into trying new varieties of shortbreads.

One of my favorites has been the oatmeal-pecan shortbread. I even made it at the holidays and added a chocolate garnish to pretty it up.

As I was cleaning out a drawer a few days ago, I found a clipping for a recipe for lemon-cornmeal shortbread.

I needed a "fun snack" for my childbirth class (all the expectant couple take turns so there is a "fun" and a "healthy" snack each week. Of course I chose a "fun snack!")

The lemon-cornmeal shortbread seemed like a nice choice.

And, as it turns out, it was quite popular. People asked for the recipe... Nice!

So here it is:

Lemon-cornmeal shortbread
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal (I used medium grind, but would recommend a finely ground)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups confectioner's or powdered sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (I used my fab microplane grater.)
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

With the rack set in the middle spot, preheat the oven to 325.
Lightly grease a 9x13-inch pan.
(A straight-sided metal pan would be great for sharper edges, but I had a jelly roll pan, so that is what I used.)
Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. This will make getting the cookies out so much easier.

In a medium bowl stir together flour, cornmeal and salt.
In a larger bowl, mix butter, sugar, lemon zest, lemon extract and vanilla extract with electric mixer on medium-high, until creamy, about 4 minutes.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add the flour-cornmeal mixture and beat on low speed until it forms moist clumps. Turn dough out of bowl into the prepared pan.

Using a floured rubber spatula or floured fingertips, spread the dough evenly in the bottom of the pan.
I used my fingers at first, adding more flour to them as needed to keep from sticking, to get the dough spread out. Then I used a floured rubber spatula to smooth it out more.

Bake until the top is golden brown and dry-looking, about 40 minutes.

Remove pan from the oven and immediately cut into pieces.
1-inch by about 2-inch bars are good.
I cut mine into 1 by 1-inch squares to get more pieces, cutting off any edges to get nice, clean squares.
You want to CUT THEM IMMEDIATELY. If you wait until they cool, the shortbread is too dry and will crumble.

Let the shortbread cool in the pan completely, then use a small metal spatula or knife to carefully remove the pieces from the pan.

Note: The dough can be made ahead, spread in the pan and frozen for up to a month before thawing and cooking. Baked shortbread keeps for about three days, kept well-wrapped at room temperature.

The result: Crumbly shortbread with a light lemony flavor. The medium cornmeal gave the shortbread a distinctive crunch that I liked, but MF found a little odd and unexpected.
For this reason, I would recommend getting a finely ground cornmeal if possible.