Imagine the lemony smell permeate through your house as your first batch of cookies are almost done. As you take your first bite, the buttery, sweet and lemony taste explodes at the tip of your tongue. Then, you notice that little crunch and there you have it…cookie bliss.
I recall baking hundreds of these during the holiday season last year. It just felt right to bake it again this year. 6 hours a day I stood, for the past 2 days…feet sore, shoulders aching, but how happy I felt! It has been too long since I felt that…happily tired.
I had the sweet company of a family friend’s daughter, Maya. One of the few children (as of yet) to call me Aunty :P Such an adorable smile she has!
She was a happy helper, running between trying to cut out shapes from the buttery dough to spell her name, to finding the cat and convincing us that she needs the cat to come out, to running around with the hysterical dog and yelling “sit!!!!!” And finally, to jumping with excitement upon hearing that she could feed the fish. And don’t worry, she washed her hands between each interval :P
These cookies are a joy to bake. Few ingredients, mixes together in minutes, and packed with buttery goodness. I especially like it that with a bit of effort (see below), it’s terribly easy to make these cookies look equally sized with perfect edges. Nothing about it not to like!
Lemon and Almond Shortbread Cookies
Makes about 40 cookies. Double or triple the recipe to make more.
225g (1 cup or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
grated lemon peel of 1 unsprayed lemon
2 tsp lemon essence
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup almond slices, chopped
1. Put the butter in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment and mix until soft and creamy.
2. Add sugar, salt, lemon peel and lemon essence and mix until just incorporated.
3. With mixer on low, add in the flour and mix until just incorporated. At this point, you might want to taste a little of the batter just to taste if the lemon taste is strong enough. If not, add a little more, bearing in mind to be careful not to add too much as it can make the dough sweet.
4. Add in chopped almonds and mix just until incorporated.
5. My preferred method to ensure that cookies are evenly sized: Roll half the dough using a rolling pin in between sheets of cling film to about 3/8 inch thick and put in fridge to chill for about 30 minutes or if dough feels hard to the touch.
Slice and bake: Roll dough in logs and wrap in cling wrap or parchment paper with diameter of about 1.5inches. Chill in fridge for about 30 minutes or until dough feels hard to the touch.
5.Preheat oven to 350°F or 180°C and line baking sheets with parchment paper. If you decide to use my preferred method, working with 1 slab of dough at a time, cut out using a cutter (intricate shapes not preferred) and lay on baking sheet to bake.
Slice and bake: Working with one log at a time, cut slices about 3/8 inches thick and lay onto parchment paper.
Bake for about 15 minutes or until cookies are slightly (yes, just slightly!) brown. Cookies look best when they are still mostly pale. Cookie shapes will hold best when they’re put into the oven cold.
If you’re not used to baking in large quantities, baking 2 trays of cookies and at the same time, cutting shapes out for new trays can be stressful. Cookies look best when they are either left to bake till completion in the middle of the oven but since that just doubles the baking time, I would usually put 2 trays at once. In this case, it will be best to start off with cookies at the bottom and finish off with cookies on top. Follow these steps…they’ve worked really well for me:
1. Position your 2 oven racks equally in the oven, leaving equal spaces between. Preheat you oven.
2. Approximate the time the cookies will take. This will require some trial and error as all ovens are different. For a start, recipes will generally give you a pretty good idea. In my oven, these shortbread cookies are at at its best at about 16 minutes.
3. After the oven is preheated, put in your first tray of cookies at the bottom rack. Don’t be tempted to put another tray of cookies on the top rack yet. Use a countdown timer to start timing half of the total time, i.e. in my case, it will be 8 minutes.
4. Before the 8 minutes is up, have your second tray of cookies ready. When 8 minutes is up, open the oven and shift the bottom tray of half baked cookies to the top. Put in the new tray of cookies at the bottom. Time for 8 minutes again.
5. Before the time is up, have your third tray of cookies ready. When the 8 minutes is up again, the top tray of cookies should be done – remove from oven and put it on a cooling rack. Shift the bottom tray to the top and put in your new tray of cookies.
I usually bake anywhere between 5 to 12 trays at a time and have found this method is extremely efficient – helps you to keep track of the timings easily while ensuring that your cookies are evenly baked :)