Lemon Poppy Seed Shortbread

More and more I love all things lemon--hmmn, what does that mean?--and these memorable Lemon Poppy Seed Shortbread are no exception. They're full of a delightful citrusy tang as well as the crunch of poppy seeds and enhanced with squiggles of lemony icing. Plus they totally melt in your mouth...bite after bite. C'mon, is there really any reason not to make them?!

For some sad strange reason, shortbread cookies seem to get relegated to the winter holiday season, which really makes no sense at all. Light, crisp and easy to make, these are a perfect warm weather treat too--I could eat 'em all summer long!

You start by beating butter, confectioners' sugar and lemon zest together--

Adding in a flour/poppy seed mixture, until a soft clumpy dough forms, which you press into a lined baking pan and chill for about half an hour.

Then you simply cut the dough into little rectangles and bake until they're golden brown.

These are wonderful and adorable plain but I think even cuter and more lip-puckering lemony with a little lemon flavored icing drizzled on top.

Either way you can't go wrong! Sunny, lemony perfection!!

Lemon Poppy Seed Shortbread

Makes about 3 dozen cookies
Prep Time:  15 minutes active (plus 30 minutes chilling time); Bake Time:  14-18 minutes


For the Cookies

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 heaping tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (about 4 lemons)
  • 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Icing

  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar

The Recipe

1.  Line a 9x13 baking pan with wax paper, allowing it hang over the ends a bit and set aside.

2.  To make the cookies:  Using an electric mixer, cream the butter, confectioners' sugar and lemon zest together in a large bowl until creamy, for about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl if necessary and sift the flour over the mixture. Add in the poppy seeds and salt and mix together on low speed until dry ingredients are just incorporated. On low speed add the lemon juice and vanilla and mix until dough starts to come together in clumps and you can't see any flour in the bottom of the bowl.

3.  Turn the dough out into the prepared pan, spooning the clumps all around as evenly as possible. Then take another piece of waxed paper and use it to flatten the dough evenly in the pan, paying attention to the corners. You may also want to use a large spoon on top of the wax paper, working from the center of the pan outwards to get an even layer, but be careful not to tear the paper. What you want is an evenly spread, 1/4 thick layer of dough. Leave the top piece of wax paper on and chill the pan in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

4.  Preheat the oven to 350ºF and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

5.  Remove the pan from the refrigerator and lift up the wax paper ends hanging over the sides to remove the dough cake from the pan, transferring it to a cutting board or counter. Carefully remove the top layer of wax paper. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 2 x 1 (approximately) rectangles or any shape you want. Using a spatula, them to the cookie sheets, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Prick each cookie with a fork twice in two different spots. Bake the trays for 14-18 minutes, reversing the trays front to back and top to bottom, halfway through the process. Cookies are done when they start to take on a golden hue around the edges. Remove the trays from the oven and let cool on cookie racks.

6.  To make the icing:  In a medium bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and confectioners' sugar until well blended. If the mixture seems to thick to drizzle, add a few drops of lemon juice or water and whisk again until it's the right consistency. If mixture seems too thin, add a bit more sugar and whisk again. When cookies are completely cooled, leave them on the parchment paper they're been baked on and using the whisk, drizzle the icing across the cookies, making any patterns you like. Now transfer the cookies off of the trays to racks to allow the icing to set. 

7.  Cookies keep in an airtight container at room temperature for at least a week.


Note:  Recipe adapted from Wintersweet by Tammy Donroe Inman.

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