Shortbread Cookies & How Not To Make Lemon Curd

I’ve had a fair few baking disasters in my time. I’ve thrown away whole batches of cookies, entire saucepans of caramel. But nine times out of ten, when I think I’ve had a baking disaster, I’ve just had a small hiccup and the results end up being more or less just as tasty as usual. Prime example: the lemon curd I made for this week’s cookies.


I’ve never made lemon curd before, so naturally I didn’t follow a recipe. I chose bits and pieces from all over the internet and cooked it all on a double-boiler. The result was phenomenal…if you don’t mind stirring the mixture for about an hour. I’m putting the recipe up here for you anyway (with a couple notes that should shorten the cooking time) but honestly, make at your own risk. I’ve got another recipe to try for next time, so hopefully soon enough I’ll have some better advice for you.


Lemon Curd
(Adapted from various sources, with the method taken more or less from Alton Brown.)

4 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
100 g unsalted butter, chopped into ~25 g segments

1. In a medium saucepan on medium-high heat, bring about an inch of water to a simmer.

2. While you wait, add the egg, yolks, and sugar to a medium metal bowl. Whisk until smooth.

3. Add the juice and zest and whisk until smooth again.

4. When the water is simmering, lower to medium heat (you don’t want it boiling once you put the bowl over it) and put the bowl on top. Stir constantly.

5. Once the lemon mixture has warmed up, add the butter (I did this about ten minutes in). Keep stirring the mixture as it cooks. You’ll know you’re done when it coats the back of a wooden spoon – you should be able to take the spoon out of the mixture and have a thin yellow-ish film on the back of it. When you drag a finger through the film, it should leave a clear trail. This took me almost an hour, but if you’re careful to keep the water at a simmer (I let mine get a bit too cold) it should only be about 30 minutes. But maybe longer. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Anyway, again, while I don’t recommend my methods for the curd, the end result was tasty and I used it to fill out some classic shortbread cookies. The recipe below is very simple and infinitely adaptable – you can add just about anything to shortbread and it will be delicious. Since these were just with lemon curd, I went with the basic version shown below. But if you were to make these by themselves, try changing it up a bit. My favorite is black pepper shortbread – it sounds a bit odd, but god is it tasty.

Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies

You’ll notice I used two types of sugar. Granulated is what I usually use, but the powdered sugar makes for a lighter cookie. If you want to just do granulated, I would do 1/2 cup. I also usually forgo baking powder entirely, but added a pinch here (again, for a lighter cookie). These aren’t very sweet cookies, because the lemon curd is so sweet and I didn’t want it to be overwhelming.

1 c butter, room temperature
1/4 c sugar
1/3 powdered sugar
1/2 t vanilla
2 c flour
1/4 t salt
pinch baking powder

1. In a medium mixing bowl, beat the butter until soft and smooth.

2. Add in the sugars and beat again until thoroughly combined. Add the vanilla and beat again.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Add to the wet mixture and stir until combined. The dough will be fairly crumbly and a bit dryer than your average cookie dough, which is okay – just make sure there are no completely dry patches.

4. Cover tightly and chill until firm, at least two hours.

5. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees (Fahrenheit, or 175 Celsius). Roll the cookies into roughly one tablespoon balls and line up on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. They shouldn’t spread much (as long as the dough is still cold) but still leave an inch or two between them – I like to do about twelve cookies per sheet. Using your thumb or the end of a wooden spoon, make a deep well in each cookie.


6. Bake the cookies until the edges are just slightly brown, about ten minutes. Take out and fill the wells (they may have spread, which is fine) with about half a teaspoon of lemon curd. Put back in the oven for two or three minutes, until set.

7. Cool a couple minutes on the baking sheet, then move to a rack to cool completely.

cooked cookie


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