High Country Baking: Buttery lemon shortbread wedges are a simple summer snack
Special to the Daily
High altitudes make cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.
Simple shortbread…one of my all-time favorites. I’ve made more variations than I can count and love every one of them.
These Buttery Lemon Wedges are my current crush. Why? Well, like most good shortbreads, they’re charmingly simple and down-to-earth, and this one boasts a pleasing sandy texture and a lovely flavor showcasing both lemon and butter. But the real secret of its success is its ½-inch thickness…it gives the wedges a very appealing heft, making every bite a tender, slightly crunchy, flavorful mouthful. I nibble them on their own, with tea, or after dinner as the perfect match for fruit or a creamy dessert.
Don’t have small tart pans? No worries. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and after dividing the dough into 2 equal pieces, pat each into a 4–inch round disk and place them a few inches apart on the lined baking sheet. Smooth the tops, straighten the sides, gently press around the outer edges with the tines of a fork, and bake as directed. The cookies will take longer to bake than those baked in a tart pan and may not be as perfectly shaped, but they’ll taste just as good.
To be at their best, make them with a really good unsalted butter. The amount of lemon oil suggested in the recipe produces a moderate citrus taste, feel free to adjust it to your liking. If, once baked and cooled, you find the wedges aren’t as crisp as you’d like, you can stick them back in a 325 degree oven, spacing them about an inch apart on a cookie sheet, and bake them longer. Feel free to add a sprinkle of granulated sugar on the tops before baking or frost them with a decorative drizzle made of confectioners’ sugar mixed with lemon juice after baking and cooling.
Buttery Lemon Wedges
Make in two 4 ½-inch tart pans with removable bottoms
Yields 8-12 cookies, depending on size of wedges
Works at any elevation
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons bleached all-purpose flour, spoon and level
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons high-quality unsalted butter, room temperature
½ teaspoon lemon oil
¼ cup superfine granulated sugar, preferably Bakers
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees with a rack in the center position. Grease the tart pans with butter and set them aside. Add the flour, cornstarch and salt to a small mixing bowl, whisk to combine them well and set aside.
2. Cut the room temperature butter into small pieces, add them to a medium mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl frequently as you do this. Beat in the lemon oil and the sugar until well combined and still light and fluffy. Add the flour in two additions, at the mixer’s lowest speed or stirring by hand, until the mixture is moistened and crumbly. The dough can also be made in a food processor, though the cookies will have a less crunchy texture than those made with a mixer. To do so, add the dry ingredients to the bowl of the processor, pulse to combine well, then cut up the butter, add it with the lemon oil, and pulse until a shaggy dough forms.
3. Gently knead the dough by hand, either in the bowl or dumped out on a sheet of waxed paper, only until it starts to come together; don’t overdo this or the cookies will be tough. Divide the dough into two equal pieces, using a scale if you have one. Press each piece into one of the prepared tart pans, smoothing and leveling the dough, doing this through a piece of plastic wrap speeds up the process. Gently press around the outer edges with the tines of a small fork.
4. Put the pans on a cookie sheet and bake until the tops are set and the edges are golden, about 40-50 minutes. Remove them to a rack and cool in the pans until warm to the touch but no longer hot and then carefully cut the cookie into wedges. Cool completely and remove the sides of the tart pans. You may need to re-cut the wedges.
5. Store the cookies in an airtight container for 7 days at cool room temperature or freeze for 6 weeks. If frozen, after defrosting them, refresh them in a 300 degree oven until warm to the touch before serving. They’re good warm or at room temperature.
Vera Dawson is a high-elevation baking instructor and author of three high-altitude cookbooks (available at The Bookworm in Edwards, Next Page Bookstore in Frisco, and Breck Books in Breckenridge). Her recipes have been tested in her Frisco kitchen, where she’s lived since 1991, and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.