When you look up lemon shortbread recipes, you find cookies with butter, flour, sugar, perhaps a little vanilla, and a touch of lemon zest (or lemon extract, or waving a lemon over the dough three times and calling it good). These are polite lemon shortbreads, the ones meant to be baked until light golden and served with tea, and scones, and little cucumber sandwiches. "The perfect touch of lemon!" the reviews purr. "Just right!"
I didn't want tea cookies. I wanted lemon cookies. So these are up-front, aggressive, punch-you-in-the-mouth cookies. There is no hint here, no subtlety. They're what would happen if the filling mated with the crust in a lemon meringue pie. The dough is even more so. :)
The recipe is just Michael Ruhlman's shortbreads with lemon juice and a touch more flour, nothing complicated. So here you go:
4 ounces granulated sugar
8 ounces (2 sticks) *fresh* butter (unsalted or salted, your choice)
12 ounces flour (about 2.5 cups rice flour, all-purpose will be a little less)
1/2 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
1 tsp lemon zest
the juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 cup)
Use a mixer for this if you don't want tired wrists. Cream together the sugar and butter until fluffy. Mix in the vanilla, salt, and lemon zest, then start adding the flour gradually. Stop when the dough refuses to form a ball, turning into a bunch of pea-sized lumps, and set aside any remaining flour; if using standard wheat flour, try not to mix it more than you have to, or it'll go tough. The dough should be firm but not crumbly when you shape it in your hands.
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Roll portions of the dough out to your desired thickness (I usually like about 3/16" or 3mm) and cut into shapes. Don't re-roll more than once; I usually mix the scraps into a fresh ball of dough to recycle them. Place the cutouts close together on 2 baking sheets and bake in the middle of the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until they turn the lightest shade of gold and any corners are starting to brown. Allow them to cool fully before moving them to an airtight container for storage. This made about 55 2" hearts.
Yes, you can add more lemon, though if you add a lot more flour to keep things from getting too wet they might go sort of cardboard-like. Exercise restraint, and consider topping them with lemon curd or lemon frosting or this evil concoction
if you really can't resist the one-two punch.
The key with any shortbread is really good butter. Buy it fresh for this, from a store that has high turnover. You really will notice a difference if it hasn't been sitting in your fridge consorting with the forgotten occupants of the crisper, believe me.