Ending the suspense, and a few timid steps

Meyer Lemon Shortbread

Can you guess what I have in store now? If you’re still puzzled, Saveur will give you a hint… This recipe was not just chosen on impulse from the pages of a magazine. It was, in fact, the answer to a very long (and yearly) search. And what a good answer it was …

Shaping Shortbread

I had Meyer lemons in my kitchen, just sitting there for days, looking like precious, golden, untouchable orbs of sunlight trapped in an ordinary bowl. I get them once a year — just four, enough to taste — and invariably struggle to find the best way to make their fragrant nature, skin and all, last just a bit longer.  I wanted a tart, slightly sweet, and citrusy bottle of meyer lemon goodness to spread, with something a bit more special than a simple slice of bread to spread it on.

This year, I decided to try my hand at two things that had previously struck me as entirely too mysterious for my hands: making jam, and canning.

How old fashioned do I feel at the moment? (In a kickass, hey, I can do anything sort of way, of course.)

Grating batter

I started with a citrus-derived pectin I found at the local health food store, which is designed for low-sugar jam concoctions. I didn’t want to drown the Meyer lemon in sweetness. Nor did I want my first foray into jam to end in disaster, so I played it safe. I followed the directions.

Meyer Lemon Jam

Isn’t it pretty? It’s a bit bitter, really, as marmalade can be sometimes, so if you want your sweets to be sweet, I’m afraid this isn’t for you. As for me, I don’t mind, but thought something a little sugary might make an interesting contrast. So when I saw this Hungarian Shortbread recipe, I had to play. The sandy, sweet-tart, buttery pairing of grated shortbread batter and tart meyer lemon marmalade seemed like the perfect match.

Meyer Lemon Shortbread

Serves 8-10.

I’m not sure how well my Meyer lemon recipe translates to other types of pectin, given that the brand I used is formulated for low-sugar jams. So I’m not going to include the recipe here. I will tell you that I used 4 meyer lemons, plus some of the peel, 1 honey tangerine (flesh only), and a lemon, for more acidity, as suggested. I also used sugar in my recipe; I thought honey would perhaps play against the meyer lemon taste I was going for.  Finally, I used glass jars with pop-up tops that I had saved from earlier purchases (olives, jam, etc).  As long as you boil the jars for a while, and the tops actually suck back in, they work just as well as those pretty Ball jars you see for sale in the grocery store.  And this way, you’re reusing material you’d just toss in the recycling bin otherwise, which is a nice bonus.

As for the shortbread, my recipe deviates from Saveur’s version in two ways: 1) I used a whole egg in place of the two egg yolks, somewhat inadvertently, and 2) I used a 9″ springform pan, which ended up tacking on an extra 10 minutes of cooking time. Both were perfectly fine substitutions, and I’ll go ahead and assert that my version is slightly healthier than the original, if only for the egg white and low-sugar jam.

If you don’t want to make your own jam, feel free to choose a substitute. If you want something similar, Dundee makes a bitter marmalade that would be an adequate choice, and can be found in some grocery stores.

  • 2 c. (9 oz.) all purpose flour.
  • 1 t. baking powder.
  • 1/8 t. salt.
  • 1/2 lb. unsalted butter.
  • 1 c. sugar.
  • 1 large egg.
  • 1 c. marmalade or Meyer lemon jam.

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together into a bowl. Set aside. Using a mixer (I have a Kitchen-Aid Stand mixer, but a hand mixer or a whisk and a bit of determination will do), beat the butter until it’s fluffy. Add sugar and the egg; beat until the mix is fluffy, smooth, and light yellow. This takes about 4 minutes with a mixer; if you’re working by hand, you may need a friend to help you stir.

Add the flour to the butter mixture, and combine with your hands until the dough just comes together. Turn onto a lightly floured surface, and shape into two separate balls. It’ll be crumbly, but this is a good thing for this recipe. Stick each ball in a reusable container and place in the freezer for 30 minutes – 3 hours.

When you’re ready to bake the shortbread, place oven rack in center of oven, and preheat to 350° F. Take the dough balls out of the freezer, grease a 9″ springform pan with butter, and grate one of the balls into the bottom of the pan. Gently press the grated dough into the bottom of the pan in an even layer. Glop on the jam, spread evenly, and grate the second ball of dough so it lays evenly over the top of the jam. Press very gently, with a bit more pressure around the edges.

Place in the oven. Cook for 30-40 minutes, until the top is golden. Let cool on wire rack, and slice into wedges (with a pizza slicer, if you have one) when cool. Serve whenever you like; this shortbread should last a week if you keep it tightly covered.

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1 Comment

Filed under baking, butter, dessert, firsts, Meyer lemons

One response to “Ending the suspense, and a few timid steps

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