My Recipe Box

Lemon Cornmeal Shortbread Bars


Yields about forty 2-1/2x1-inch bars.

This shortbread is buttery and fragrant with lemon zest. The texture is chewier than traditional shortbread, and I’ve added cornmeal for crunch and texture.

  • 9 oz. (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 5 oz. (1 cup) finely ground yellow cornmeal (I  use Quaker)
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 3/4 lb. (1-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature; more for the  pan
  • 7 oz. (1-3/4 cups) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 Tbs. finely grated lemon zest (I use a Microplane-style zester)
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven  to 325°F. Lightly grease the sides and bottom of a 9x13-­inch baking pan. Line the bottom of the pan with the parchment.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, cornnmeal, and salt to blend. In a large bowl, combine the butter, confectioners’ sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla; with a hand-held electric mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat on medium-­high speed until light and creamy, 3 to 4 minutes. Scrape the bowl. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until the dough begins to form moist clumps. Dump the dough into the prepared pan.

Using a rubber spatula or lightly floured fingertips, spread the dough into the pan in a smooth, even layer. Dip the tip of a knife or a small metal spatula in flour (to prevent sticking) and score the dough all the way through into bars that measure 1x2-1/2  inches (about 1  inch across the short side and just a smidgen over 2-1/2 inches on the long side). Bake until the tops look dry and golden brown, 35  to 40  min. Transfer the pan to a rack. Immediately cut the shortbread into bars, with a metal bench scraper or a knife, using the scored lines as a guide (they will have faded a bit during baking). It’s important to do this right after the shortbread comes out of the oven; if you wait until it has cooled, it will crumble when you try to cut it. Let the bars cool completely in the pan before removing them with a small, flexible offset spatula.

Make Ahead Tips

The shortbread dough can be pressed into the pan, scored, covered, and frozen up to a month before thawing and baking. The baked bars keep, well wrapped, for up to three days a room temperature.

Photo: Scott Phillips

These bars were wonderful and just what shortbread should be with a little extra crunch, but not lemony enough for us. So I added a powdered sugar/lemon juice glaze and that gave it the extra punch needed. Next time I plan to add a little lemon extract to the recipe and see if that puts it over the top!

With little notice I needed to provide something to go with coffee/tea. I chose this recipe since I had the ingredients on hand. I had never made it before and usually don't like serving something to guests that I haven't had a chance to test/taste. However, I was counting on another Fine Cooking recipe to come through for me. I'm happy to report that these were a hit. The lemon shines through in this recipe and the cornmeal adds an interesting taste and texture as well. I had quite a few requests for the recipe. So...another hit from Fine Cooking.

These cookies are wonderful. I found the recipe while flipping through an old cooking magazine stash and realized I had all the ingredients on hand so thought to give them a shot. Wonderful! I could barely wait for the pan to cool to eat a few. Smell great while baking. Light, buttery, crisp, not too sweet. Will make again.

So easy and delicious, a nice twist on traditional shortbread. The cornmeal adds such a nice chewy texture to the bars. I have made this several times, always to rave reviews! An easy go-to recipe for a quick baked treat.

These were great-- easy to make with a flavor and texture that was both familiar and a little unusual. A little shortbready, but also lighter and chewier, not as crunchy and a bit more melt-in-the-mouth. The lemon comes through loud and clear; the cornmeal is more in the background. A big hit with my tasters.

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