Saturday, February 10, 2018

Baking Inspiration - Lemon Shortbread Sandwich Creams

Though I greatly prefer cooking to baking, I've been on a bit of a baking tear lately. Specifically, I've seriously been enjoying making (and eating!) shortbread. I can't believe that I just never knew it was so easy! Butter, sugar, flour, and there you have it. Practically instant. One bowl. No egg. You don't have to feel guilty about eating the dough! Though you'll spend a bit of time chilling the dough and cutting it out, shortbread is kind of idiot-proof, which is how I like my baking. Once I got the basic method down, I decided to experiment - a lot. 

Lemon Shortbread Sandwich Cookies filled with tangy Lemon Buttercream, Photo: NK
Meanwhile, it happens to be Girl Scout cookie season and around the time I placed my order with my usual supplier, a good friend of mine mentioned she was on the hunt for Lemonades. I'd never heard of them because apparently they aren't sold in our geographic area, but when she described them - shortbread with tangy lemon icing - they sounded pretty darn good to me. Lemon, after all, is one of my all time favorite flavors, and eating buttercream, well, it's probably one of my main guilty pleasures in the dessert realm. 

My next project was clear. 

After a couple of tasty tries creating plain lemon shortbread cookies, I went one step further and created a lemony buttercream to go with them. While both the cookie and and the buttercream are easy to make, I will warn you that sandwich cookies are fairly labor intensive from a quantity perspective because you need to make 40 cookies to get just 20 sandwiches. And trust me, you'll eat them fast! Nevertheless, these were delicious, and to maximize the yield, I actually ended up icing some of them open-faced so that I could get more cookies out of the batch. Once that was done, I stored them in the freezer with parchment between the layers. If you do so, be sure to detach the cookies before they unfreeze so the buttercream stays intact. I can't wait to share these with my friend and I hope you enjoy them too!! 
Lemon Shortbread Sandwich Cookies
Adapted from Bon Appetit

Yield - About 40 cookies or 20 Sandwich Cookies 

2 Sticks Unsalted Butter room temperature
1/2 Cup Confectioners Sugar
4 teaspoons packed finally grated Lemon Peel
1 teaspoon Lemon Extract 
2 teaspoons Lemon Juice 
2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Coconut Palm Sugar or Brown Sugar (optional) 
Generous pinch Kosher Salt
1Tablespoon Sparkling Sugar or other large grain granulated (or regular white sugar is fine)

Lemon Buttercream (Recipe Below)

Equipment: Small Round Cookie Cutter (Oreo sized), Rolling Pin, Saran Wrap and Parchment Paper

Cook's Note: If you use this dough recipe for larger cookies you'll likely have to bake them more like 15-16 minutes

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a mixer beat the Butter and Confectioners Sugar until smooth and a little fluffy. Beat in Lemon Peel and Lemon Extract. Add Flour and Salt and mix until just blended. Beat in the optional Coconut Palm Sugar or Brown Sugar (this gives a pretty speckle to the cookies which creates some visual interest). 

Move dough to large piece of saran wrap and form into a disk. Place another piece of saran wrap over the disk and roll it out to about a quarter inch thickness. Slide dough sheet with saran wrap still on it onto a baking sheet and transfer to the fridge to chill for 30-40 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 350 and remove the dough from the fridge. Remove the top layer of saran and cut out circles with a cookie cutter making them as close together as possible. Lift the bottom layer of saran and cut out cookies off the baking sheet. Carefully peel each circle off and transfer back onto the parchment covered baking sheet - they won't spread much but you should leave an inch of space in between if possible.  Sprinkle with Sparkling Sugar and return baking sheet to fridge to chill 10 minutes.

Reserve the dough scraps and re-roll them, repeating the same process, to make as many other cookies as you can. 

Place in the middle rack of the oven and cook 11 minutes until the edges are turning just slightly golden and you can smell the shortbread. 

Allow to fully cool without disturbing. Cookies will be very delicate. 
Once cool you can ice the cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream (recipe is below). 
***Be sure the Buttercream is room temperature when you ice the cookies so it spreads on gently and you don't break the cookie. 

Once you've iced the bottom cookie add the top cookie and gently press together. Chill again in the fridge to fuse everything together. Serve at room temperature! 

Lemon Buttercream
Yield: Approximately 1.5 Cups, enough to ice 20 sandwich cookies with more to spare

1 stick Salted Butter, softened
3 Cups Confectioners Sugar
1 Tablespoon Lemon Extract 
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract 
2 teaspoons Lemon Juice
Lemon Zest (a few pinches, optional)
3-4 Drops Yellow Food Coloring (optional) 

Blend the first two ingredients on medium speed until fluffy and fully incorporated. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend. 
You can store several days in the fridge but to ice the cupcakes you must allow the buttercream to come to room temperature. 

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