Lemon-Poppy Seed Shortbread


I love shortbread and already have several recipes that are exceptional. This recipe by Claudia Fleming is so good that it has me wondering if I need any other.

img_7522Claudia Fleming was the pastry chef at Gramercy Tavern and is responsible for possibly the greatest dessert cookbook ever published, The Last Course. It is the only cookbook I have that makes me want to cook every single recipe (I’m working on it). Seriously good stuff, the type of sophisticated and satisfying recipes that you dream about. Fleming is now one of the people who run the North Fork Inn on Long Island. Though I haven’t been to the inn yet (October!) I can appreciate the desire to leave Manhattan and spend some time among the organic farms and vineyards on the beautiful north fork of Long Island. I think all of us city dwellers dream of escaping once in a while. Bryan and I are always dreaming of moving east to a small town where we can see the stars and plant a garden in our yard. Until that happens, we settle for farmers markets and containers of herbs on our porch.

In case you need more convincing to try these cookies, remember Fleming gave us the recipe for the Chocolate Caramel tart a few posts back. The woman is a genius. She manages to transform the already wonderful shortbread cookie into something even more special. The butteriness of shortbread is now paired with tart lemon and poppy seeds to make a very addictive cookie.


Keep in mind that poppy seeds, like nuts, can go rancid pretty quickly so make sure yours are fresh and store them in the fridge. This recipe makes about 20 cookies and they keep in an air tight container for at least a week, although I doubt they’ll be around that long.

Lemon-Poppy Seed Shortbread (Claudia Fleming, The Last Course)

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until creamy and smooth, about two minutes. Add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla and beat well.

In a bowl, combine the flour, poppy seeds, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until combined. Form the dough into a disk and, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 3 hours and up to 3 days or freeze for up to 2 months.

Preheat oven to 300° F. Roll the dough between two sheets of wax paper to a 1/4-inch-thick rectangle. return dough to refrigerator for an additional 30 minutes. Cut the shortbread into shapes with a two-inch cookie cutter, or use a knife, and place 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Do not reroll scraps, if using cookie cutter. Prick shortbread with a fork and bake until pale golden all over, 23 to 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.


27 comments to “Lemon-Poppy Seed Shortbread”

  1. I like your images. Some are quite striking.

  2. One of my favorite flavour combination. Your shortbread looks amazing!

  3. Love the poppy seed picture! You really make me want to buy this cook book.

    Make it to Green City yesterday to see Alice Waters?

  4. This shortbread looks melt-in-your-mouth wonderful. For years I made a lemon poppyseed cake that was always hard to stop eating – it’s such a perfect flavor combination. This recipe reminded me that I have a pound of poppyseeds in my fridge right now, but they’ve been in there longer than I care to admit and probably wouldn’t do justice to these cookies. Seems like the perfect excuse to refresh my supply! : )

  5. Whitney: Buy the cookbook. It is the best cookbook purchase I have ever made. I didn’t make it to the market, how was it? I can’t wait for it to return to the park!

    Susan: Lemon and poppy seed is such a perfect flavor combination. I think it gets a bad rap because it manages to make its way into things like giant artificially flavored muffins at the airport. Get some fresh poppy seeds and give these a try!

  6. Killer combination there!! Will definitely try this one. However, if anyone out there has to taka drug test, don’t eat poppy seeds in advance. They can make you test positive for nasty things made from lovely poppy flowers!

  7. OK…I just need to get this book. I’m a sucker for shortbread so that would’ve gotten me alone, not to mention all the other delicious recipes I’m seeing here!
    Your photos are wonderful. Really mouthwatering! =)

  8. Oh, how I LOVE shortbread. I actually just posted about it…kind of…myself. Gotta try this one!

  9. I think that over the last two months I’ve made more things I’ve seen on your site than from any other site. And almost always on the day that they are posted. I made these tonight and while they could be amazing, I think that I might have fallen in the group with rancid poppy seeds and there’s a slightly unpleasant aftertaste associated with them. But I’m going to share them with my coworkers anyway.

  10. Yeah, Nicole, the poppy seeds could do that. I try to buy small quantities and keep them in the fridge because I’ve run into that problem in the past. Glad to hear that you’re baking along with me in real time!

  11. Was just debating about buying this book…it’s really pricey. but sounds amazing. I hadn’t realized that I should be keeping poppy seeds in the fridge—thanks for the tip!

  12. Dawn in CA says:

    April 27th, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    Good-NESS! Those look amazing. I cannot tell you how excited I am that after 20 years of a no-dairy diet (not by choice, it makes me sick as a dog), I just recently found that I am able to eat RAW dairy products and also goat’s milk butter… without one bit of digestion backlash. Real butter, real cheese, Tim! So yeah, I’m going a bit overboard with it. And these shortbread cookies are next on my list. Swimsuit be damned, I’m going for it. ;)

  13. Maggie: I know it is hard to find (go to the North Fork Inn website) and expensive, but it is really outstanding. I had been hearing about the book for years before I finally tracked it down and it was love at first sight.

    Dawn: Yay to dairy! Enjoy!

  14. I love lemon poppy seed anything, and your shortbread look amazing! I made lemon poppy seed cupcakes over the weekend, but now I want these too. Thanks for sharing, and I love the pictures.

  15. These look amazing! I can’t wait to try them. Your photographs are gorgeous as well – I especially love the top one of poppy seeds. Really glad to have found your site.

  16. I tasted the cookies again this morning and took them to work with me (along with big bowls of hummus and muhamara and banana bread) and all but two were gone when I packed up to leave. The aftertaste abated and there was just a wonderful cookie left! But the poppy seeds have still been moved to the fridge to be used up on poppy seed pancakes tomorrow.

  17. Oh my goodness. That’s the sort of stuff designed to ‘null and void’ the gym trip earlier today…

  18. Oh my! I didn’t think you could beat the brown butter shortbread… But this just might do it. I’ll be making these as soon as I’m home from vacation.

  19. Don’t remember what you do for a living but if it ever goes sour… food photography.

  20. These are perfect. They are ideal buttery-crumbly shortbread cookies, but the subtle lemon brightens the overall flavor. Thanks for sharing!

  21. These were amazing. Thank you so much for the recipe. I love your site!

  22. I can’t wait to make these! I loved lemon poppy seed muffins as a kid–I can’t wait to eat them in cookie form.

  23. These are now my FAVORITE shortbread cookie. Perfection in every way. Thank you for sharing the recipe, and a big thanks to Claudia for coming up with it!

  24. These are gorgeous. I have a batch in the oven as I type. I couldn’t find poppyseeds (granted I didn’t look too hard), but I have loads of dried lavender, so I substituted. They are now Lemon-Lavender Shortbread cookies. Very excited to try them when they come out. Oh- also- I forgot to get parchment paper today, so I sort of just stuck them in on a greased pan and am hoping for the best. Thanks for sharing! This is definitely my new favorite food blog. xo

  25. This recipe is amazing! I took these to my book club and these cookies made me look VERY good :) Tonight I am subbing the poppy seeds for a half tsp of thyme, then will dip in dark chocolate and finish with vanilla salt… many thanks for sharing and for the beautiful pages…

  26. after refrigerating for three hours, it is impossible to roll out the dough. Need to microwave, or refrigerate as a log and slice.

  27. Hi Db- It is obviously not impossible, I did it. Maybe your fridge runs colder than mine. In any case, if you let the dough sit on counter for 10 minutes to warm up slightly, you should be fine. I would never recommend microwaving this dough.

What do you think?