Lemon and Poppy Seed Shortbread

makes about 12 biscuits using a 5cm circular cutter

  • 110g caster sugar
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 225g unsalted butter-room temperature
  • 225g plain flour
  • 110g cornflour
  • 50g poppy seeds
  • pinch of salt
  • 300g royal icing powder
  • cold water as required
  • 2 tsp cocoa powder
  • warm water

In a bowl, or on a chopping board, rub together the sugar and lemon zest with the back of a metal spoon until they are completely combined. The sugar will turn a yellowy colour and will smell strongly of lemon as all of the oils in the zest are released.

In a large bowl, or in a stand mixer, beat together the butter and orange sugar until pale and fluffy. Sift the flour, cornflour, and salt into the bowl, add the poppy seeds and slowly mix together until combined. If required, use your hands to gently bring the dough together.

Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead lightly to bring it together to form a ball. Gently pat it down to form a flat disc.  Roll out the dough between two pieces of greaseproof paper, turning the dough by 90 degrees after each roll, until it is 1 cm thick.

Remove the top layer of greaseproof paper and cut out your shortbread shapes. Using a palette knife, transfer the shortbread to the prepared baking trays. Place the trays into the fridge and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C (160 fan). Bake the shortbread for about 20 minutes until the edges are lightly golden and is firm to the touch. Allow to rest on the trays for about 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool.

To make the icing take three small bowls and add 75g of royal icing powder to each.  Add a little water, a teaspoon at a time until you reach the desired consistency.  The icing should be smooth and runny but not watery.  Use your spoon to drop a thin line of icing on to greaseprook paper, it should hold its shape, if it spreads add a little more sugar, if it doesn’t run smoothly add a little more water.  Add a dot of food colouring to each bowl in your desired colour.  Place the icing in a piping bag and first pipe around the perimeter of the shortbread to create a barrier for the icing, then ‘flood’ the centre of the shortbread to fill it in completely.

Allow to harden for about 30 minutes then mix the cocoa powder with warm water and flick the mixture on to the iced biscuits with a pastry brush to create speckles.

Once the cocoa has dried, which should only take about 10 minutes, mix up a batch of royal icing with the final 75g of sugar, without any food colouring, and pipe a swirl across the middle.  Allow to harden and then enjoy!

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