Shortbread cookies with an Italian take—blood orange flavours and golden polenta, with a popping pink glaze 💗💗
- 1 cup (225g) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
- ⅔ cup polenta (coarse cornmeal)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for hands
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- Finely grated zest of 2 blood oranges
- Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons poppy/ toasted black sesame seeds, plus more for sprinkling
- ½ cup blood orange juice
- 1 cup icing (powdered) sugar
- Preheat oven to 350°F/ 180C/ Gas Mark 4. Lightly butter an 8×8″ baking pan. Line with unbleached parchment paper, creating overhang on two opposite sides (this is so you can easily lift cookies out of pan when cooled).
- Using a fork, mix together polenta, salt, and flour in a medium bowl.
- In a separate medium bowl, rub with your fingers the blood orange and lemon zest into the granulated sugar.
- Once the sugar is moist, fragrant, and pink in colour, pour into a food processor and blitz with the butter and vanilla until light and fluffy (you could also use a hand-held mixer for this step).
- Reduce speed to low and slowly add polenta-flour mix. Fold mixture with a spatula a few times to incorporate any dry bits—don’t panic, though, the dough is supposed to be wet and sticky!
- Using floured hands, gently press half of the dough into prepared pan in an even layer. Sprinkle a thin dusting of poppy seeds over, pressing down lightly. Scatter pieces of remaining dough over and press down into another even layer (with floured hands!).
- Bake until edges are golden brown and shortbread is fragrant, around 25–30 minutes.* Let cool in pan.
- While the shortbread is baking, simmer blood orange juice in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, until reduced to around 4 tablespoons. Leave to cool completely.
- Using the overhang of parchment, carefully lift out cooled shortbread from pan onto a cutting board. Slice into bars. Fit shortbread back into pan and set aside.
- Add icing sugar to bowl of reduced juice and whisk (or mix with a fork) until smooth. The glaze should be thick but pourable; if still clumpy, add a teaspoon of water at a time and whisk until ready. Spoon glaze over shortbread and use spatula to gently smooth. Sprinkle with more poppy or sesame seeds and leave glaze to set, about an hour.
- Just before serving, retrace cuts with a sharp knife, remove bars from pan, and eat posthaste. To store, cover tightly and keep at room temperature.
*the shortbread will not be completely firm when done baking; the cooling process will help it to harden.