Blood Orange Polenta Shortbread Cookies


  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 12-16 slices 1x


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

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  1. 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). 
  2. Using a fork, mix together polenta, salt, and flour in a medium bowl. 
  3. In a separate medium bowl, rub with your fingers the blood orange and lemon zest into the granulated sugar. 
  4. 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). 
  5. 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!
  6. 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!).
  7. Bake until edges are golden brown and shortbread is fragrant, around 25–30 minutes.* Let cool in pan. 
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.