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Lemon Zest Amaretto Shortbread Cookies (Almond Flour)

I’ve been baking a lot, I haven’t been posting recipes though:

I’ve been baking a lot over the past few months (hashtag pandemic baking society!). I haven’t been posting recipes though and for that I’m sorry. Blame it on coronavirus fatigue. Blame it on general ennui or just trying to figure out life right now. But enough of the recriminations, and onto the recipe.

I’ve been baking a lot of lemon cakes:

For some reason a majority of my pandemic baking has involved lemony things (also boozy things, but that’s for another post). The thing about baking with lemon is that it becomes a mood enhancing experience as well. As I zest and squeeze the lemons, the aromatherapeutic effects come into play and I’m transported to happier life moments. There’s something about the citrus scent that invigorates me and chases the (OHMYGOD THERE’S A PANDEMIC) anxiety away and allows me to enjoy a zen moment in the kitchen. Not to mention the smell of fresh baked cookies that make it hard to be in a crummy mood.

Anyway, this one might seem complicated but it’s incredibly easy. It’s also vegan, pareve and delish. Besides, my baking pal Jono asked for the recipe and I promised I’d post it so here you go:

Lemon Zest Amaretto Shortbread Cookies Recipe (Gluten free, vegan)

Ingredients

  • 6 Tablespoons Safflower oil or ghee or butter substitute (I used Earth Balance Olive Oil Buttery Spread) slightly softened.
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar (I used Demerara sugar because I love the extra crispiness and almost gritty texture reminiscent of actual shortbread). You can use 2/3 of a cup if you prefer a less sweet taste.
  • Zest of one large lemon (Try to use only organic lemons when zesting so you don’t include wax in your food)
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1-2 teaspoons amaretto (Use more if you’re feeling boozy, the dough texture won’t be affected. If you don’t have amaretto, use almond extract)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla powder or vanilla extract
  • 2 ½ cups finely ground almond flour (Look for almond flour that is white, not light brown. It provides better taste and a more crumbly texture in this particular recipe).

Instructions:

  • I usually don’t bother breaking out a mixer for such a small amount of cookies, but I’ve found that using a mixer really helps cream the butter substitute and sugar together well. I also love to mix some of the zest with the sugar first to break down the oils. Anyway, combine until slightly creamy. There will be bumps because of the texture of the sugar, that’s fine. .
  • Add the rest of the lemon zest and blend in until it’s just combined. You don’t want to beat down the zest, you want it to show if possible.
  • Add salt and Amaretto and keep blending.
  • Add the almond flour  slowly until it’s combined and begins to form a dough. It’s fine if it looks crumbly but keep mixing until the dough is slightly sticky (don’t expect it to be tacky)
  • Depending on the size of your counter or how big you want these cookies to be, you can divide the dough in half or simply roll it until it forms a log. I then wrapped that log in wax paper and refrigerated for an hour. Feel free to refrigerate for longer.
  • When you’re ready to bake the cookies, preheat your oven to  350°. I’ve been baking using a countertop oven (a review will follow) so I bake in batches.
  • Line a cookie sheet with wax paper (trim edges so it doesn’t hang over and burn!) Use a sharp non-serrated blade cut the log to form individual cookies. I flatten the bottom of the log to give it that real biscuit look, but that’s not necessary. Your cookies should be about 1/4 inch thick. Place them on your prepared cookie sheets. You don’t really have to worry about spacing them since there’s no baking powder so they don’t grow much.
  • Bake 10-12 minutes, until the cookies have a nice brown gold tint around the edges.
  • If you like your cookies extra crisp, after the cookies cool off a bit, you can return them to the cooling oven for about 1/2 hour and they become even more like shortbread.

Notes:

  • If you love the idea of sugar cookies, sprinkle a drop of sugar on top of the cookies before baking. You can also dust a light powdering of Confectioners sugar (powdered sugar) just before serving.
  • Another option is to create a Snickerdoodle effect. Before baking, combine 2 teaspoons cinnamon with 2 teaspoons sugar and sprinkle on cookies.
  • If you really like a bit more crisp, consider substituting 1/4-1/2 cup cup of rice flour instead of exclusively almond flour. Be prepared for a certain grittiness, though some swear it’s more like real shortbread.

A note on amaretto: Did you know that amaretto is the blanket name for any variety of Italian almond-flavored liqueur? There’s also a cookie called amaretto which is usually thin and crispy. Meanwhile, amaretto isn’t always actually flavored with almonds, sometimes it’s a mix of the ground pits of stone fruits such as apricots or nectarines.