Lemon Almond Cornmeal Shortbread Diamonds

January 16, 2012
5 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Makes 1 9 inch square pan
Author Notes

Loving citrus as I do, I prefer it not as a whisper, but as a robust brightness. In looking for a way to achieve that without the use of lemon oil, I developed this technique of pureeing sugar with lemon zest until wet. In addition, I prefer cookies that are moist and have some texture. This recipe, inspired by the work of Betty Fussell and Carol Field, makes cookies that are grainy with cornmeal and ground almonds,very lemony and unusually moist for a cornmeal shortbread type cookie. —LeBec Fin

Test Kitchen Notes

These coarse cookies are crumbly and moist at the same time. The bright lemony flavor is complemented by the almond extract, a favorite around these parts. Grinding the lemon zest with the sugar really enhances the citrus flavor. These are easy to throw together and take no time to cook -- our diamonds were finished cooking in 20 minutes. We liked these so much we finished them off right after they cooled. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 1 cup unskinned raw almonds, ground fine and divided in half
  • 1/4 cup grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup finely ground fresh yellow cornmeal *
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces and frozen
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar for topping
  • 1/2 cup reserved ground almonds for topping
  • 4 ounces raw pine nuts
  1. Butter or Pam 1 9" square metal pan.
  2. In small processor, grind 1/2 cup sugar with lemon zest, scraping down the sides a few times, until pureed and wet but not soupy( This method really extracts a lot of lemon flavor.)
  3. Into a standard food processor, combine the ½ cup of almonds, flour, cornmeal and salt. Pulse twice to combine. Add butter. Pulse until butter is pea sized, as if making piecrust.
  4. Combine eggs through almond extract, add to processor along with sugar lemon zest mixture, and pulse til barely mixed. Press into pan, smoothing top with graduated cake spatula.
  5. Score mixture lightly into 2 inch tall diamonds, and put a pine nut in the center of each diamond, pressing down to adhere. For topping, combine 1/2 cup ground almonds with 2 Tablespoons of sugar, and mix well. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the pan. Press down to adhere.
  6. Bake 350 degrees F, 20-25 minutes until lightly browned and toothpick comes out clean. Cool , chill til firm, and cut into diamonds. (If you try cutting before it chills, mixture will crumble.)
  7. * Fresh bulk yellow cornmeal or packaged organic cornmeal is far preferable in flavor to prepackaged supermarket cornmeal.
Contest Entries

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Selma | Selma's Table
    Selma | Selma's Table
  • Casey McReynolds
    Casey McReynolds
  • PRST
  • LeBec Fin
    LeBec Fin
  • Sadassa_Ulna
My eating passions are Japanese, Indian, Mexican; with Italian and French following close behind. Turkish/Arabic/Mediterranean cuisines are my latest culinary fascination. My desert island ABCs are actually 4 Cs: citrus, cumin, cilantro, cardamom, and GARLIC! I am so excited by the level of sophistication that I see on Food52 and hope to contribute recipes that will inspire you like yours do me. I would like to ask a favor of all who do try a recipe of mine > Would you plse review it and tell me truthfully how it worked for you and/or how you think it would be better? I know many times we feel that we don't want to hurt someone's feelings, but. i really do want your honest feedback because it can only help me improve the recipe.Thanks so much.

22 Reviews

Curlytexan March 19, 2017
Great recipe! I love the crumbly, flakey texture. They just crumble in your mouth. I let them cool completely, but I can see how they would fall apart if you tried to remove them from the pan while hot. I zested three lemons with a microplane, mainly because that's what I had on hand. That yielded 1/4 cup of zest loosely packed. I did skip the pine nuts. I would definitely make this again!
Selma |. January 12, 2014
Wow Mindy - this sounds fantastic. Thank you for pointing me here! I love your technique for getting more of the oils out of the zest by grinding with sugar - brilliant idea! Selma
LeBec F. January 12, 2014
selms, so psyched it appeals to you (and your chicken, and cake recipes to me!)As you can see, I REAlly like robust amounts of citrus!
Casey M. December 21, 2013
So, I'm not sure I get the pine nuts... they're just for decoration? If the cookies are being covered with a topping of almonds and sugar, what is the point of one pine nut in the center of each cookie?
I'm confused, am I missing something?
sexyLAMBCHOPx December 21, 2013
read the comments: "yes, absolutely can omit the pine nuts; they are just decorative."
PRST April 1, 2013
Please explain the grated lemon zest. It took me 8 lemons, jested with a microplane grater, to get 1/4 cup of lemon zest. Am I on the correct path? I certainly did not pack the zest.....
LeBec F. April 6, 2013
I'm sorry; for some reason i didn't get this in my email. Each lemon only gave you 1/2 T when you used a microplane? that is surprising. I may have used a hand-pull zester(the ones with the line of little holes) when i created this; i'm not sure. Did you make them? how did they turn out?
PRST January 12, 2014
Wow… I just saw this…sorry too….I did not get an email either. I decided not make the cookies… didn't want to risk wasting all that lemon jest……. I must say my biggest beef about the recipes on Food 52 is that they are often not accurate or well written. A hand-pull lemon zester gives totally different results than a microplane. So, can you tell us exactly what the recipe should say?
PRST January 12, 2014
Let me clarify, that's my only beef about Food 52. I love the site and wish I had time to participate more!!!
LeBec F. December 7, 2012
yes, absolutely can omit the pine nuts; they are just decorative. Use an almond sliver instead!And yes, double or triple no problem.And a jelly roll pan is fine because they are very shallow.
Sadassa_Ulna December 7, 2012
Two questions: one, do you think the pine nuts can be omitted? And, do you think this could be doubled and baked in a jelly roll pan? Thanks!
BoulderGalinTokyo March 1, 2012
These were really wonderful- full of lemon's brightness! You Rock!
LeBec F. March 1, 2012
so glad they worked for you! saw your canned seafood recipes just now- boy you sure do continue to push the envelope there!! hey, plse let me know what you think of my inari recipe i just entered!
EmilyC February 20, 2012
Oh my, these are awesome! I made them this morning for a dinner party tonight, and I just ate two straight from the pan. Cook's taste, right? I love the texture and the bright lemony flavor. I'm going to serve them alongside my orange sherbet ('t wait for dessert! Thanks for posting a recipe I'm sure to make again and again.
LeBec F. February 20, 2012
emily, you def made my day! heck, after feeling TOTALLY bummed yestday after hours of flailing and failing w / " the vodka pie crust "( ref my Hotline question), I'd say you helped considerably to restore my self confidence, so thank you!

p.s. you know what might be neat if you decide to do them again with your sherbet? add some thyme to them>>the herbal note of one of the 2 citrus- might help add a different dimension to their pairing.
EmilyC February 22, 2012
I like the thyme idea! I've enjoyed leftovers for my 'second breakfast' two days in a row now...they keep beautifully.
gingerroot February 5, 2012
These are wonderful! I made and brought them to a gnocchi making lesson and lunch today. They were the perfect ending to a simple but amazing meal. Everyone enjoyed them and many asked for the recipe. Thank you for the recipe, LBF!
LeBec F. February 5, 2012
wow, ginger, you just made my day! i am new to 52 and just learning the 'habits of the site' so to speak. (as in: my other 6 recipes for this citrus contest got a max of maybe 30 hits, but because this was a CP, it's had nearly 400 hits so far !)For me, the whole reason to post recipes is so others will try them and hopefully use them and spread the joy. And you're the first (non staff) 52er to try one of mine; so I am 'wicked psyched' as we say here in MA.!!thanks so much for sharing your experience w/ the recipe.

btw, i lived in Honolulu in 1969 for my senior yr of high school. hoping to visit again some winter.
Hanama Bay; what a trip!
creamtea February 2, 2012
Congrats, LBF! Lovely recipe!
EmilyC February 2, 2012
Oh yum -- I'm definitely making these, hopefully very soon!
hardlikearmour February 2, 2012
Great recipe! These are on my list of things to try!
Midge January 17, 2012
Love the sound of these!