Candied Grapefruit Shortbread

Lately, I feel I have gotten too complacent in the kitchen. I am too used to old routines, too comfortable. It’s time to shake things up. To do something I am unused to.
I want something of a challenge, so I decide to make something I usually stay from: cookies.
Cookies bother me because they are so labor intensive. Do I really need to roll the dough out until it is 1/8 of an inch thick? Do I really need to gather the scraps and re-roll them? Twice? And I need to cut out each cookie and gently transfer it to a cookie sheet and bake two trays of cookies at a time because that’s all my oven can fit?
Cookie making drives me insane, so I decide to make some cookies. Also, I am going to candy citrus. And glaze and decorate each cookie. Yay!
While I am making the cookies, I find I actually have to pay attention to the recipe. I like it. It reminds of when I first started baking, years ago, and everything was a grand, new adventure. The dough comes together in seconds and before long, I have the ingredients for the glaze measured out and the candied citrus cooling on a rack.
The dough rolling part is less fun. I get flour everywhere and it seems there are an endless amount of cookies to be cut out. I grit my teeth. This is the part of cookie making I really don’t like.
But it’s good for me! Patience, etc, so forth, blah blah blah. I am a little bit competitive and I don’t like being bad at things, so when I catch myself avoiding doing something because it’s “too hard”or I “don’t like it” I force myself to do it until I get good at it. Hmm. Maybe competitive is the wrong word. Masochistic?
Anyway. I bake the damn cookies. When they’re cool, I glaze each one and top them with thin strips of candied grapefruit peel. (Ok. I will be honest. I did not glaze every single one. I ran out of patience. I froze some of the cookies for later decorating. Sue me. I did my best.)
These cookies are delicious. Thin, buttery and not too sweet, topped with an elegant light pink grapefruit glaze and fancied up with sparkly, chewy candied grapefruit peel, they’re a lovely addition to any holiday cookie party or platter. And if you break up the recipe into segments, candying citrus one day and baking the cookies the next, they’re barely any effort at all.
Just kidding. They’re a little bit of effort. A tiny bit. A very worth it bit.

Candied Grapefruit Shortbread

Yields: about 4 dozen 2 inch cookies

Barely adapted from here

Why I love this recipe: these cookies are buttery, sweet and imbued with a wonderful grapefruit fragrance, thanks to both grapefruit juice and zest in the dough. A tangy icing and fancy, sugared candied grapefruit peels up the grapefruit flavor ante and make these a beautiful cookie for parties or simply with tea.

Notes: You can re-roll your cookie scraps twice. More than that will toughen the dough. If you find that the cookies spread and lose their shape while baking, freeze them for 10 minutes prior to putting them in the oven. The candied peels will keep for several weeks in an airtight container.

Variations: use any other citrus in place of the grapefruit.

For the cookies:

  • 2 cups  all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons finely-grated grapefruit zest (from 1 large grapefruit)
  • ¼ cup freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice

For the candied grapefruit: 

  • 2 grapefruits
  • 2 cups granulated sugar, plus more for rolling

For the grapefruit glaze: 

  • 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 3-4 tablespoons freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice
  1. First, make the candied citrus: using a sharp paring knife, slice along the curve of each citrus fruit from top to bottom cutting through the peel but not into the fruit.
  2. Use your fingers to remove the peel from the fruit. If the pith is thick, remove some of it by flattening the piece of peel and slicing horizontally. Cut each piece of peel lengthwise into 1/4-inch-wide strips.
  3. Place the sliced peel in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring the water to the boil and then drain. Repeat this process two more times, using cold water each time.
  4. Place the sugar in a saucepan and add 2 cups of water. Bring to the boil. Add the peels, reduce heat and cook at a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally, until the peels are translucent and soft, 45-60 minutes.
  5. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the strips of peel to a metal cooling rack set over a parchment-lined sheet pan. When dry, roll in sugar. Set aside until needed.
  6. Now, make the cookies: in a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cornstarch, and salt. Set aside.
  7. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium speed until smooth, 1-2 minutes.  Add the sugar and continue to cream until smooth, 2-3 more minutes.
  8. Add the zest and juice and mix just to combine. On low speed, gradually add the flour mixture and mix until just incorporated. Mix for 30 seconds more.
  9. Spoon half of the dough into the middle of a large piece of plastic wrap. With lightly floured hands, gently pat the dough into a ½-inch thick round. Wrap tightly and refrigerate until firm. Repeat with the rest of the dough.
  10. When firm, remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes.
  11. Remove from the plastic wrap and place on a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle a little flour on top of the dough and on your rolling pin. Roll to ¼-inch thickness, rotating the dough often and flouring as needed to make sure it doesn’t stick to your work surface.
  12. Cut to desired shape, periodically flouring your knife or cookie cutter so the dough doesn’t stick.
  13. Bring your dough scraps together into a ball and chill briefly before re-rolling and cutting more cookies.
  14. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Place the cookies at least 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Rotate your pan(s) and continue to bake until the bottom edges are just golden brown, about 4 minutes more.
  15. While the cookies are baking, whisk together the glaze ingredients until completely smooth.
  16. Transfer the sheet pan to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Then transfer cookies to the wire rack to cool. When completely cool, dip your cookies face-down in the grapefruit glaze and top with sliced candied citrus peel if desired.

Candied Grapefruit Shortbread

Candied Grapefruit Shortbread

Candied Grapefruit Shortbread

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