Star-studded Walnut Shortbread

by NikkiG

Last year, I made a batch of shortbread that was less than stellar. I used the recipe from the updated edition of the “Joy of Cooking” cookbook. Don’t misunderstand me – it was good – enough. The butter surrendered under the first bite and gave a crumbly yield, yet in a split second a rush of powdered sugar overtook the rich golden flavor.

I still gave them away in small packages. I tucked them beneath the iced buttercream thumbprints, lemon sugar cookies, chewy chocolate ginger cookies, and dark chocolate chip cookies, in the hopes that they would be discovered last. Like I said, they were good, especially with a cup of unsweetened black tea, but on their own, the cookies needed some help.

I made shortbread this morning, and let me tell you, it’s star-studded and unforgettable. It’s also packed with protein, whole grain flour, and natural cane sugar. The secret to this recipe is walnuts, lemons, and a touch of olive oil.

Walnut Shortbread

This walnut shortbread is taunting me. A nibble here and a nibble there. Eight servings quickly turn into four then two then a few stray buttery crumbs. Maybe I should have stuck with the old recipe, at least I could keep my hands off it!

I’m going to make another batch to top off the cookie tin, and this time I’m handing the gifts out right away, because I just can’t be stopped when it comes to this walnut shortbread.

Walnut Shortbread (close)

Walnut Shortbread
adapted from Body + Soul (

Yield 8 servings

1 ¼ cups walnuts
1 ¼ cups white whole wheat flour
2/3 cup natural cane sugar
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter (melted)
2 tablespoons light olive oil
zest and juice of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter and flour two 8-inch round cake pans; set aside.

In a food processor, combine walnuts, flour, sugar, and salt; pulse until walnuts are finely ground but not greasy (note: if you have a smaller food container with your processor, this may require mixing in two batches). Add the melted butter, olive oil, lemon zest and juice; pulse until the mixture just comes together; do not over mix.

Divide the dough between the two pans and press until even. Cut each round into 8 wedges with a sharp knife. Gently prick the tops with the tines of a fork. Bake until and a light golden brown, about 22 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack and cut into each wedge. Cool 10 minutes, then carefully turn over each wedge on a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Nikki is a freelance writer and photographer who records the simple things in life: art, food, and story. She blogs at art and lemons.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Shana December 24, 2009 at 11:35 am

Will this hold up as well if I don’t use the walnuts? Were a nut allergy home but I’ve always wanted to try shortbread!


2 Trudy December 25, 2009 at 12:01 am

These sound so good. What is white whole wheat flour? Does King Arthur carry it?


3 Nikki December 29, 2009 at 1:54 pm

Trudy – White whole wheat flour is milled from the hard white wheat berry. It has the nutrition of a whole wheat berry, but with a milder flavor, lighter color, and lighter texture than whole wheat flour. It can replace all-purpose flour 1:1.

King Arthur makes it and it’s my favorite brand…


4 Nikki December 29, 2009 at 3:44 pm

Shana – While I haven’t tried this particular recipe without nuts, I think it will work if you take the walnuts out and leave the rest of the recipe as is.

If you want a ‘nutty flavor’ you can substitute up to 1/4 cup of toasted amaranth or quinoa flour for 1/4 cup of white whole wheat flour.

If you try it, let me know how it turns out.


5 StephanieS December 29, 2009 at 5:07 pm

Shortbread is the ONE thing that I try not to make or keep in my house because I will eat way too much of it if I do! ;)


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