I never imagined I’d find baking inspiration (or inspiration of any sort, frankly) at an airport. Yet this is what happened last week.

Our flight out of Minneapolis was delayed, so I wandered over to the French Meadow Bakery and bought an orange-rosemary shortbread. It was just what shortbread should be- so buttery- and I loved the subtle tones of the orange zest and rosemary. As I ate it, I decided I’d make something similar as soon as I got home.

On the plane back to New York, I perused the new Martha Stewart Living (which, I must say, is one of the most enjoyable issues of the publication I’ve seen to date). In the magazine, there’s a beautifully photographed feature on the Brooklyn based Belocq Tea Atelier, along with a slew of recipes utilizing tea that sound positively amazing. One of the recipes- the jasmine shortbread sandwiches with grapefruit curd- was the jumping off point for the cookies you see here. I thought the idea of spreading citrus curd between thin shortbreads was positively genius, but I wanted to use citrus zest instead of jasmine tea to flavor the shortbreads, and I wanted to try a mixed citrus curd instead of one made solely from grapefruit.

Long before I finished unpacking from our ski trip- not to mention cleaning up the mess my dogs made while we were away (I really think they may have had a party!)- I ran out to the store to load up on the fruit I needed to make these cookies. I bought pink grapefruit, organic blood oranges, and organic Meyer lemons.

Being away for a week meant there was a ridiculous amount of eggs from my hens piled up, and I figured a curd would be a great way to use some of them. I based my curd off this recipe that I blogged about last winter, and the result was so delicious, I could live on the stuff if that was an acceptable thing to do. I must tell you, however, that before I started making my own lemon and other varieties of curd, the only other curd I’d sampled was a jarred one I found at the supermarket a while back, and it wasn’t very good at all. So when making curd, I rely on my taste buds to guide me, not a memory of what I believe the curd should be. I like my curd sweet and creamy, and just slightly tart, with only a small amount of zest.

(While we’re talking curd, why is it that curd is called curd? It’s such an ugly word for such a beautiful food…and I love Kate’s musings on the subject).

Once the curd was chilling and thickening up, I made the shortbread dough. I shaped it into two logs, and pressed the edges down so the slices of the shortbread would be square-ish, not round (feel free not to do this- circle shaped shortbread are perfectly awesome). Then I wrapped the logs in plastic and refrigerated them overnight.

Once they were thinly sliced, I pressed the raw shortbread squares into organic sugar on one side, then baked them off. When they were cool, I spread the “un-sugared” sides with the curd…

…then topped the curd with another shortbread, sugared side out.

The shortbreads alone are rich, but not overly so, and they’re definitely not too sweet. When combined with the curd, however, they’re positively dreamy. I purposely made them small, so eating 2 (or, um, 4) isn’t anything to feel (terrible) guilty about. If you’d rather roll out your dough and cut it into shapes with a cookie cutter, however, you can go wild and make them as big as you like.

Recipe for Citrus Shortbread Sandwiches Filled with Mixed Citrus Curd

Yield: Makes about 50 small shortbreads or 25 sandwich cookies

This curd recipe makes about 3 cups, and you probably won't need all of it for the sandwich cookies. Store the leftovers in the refrigerator for a week or two, and I am sure you'll find lots of other ways to use it...this post from Katie has some great ideas.

Ingredients:

For the citrus curd:
*1/2 cup (1 stick) organic, unsalted butter
*1 cup organic confectioner's (powdered) sugar
*6 whole eggs plus 6 egg yolks, preferably organic and free-range (I used eggs from my backyard chickens)
*1 cup fresh squeezed mixed citrus juice (I used the juice of 1 grapefruit, 2 blood oranges, and 3 Meyer lemons)
*1/2 tablespoon Meyer lemon zest plus 1/2 tablespoon blood orange zest (I didn't zest the pink grapefruit because mine wasn't organic; you can double the zest if you enjoy lots of zest in your curd)
*tiny pinch of sea salt

For the shortbread:
*1 cup (2 sticks) organic, unsalted butter, softened
*3/4 cup organic confectioner's sugar
*1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
*2 cups organic, all-purpose flour
*2 teaspoons Meyer lemon zest plus 2 teaspoons blood orange zest (feel free to use more, if you like)
*1/2 teaspoon of sea salt

Directions:

For the citrus curd:
1. In the bowl of electric mixer, cream the butter with the powdered sugar. Beat for 1-2 minutes.

2. On low speed, beat in the whole eggs and the egg yolks. Beat on low for 1 minute. Add the lemon juice and beat until mostly combined. Don't worry if it's not smooth (or if it looks curdled).

3. Pour the butter/sugar/eggs/lemon juice into a heavy saucepan and heat over low-medium heat. As you stir with a wooden spoon, you will notice the curd starting to smooth out and thicken. Keeping the heat at low-medium and stirring frequently (do not let it come to a boil), cook for another 5 minutes or so. A candy thermometer inserted at this point should read 165-170 degrees F.

4. Remove pan from the heat to cool. Stir in the lemon zest. Spoon curd into clean jar(s) and store in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks.

For the shortbread:
1. Preheat oven to 325° F.

2. Cream butter with confectioner's sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until smooth. Beat in vanilla extract.

3. Whisk flour with salt and citrus zest in a medium bowl, then add to the butter/sugar mixture. Mix just until the dough comes together (be careful not to overmix).

4. Divide dough into two equal portions, and form into two logs, flattening out the sides if you want your cookies to be square. Wrap in plastic or parchment, and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

5. Cut into thin slices (somewhere between 1/8-1/4 inch thick) and gently press one side of each cookie into raw/organic sugar. Place sugar side up on parchment or silpat lined cookie sheet(s). Bake for 17- 20 minutes, or until they are just starting to brown. Allow to cool on a wire rack, then spread half of the non-sugared sides with the citrus curd, and sandwich the cookies together with the remaining shortbread.

Mixed citrus curd adapted from my recipe here; shortbread cookies adapted from Martha Stewart Living magazine.

For more information about Belocq, please see these two beautiful posts:
Belocq Tea Brooklyn, NY at Eat Boutique
Silent Sunday: Belocq at A Thought For Food

And for a few more lovely citrus curd recipes, check out:
Grapefruit Curd from Blue Kale Road
A Dozen Lemons and Twelve Eggs from Mrs. Wheelbarrow
Blood Orange Curd from Use Real Butter

Also, my blog has been nominated for a “Homie” Award in the Best Healthy Cooking Blog category over at The Kitchn. If you have a minute to register for the site and vote for me, I’d really, really appreciate it!

And one last note: this post (the first photo, to be exact) is my entry into a photo contest sponsored by Feastie…the winner gets a scholarship to Eat Write Retreat!