Sandra Fairbank’s Tiny Poppy Seed Cookies

It’s no surprise that my friend Sandra Fairbank, a designer and architect, would make shortbread-like cookies that are not only utterly delicious but are noted for their endearing diminutive size and beauty.

Sandra usually makes these with poppy seeds but has been known to substitute chocolate nibs, cardamom seed, chopped pistachios or chopped candied ginger.

Although these tiny black seeds are purported to being harvested for opium, poppy seeds are one of the most common staples in American kitchens. Some describe them as having a bitter or peppery taste and thus they are often mixed with lemon zest (my addition) to complement the flavor.

Sandra Fairbank’s Tiny Poppy Seed Cookies
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Cook time: 
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Serves: 6 dozen
  • 1 cup (1/2 pound/2 sticks) unsalted butter, each stick cut into 4 pieces
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2¼ cups all purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup poppy seeds
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon zest (optional)
  1. Place the butter and sugars in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle and mix until smooth and creamy.
  2. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the egg and vanilla, one at a time, mixing well between additions.
  3. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the flour, baking powder and salt and mix until everything is well incorporated.
  4. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the poppy seeds and lemon zest, if adding, and mix until they are well distributed.
  5. Divide the dough into three small balls and place each ball into the center of a large Ziploc bag. Place each bag on the counter and, using a rolling pin, roll the dough from the center toward the edges until it is ¼” thick.
  6. Refrigerate at least one hour and up to two weeks. Alternatively, you can roll the dough into a 1” log.
  7. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove one sheet of dough from the freezer at a time.
  8. Using a 1” round cookie cutter, punch out cookies and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Transfer the cookie sheet to the oven and bake until the cookies are golden brown, about 7- 10 minutes.
  9. Cool on the cookie sheet and repeat with remaining dough.
  10. Cool cookies on a wire rack. Transfer to a tin and store for up to one week.