A while back I got a phone call from my aunt, who wanted my advice about how to fancify some cookies she planned on making for a party that week. I could not have been more flattered. Because, you see, I come from a family of culinistas and entertainers, and I am one of the less talented of the bunch (we really are a bunch; I have a giant family), but she called ME! Apparently my aunt confused my resourcefulness with creativity, and given that confidence boost I came up with lemon-basil cookies and chocolate-lavender cookies. (I abruptly dismissed her idea of lemon-lavender because I think lavender in food can sometimes taste like soap, so any lavender would have to be a subtle addition to something more intense (like chocolate) and decidedly non-soapy (so the lemon was out).) I always like the combination of lemon and basil, however, so that's why I suggested she try that in her cookies, and apparently they ended up great (as did the chocolate lavender ones). Months later, I finally experimented with the combination myself.
These are heavenly. They are melt-in-your-mouth buttery. The dried basil gives them a peppery bite that's perfectly complimented by the lemony brightness. My husband and I can't stop eating them.
But dough continues to be a bit tricky for me, so I didn't end up with two perfect nine-inch rounds (see photos below), nor was I able to score sixteen perfect wedges (id.).
Also, as you can see in the oven picture, they didn't really brown evenly. But nothing browns in my oven evenly without some sort of intervention, e.g. rotating pans or switching to convection half-way through, and I didn't intervene during this particular baking experiment because I was multitasking and keeping a watchful eye sort of went out the window. So, if you have a similar issue with your oven, go ahead and intervene as you see fit. You know your oven better than I.
(Speaking of ovens, mine is haunted. Seriously.)
Yield: 16-24 cookies, depending on how good you are at rolling and scoring dough
Adapted from Gourmet, December 2002
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup spelt flour (or another cup of all-purpose)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon lemon zest, finely chopped
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons honey*
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Whisk together flours, salt, baking powder, basil, and lemon zest.
Mix together butter, honey, and powdered sugar until slightly fluffy. On low speed, add the dry ingredients and mix until dough resembles coarse meal with some small, pea-sized lumps. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until it comes together. Form two evenly-sized disks with the dough.**
Between two sheets of parchment paper, roll the dough, one disk at a time, into (approximately) nine-inch rounds. Place the rounds on a silpat or parchment-lined baking sheet and score into eight wedges per round, or, you know, cut in random shapes. (If both rounds don't fit on your baking sheet, just bake one at a time.)
Bake shortbread until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. Let cool for about 5 minutes and then cut along score-marks with a large, heavy knife.
*I actually didn't have honey, so I used one tablespoon of lime syrup (I am the queen of random ingredients!) and one tablespoon of corn syrup. I think honey would taste different but be just as good. I am going to make these again soon with one tablespoon of honey, one tablespoon of lime syrup, and 1/2 teaspoon cayenne in place of lemon and basil. They sell something similar at our local market and I love them.
** I might try making one or two logs of dough next time, refrigerating them for 20 minutes, and slicing them. The only other time I made shortbread that method seemed to work fine.