Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Honeyed Rosemary-Lavender Shortbread

Sometimes, after work, and dinner, and doing the dishes, right as it gets to be late in the evening, around say ten thirty- I realize that I need something. Like desperately, anxiously, urgently, seriously- climb the tallest mountains, swim the longest oceans- I need a cookie. 

So, on Sunday night, when that craving set in, I headed into the kitchen, took stock of my supplies and considered my options. Then I made these. Buttery, toasty, melt in your mouth, the texture of these cookies is absolutely heavenly. They're simultaneously rich, and yet not too heavy, dense in texture but meltingly light on the tongue.  

Shortbread is one of those treats that is deceptively simple. A friend of ours tried these last night, and was blown away when I told him the short ingredient list. "That's all that's in here?!" He asked incredulously. Yep, that's all! 

One of my favorite things about shortbread is the consistency. I always want to call it sandy, but I know that doesn't bring up great connotations in most people's minds. Yum, a mouth full of beach sand. But that's really the best way to describe it, these cookies aren't crumbly to hold or transport or store, but when you take a bite they crumble apart in your mouth like packed sand would. The absolute best, non-gritty, softest, sweetest sand ever, of course. And then that impossibly soft and sweet sand melts in an incredible way on your tongue.

According to Wikipedia, the delightful sandy, crumbly texture of shortbread comes from the high fat content. The prevalence of butter keeps the gluten from forming long strands, and thus it crumbles instead. Just another reason to love and worship butter. 

When S first bit into one of these cookies he nodded happily and declared
"Just the right amount of sweet and savory."
The cookie is delicately sweet, the butter plays a starring role in the flavor and the sugar merely complements it, while the rosemary and lavender are a subtle but slightly surprising twist which matches wonderfully with the buttery, melty texture. The flavor of the herbs is light, certainly not overwhelming, but it is present. 

I've provided two variations on this recipe. One to make cookies like the ones I've photographed here-shaped, thin, crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside. And one variation to make shortbread bars, quicker to make, soft throughout, and a touch thicker. I've made both versions- the bars are wonderful when you want a dessert fix more immediately, while the cookies are great if you have a bit more time, or prefer a shaped cookie. Both versions are out-of-this-world delicious, enjoy!

Honeyed Rosemary-Lavender Shortbread
2 C flour
1 C butter, softened
1/2 C sugar
3 tbsp honey
2 tsp dried rosemary 
2 tsp lavender

In a medium bowl combine the flour, lavender, and rosemary. Mix with a fork until herbs are distributed evenly throughout.
Cream together the butter and sugar, then add the honey and almond extract and mix until creamy again. 

Mix the flour into the butter, mixing until the dough clumps up and all the flour has been thoroughly combined with the butter. The dough will be crumbly. 

Option 1: Shaped Cookies
Place a large sheet of plastic wrap on the counter and pour out half the dough. Form into roughly a log shape, then use the plastic wrap to help you form the dough into a log. Squeeze it together firmly and shape until you have a log 2 1/2 inches in diameter, and about 6 inches long. If you'd like round cookies, pop the log in the fridge now. If you'd like square cookies, place the log on the counter and use a cutting board to gently flatten the top and bottom, then turn on it's side and flatten the sides. Repeat until you have a long rectangular log, then place in the refrigerator. 
Let chill at least 1 hour (I chilled mine 2). Preheat oven to 325 F.  Remove dough from refrigerator, gently reshape a bit if needed, then use a sharp knife to cut dough into 1/3 inch slices. Place the slices 1 inch apart on a greased baking sheet. 
Bake 15-22 minutes, until edges are very lightly golden brown. Cool on a rack for 3 minutes, then enjoy!

Option 2: Bar Cookies
Preheat oven to 325 F.
Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan. Dump the cookie dough into the baking pan, and use your hands to pack it down into one uniform layer about 1/2 inch thick.
Bake for 35-40 Minutes, until the edges are lightly golden brown. Remove and allow to cool at least ten minutes, then enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. Hi,
    This recipe sounds delicious! I have a quick question about it:

    The instructions mention adding almond extract, but that item isn't listed in the ingredients. How much almond extract should I add?