One of my favorite smells of summer is the sweet and pungent aroma of my herb garden on a hot afternoon, and one of my favorite challenges is finding ways to use every single clipping! If you're a gardener, you know that one of the keys to maximizing the production of each herb plant is regular pruning. A snip here and a snip there, and pretty soon you've a fridge full of herbalicious tidbits ready for action. Now there are a ton of great ways to use small quantities of herbs in cooking - compound butter, vinaigrettes, and cocktails to name just a few! But my mind always turns to the sweeter side, and the myriad ways to incorporate green goodness into tasty treats.
When I incorporate herbs into baked goods, I like to keep the background flavors as simple as possible so that the true essence of the herbs shine through. A basic shortbread is perfect - a high butterfat content enhances the natural oils from the herbs, and the flour and sugar work together to form a lightly sweet base. Add a little fresh citrus zest and tall glass of iced tea for a cookie worth repeating.
Rosemary Lemon Shortbread
20 oz all-purpose flour
12 oz granulated sugar
3 oz cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 lemon, zested
1 lb cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 Tbsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
1. Weigh flour, sugar, and cornstarch using a digital scale. Not only does a scale make for greater accuracy, recipes done by weight are also much easier to up- or downsize.
2. Finely chop rosemary (if your cutting board is turning green, you've gone too far!) and use a microplane to zest the lemon.
3. Add dry ingredients, rosemary, and lemon to your food processor and pulse briefly to combine.
4. Distribute cold butter over the top and continue to pulse the mixture until it looks coarse and crumbly. Add vanilla and do one more pulse.
5. Press dough firmly into a parchment-lined sheet pan and dock with a fork. A quarter sheet pan is the perfect size!
6. Bake at 350F until set and a light golden brown color. This takes approximately 25 minutes.
7. Remove from the oven and, using a paring knife, carefully cut into 1" squares.
8. Return the cookies to the oven and continue to bake until deep golden brown.
For other creative ways to use herbs and other seasonal ingredients, check out The Chopping Block's Farmer's Market Tour and Cooking Class at Lincoln Square on August 25th!