Sunday, July 17, 2011

Baking with Basil, Volume 2: Citrus and Basil Cookies

The title of this post might lead you to believe that it is my second installment in praise of adding fresh basil to baked goods, despite the warm weather conspiring to keep you away from the oven.  I meant it to be something like that.  But then, I actually ate the shortbread cookies I made with citrus zest and basil.  This post is going to be about how great these cookies are.

I must admit that this recipe didn’t come to me as if in a dream.  It came to me from the pages of the July issue of Bon Appetit magazine. There wasn’t much hoopla on the page with the recipe.  Just something about the “unexpected – and delicious – note” that the fresh basil gives these simple shortbread cookies. The citrus flavors, the tender, crisp, not-very-sweet butteriness of the cookies and the ease, holy cow, the ease at which they can be thrown together got nary a mention. These attributes all deserve a shout-out highlighted with exclamation points!

And then, as if you could handle more, there’s the fresh basil, the one ingredient that makes these cookies deliciously seasonal.  I used a variety known as lime basil that I have growing in a pot on my patio.  It does have a wonderful citrus scent and went oh so well with the lemon and lime while adding just a faint herbal quality that’s not at all grassy.  Another variety of basil will probably yield a slightly different result. I find common Genovese basil to have just a bit of an anise note to it, and Thai basil to have even more.  I’ve also grown cinnamon basil (but can’t remember if it was cinnamon-y or not), and I think that all of the above varieties would be great in these cookies, but may not play off the citrus flavors quite as much as the lime basil did.

Now, here’s where I’m going to get into trouble with this recipe.  As long as I could substitute any kind of basil, what’s to keep me from substituting fresh mint instead? Or adding orange zest and/or juice? Or perhaps rosemary or thyme?  Do I dare take out the citrus and add grated chocolate or liqueur?  Since the dough is made in about a minute in the food processor and the batch is small, I could be trying new things on a continuous basis. Where will this end? 

Shortbread is easy.  Dieting is hard.

Lemon, Lime and Basil Cookies

Adapted from Bon Appetit magazine, July 2011

For best results, remove the zest from the lemon and lime with a Microplane rasp-style grater. The zest will be finely grated and the pith will be left on the fruit.

1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup powdered sugar
1 stick (½ cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons sliced fresh lime basil leaves (or other variety of basil)
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
½ teaspoon grated lime zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt
additional powdered sugar for pressing the cookies

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Lightly spray cookie sheets with cooking spray, or lightly brush with oil or butter. Place all of the ingredients, except for the additional powdered sugar, in the bowl of a food processor.  Process in long pulses until the dough forms large clumps.

2. Measure a level tablespoon of dough for each cookie.  Roll the dough into a ball and place on a prepared cookie sheet.  Place the additional powdered sugar in a bowl or large measuring cup.  Press the bottom of a smaller measuring cup in the powdered sugar to prevent sticking.  I used a 1/3 cup measure, which happened to be about 2 inches in diameter.  Press each cookie ball into a 2-inch circle with the bottom of the measuring cup.

3.  Bake at 375 F for about 15 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies are lightly browned.  Cool the cookies on the pan for 2 minutes.  Remove the cookies from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

Makes about 15 cookies.  Store leftovers in an airtight container for a few days (if they last that long without being devoured!)

Other recipes like this one: Lime Bars with Graham Cracker Crust, Chocolate Cinnamon Hazelnut Cookies (also a food processor dough)

One year ago: Grilled Green or Yellow Beans

Two years ago: Granola

1 comment:

  1. Thank you. I was working on a way to make basil into cookies since I have had such a huge crop of genovese basil that I can't make any more pesto. Your recipe is easier. Genovese basil works well also. I used a little more basil than the recipe called for. A nice summer treat!