Showcasing herbs in unusual ways is a secret pleasure of mine. They're often overlooked for use in drinks and sweets, but I urge you to consider trying them somewhere new this summer. Don't just reserve them for garnish, pesto and tabbouleh, why not try a basil lemonade, a sage cocktail, a crushed-herb pasta, or this shortbread recipe.
I stumbled upon this recipe over at Food 52; I just love that site and also recently discovered their excellent podcast, Burnt Toast. What I like most about this recipe is that I'm pretty sure it's fool proof. It was a cinch to make and produced an impressive little treat. Both salty and sweet, each bite has a rich buttery taste with a delicate, crumbly texture. If you're ever in a pinch for something decadent, this recipe should make your short list.
This recipe is also versatile, as you can use a variety of herbs; thyme, lemon thyme, lavender, sage, or rosemary would work best.
We've now made these cookies twice, in both an 8 inch and a 9 inch pan with great success, simply keep an eye on them after the 20 minute mark to make sure the edges don't get too brown.
Sweet & Salty Herbed Shortbread
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 Tbsp, plus 1 tsp sugar
2 tsp packed, finely chopped fresh herbs (sage, rosemary, thyme, lavender, etc.)
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature (or use salted and use half the salt above)
Put a rack in the center of the oven and heat it to 350° F. Sift the flour and salt into a medium bowl. In a small bowl, use your fingers to gently rub together 2 tablespoons of the sugar and the chopped herbs (this will help release the oils). Whisk this mixture into the flour.
Cut up the butter into chunks and add it to the flour, stirring with a fork to make a soft dough. Gently pat the dough into a 9-inch round or square baking pan. Prick the dough all over with a fork and sprinkle the remaining teaspoon of sugar evenly over the dough.
Bake the shortbread for 20 to 30 minutes, until it is golden and no longer looks at all wet. Using a very sharp knife, score into fingers, squares or wedges while it is still quite warm, and let it cool completely in the pan before separating the pieces.