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I’m in the middle of the holiday cookie baking frenzy, having already made three kinds of cookies in the past week. One was an experimental batch to use the snowflake cookie cutters I bought in a holiday-induced bout of temporary insanity which made me forget that I have insufficient patience for cookie cutter cookies. The other two are going to be mailed out as holiday gifts, so I’m not going to post the recipe yet, so as not to spoil the surprise.

In the meantime, there has been some demand for the recipe for the cookies I sent out last year, an almost laughably Californified but still addictively yummy shortbread that combined two wonderful flavors abundantly found in California gardens: rosemary, which grows like kudzu and is used as cheap ground cover, and Meyer lemons, which are intoxicatingly floral and aromatic, but often difficult and expensive to find if you don’t grow them yourself. Since I had to leave my beloved Meyer tree behind (along with my kaffir lime, which I miss nearly as much) when we switched coasts, I have to make do by mixing some orange zest in with ordinary lemon zest, which evokes some of the same magic and is far better than lemon zest alone.

Rosemary-Meyer Lemon Shortbread
Makes about 4 dozen

1 1/2 cups butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons very finely chopped fresh rosemary
3 tablespoons freshly grated Meyer lemon zest (or 2 tablespoons regular lemon zest and 1 tablespoon orange zest)
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt

Cream together the butter, sugar, rosemary and zest in a mixer until very light and fluffy. Add the dry ingredients and mix until incorporated, taking care not to over-mix, which would make the cookies tough.

Divide the dough into two equal blocks, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, at least 1-2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 325.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out each block to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Cut the dough, using square or round fluted-edged cookie cutters approximately 2 inches across, and place the cookies on parchment-lined cookie sheets. Place the cookie sheets in the freezer or refrigerator briefly to firm and cool the dough again and avoid spreading in the oven.

Bake in the center of the oven for 12-14 minutes, or until pale gold but not browned. Let the cookies cool on the sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Notes: The amounts of rosemary and zest can be varied according to your tastes. I wouldn’t add much more of the rosemary, but you can decrease it at will, and you can also increase the amount of zest if you prefer even more lemony cookies. Also, you can gather the scraps after the first cutting and roll out another batch, although the quality will decrease a bit from the first. They will still taste lovely, but the texture won’t be quite as meltingly delicate.

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