This summer, a group of friends and I met on the University of Iowa’s Pentacrest (Which always sounds vaguely devil-worshippy to me, but really is as close as they come to a traditional main quad…) to picnic and see a free showing of Superman. With Superman Returns in theaters, it seemed appropriate to take it back where it started.
I volunteered to bring dessert, since I had seen Christiane Britton’s post on Rosemary Shortbread, and wanted to give it a try. “I’m sure you could substitute any other fresh herbs you have on hand,” Christiane said in her post, and that got me to thinking.
On hand, I had basil, parsley, rosemary, lavender, sage and mint. I discounted mint and parsley as bad ideas, embraced the idea of rosemary and lavender, and then thought about my final two options.
I’d had basil ice cream before, and had read about basil lemonades, so I thought basil would probably work fine in a sweet, buttery cookie. And, as everyone knows, sage and butter is one of my very favorite combinations. While I’d never eaten a sage cookie, nor heard of sage used in dessert, I thought I’d give it a try.
I mixed up four batches, one with each herb. The results? Lavender was lovely, but awfully subtle. Next time, I’d grind up even more of the flowers. Rosemary? It imparts a rich and woodsy flavor to the buttery treats.
Basil worked well, but sage was definitely my favorite. It’s a strong herb, so those who like it less than I do would be well-advised to cut back a little bit.
One other note: Christiane recommends 1 tsp. of the fresh herbs. I took my quantity higher in all cases, going with about 2 tsp. of fresh, pulverized lavender blossoms for that batch, and then about a tablespoon of chopped fresh herbs for the other three batches.
Also, when the cookies come out of the oven, they’re pretty fabulous. But if you can stand to let them sit in a container for a day, the flavors deepen and become much richer. Just be sure not to mix the flavors in the same container, or you might muddy the taste a little bit.
1 c. flour
1/4 c. plus 1 1/2 tsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
2 to 3 tsp. fresh herbs, finely chopped
1 stick (1/2 c) unsalted butter, softened
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift flour, 1/4 c sugar, and salt into a medium bowl. Stir in the herbs. Add the butter and stir with a fork until the dough comes together. Divide the dough in half and pat into 2 thin 6″ discs on a parchment-lined baking sheet or a baking stone. Cut each disc into 8 wedges. Prick each wedge with a fork, and sprinkle the remaining sugar over the dough. Bake the shortbread until lightly golden, about 20 minutes. Re-cut the wedges after removing from the oven, and cool completely on a baking rack.