Lemon Basil Shortbread

We’re on a shortbread kick in the shoebox.

Shortbread is kind of like ice cream – once you find a good recipe for the basic version, the only limit is your imagination.

So we thought we were pretty clever when we decided to combine the flavors of lemon and basil in a cookie.  Turns out it’s been done before, but we were still determined to make the recipe our own.

So we started with Ina Garten’s basic shortbread recipe that you can find in several of her cookbooks, then we experimented with different amounts of lemon and basil.  The in-process pictures that follow are taken from two different experiments, but should convey the same idea.

This is what we’ve come up with so far and, well, we really can’t stop eating them:

Lemon Basil Shortbread (adapted from Ina Garten’s basic shortbread)

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, near room temperature
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (plus slightly more, if needed – see below)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons freshly and finely chopped sweet basil leaves

Set the three sticks of butter on the counter for about 45 minutes, then cut them into chunks and add them, along with the sugar, to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.

Beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until well mixed.

Now add the vanilla, lemon juice, lemon zest, and basil, and beat on low until well mixed.

Sift the flour and salt together, then start gradually adding this to the contents of the mixer bowl with the mixer running on low.

We’ve found that with Ina’s original recipe, 3 1/2 cups of flour is the perfect amount to pull all of the dough off the sides of the bowl and make a ball.  However, with so much lemon juice in this recipe, we had to add just a bit more flour (maybe even less than a 1/4 cup) to get the dough to pull nicely and cleanly off the sides of the bowl and become well incorporated into a ball.  So, start with the 3 1/2 cups of flour, but if that is not enough to pull the dough cleanly off the sides of the bowl – you should not have any loose bits sticking to the bowl – then add just a sprinkle at a time until you get that nice clean bowl.

Pull all the dough out of the mixer bowl and mold into a thick disc.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Remove the dough from the fridge and roll it out so that it is about 1/2″ thick.  (If you left the dough in the fridge overnight, you may have to give it half an hour or so before it’s able to be rolled out).

Use your favorite cookie cutter and cut the dough into cookies.

You will, of course, leave dough in between each cookie.  Simply incorporate all the excess dough back into a ball, then a disc, then roll out and repeat the cookie cutting.  If the dough starts to become greasy, put it back in the fridge for about half an hour.

Place the cookies directly onto a baking sheet, no greasing required.  In an oven that has been preheated to 350 degrees, bake the cookies for about 20 minutes, until the edges start to brown nicely.

Wait for about a minute, then carefully remove the cookies onto a cooling rack.  With the higher moisture content in this particular recipe, we’ve found that they may be flaky at first, but as they cool they will firm up nicely.

We were very pleased with the results.  You can definitely taste (and smell) the basil, which dances nicely on top of the lemony tart background.  The sweetness of the shortbread brings a new dimension to the basil, a curious combination that satisfies the imagination as well as the taste buds.

We enjoyed this experiment so much that we had to try another, so we currently have a new shortbread flavor combination in the Test Kitchen.  Stay tuned . . .

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13 Responses to Lemon Basil Shortbread

  1. cookbookchick says:

    Try Martha Stewart’s Pine Nut Cookies with Rosemary from her website. Similarly sophisticated and addictive!

  2. Magi Glucker says:

    Yummmmi, it looks wonderful.


  3. I find macaroons and risotto to also fit with your theory on shortbread and ice cream…endless combinations!

  4. Emily says:

    Those look delicious! Beautiful photos too!

  5. Nicole says:

    There is a place here in Fairbanks that makes a lemon and fennel shortbread cookie that I love. I may try and adapt your recipe as these sound pretty close.

  6. Heather says:

    I think I’m going to try this… looks great… I’m bookmarking it so I remember.

    P.S. if you’re still looking for yummy shortbread recipes, try lavender. There’s a little place around the corner from where I live that does it, and it’s fantastic.

    • Thanks for the lavender idea, Heather – that sounds fabulous!

      • connie bandstra says:

        I owned a tearoom several years ago, and one Mothers Day we made Homemade Lavender ice cream with a rustic lemon pound cake. It was a wonderful combination and worked very well together. The pound cake was dense like a cornbread and went well with the creaminess of the ice cream.

  7. Marisa says:

    What a yummy looking combo! I’m such a fan of citrus and I’m sure the basil will add a very interesting note. *bookmarked*

  8. Pingback: Onwards and Upwards « spots of a doodlebug

  9. Carrie says:

    I made these to pass around during a grad class. People loved them! Such a complex cookie…bright and refreshing flavor in a buttery cookie. Thanks!

  10. Lovely cookie. I’m going to make these with some macerated strawberries, black pepper and a kulfi cream.

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