Monday, August 2, 2010

Lemon Basil Flower Shortbread Cookies

The initial peppery taste of the basil flowers in these cookies quickly gives way to their more subtle sweetness, easily balanced with the lemon to create a sweet and savory shortbread.

Butch and I had a heck of a time this week. Let’s just say that not everything went according to plan. That seems to be the theme in my life lately, and hers too from what I gathered over our dinner conversation.  Without disclosing excessive personal information, well, that wh0le story gets hard to tell.  Geez. Sorry that’s so boring! Um, uh…we’re loved. [Sometimes well, sometimes very very badly. –B.] And hopefully you still love me too after that train wreck of an introduction! Haha! 

Speaking of train wrecks….we also made some ice cream that you’ll notice isn’t in this post. Lemon Verbena Buttermilk ice cream just sounds SO good. It even looked beautiful. Sad thing is it tasted bitter. And even after adding more sugar, vanilla, lemon juice, etc. it was edible, but not postable. I’ll spare you that recipe.  I’m personally inclined to blame the buttermilk base recipe I experimented with. I think I’m going to make a second attempt using my sweet cream recipe. [Lemon verbena is such a delicate flavor it’s easy to overwhelm, and buttermilk isn’t exactly shy and retiring, as dairies go. –B.]

Luckily, however, the shortbread we were going to pair with it turned out beautifully! I love how the green basil remains green despite the baking process. It’s an absolutely beautiful cookie, fresh, refreshing and an excellent munching treat. I took them to Trivia for my friends and they were gobbled up. It also gave me a chance to try out cooking with my basil flowers! Which I am so excited about!

Cooking with the flowers of an herb is simple. Their flowers taste like the herb, only milder. Basil flowers taste like basil, just less dense in flavor. You can replace the basil in any recipe with basil flowers just be prepared to put in a ton more! I’d recommend them as a garnish! 
basil flowers, lemon verbena and lemon basil shortbread cookies

Lemon Basil Shortbread

1 large egg, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 or 2 T. lemon peel (to taste)
2 T. basil flowers or 1 ½ T. fresh basil leaves chopped
10 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/4 sticks), cold and cut into small pieces

To begin to make the shortbread, in a small bowl beat together egg and vanilla extract until yolk is broken up and evenly combined; set aside.

Combine flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add butter and mix until mixture looks like sand. Add egg mixture and mix just until dough comes together. Add lemon zest and basil. Form into a flat, rectangular disk, wrap in plastic, and chill at least 1 hour.

Heat oven to 375°F. Place dough on a 14-inch piece of parchment paper, lightly flour, and roll into a 13-by-8-inch oval, about 1/4 inch thick. Transfer parchment paper with dough to a baking sheet, cover in plastic wrap, and refrigerate again for 15 minutes.

Cut each cookie into a small circle using either a cookie cutter or the rim of a glass.

Place on a baking sheet and cook until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Remove to a wire rack and let cool.


  1. Looks yummy!

    Just note that if you are growing your own basil and don't pinch off the flowers you'll lose some of the flavor in the leaves (they may also get bitter). I suggest having a dedicated flowering plant and pinch off the buds of your other plants.

  2. Lovely. These look delicious. Congratulations on your Top 9 post!

  3. I've been cutting off the flowers on my garden basil...I didn't realize it was useful for anything! These shortbread cookies look so delicate and sound like a lovely flavor combination. I've saved this my recipe file.

    I think this is my first visit to your site...beautiful blog!

  4. gorgeous little tea cakes....and basil is such a nice tough! I didn't know about the flowers either! Congrats on the top 9!

  5. Looks wonderful and I think I can smell them from here!

  6. Congrats on the Foodbuzz TOP 9!

    When I saw the picture of your basil, I was thinking "are those lemon basil or regular basil?". I have lemon basil plant in my balcony, they don't look like those

    Then I read through, my bad! You were combining lemon verbena and basil :)

    Looking good!

  7. Mmmm looks delicious and looove the pictures

  8. They turned out ok. the recipe does not say when to add the basil and lemon. I added it with the dry ingredients.

    A bit bland. Other shortbread recipes call for 16T of butter. This recipe only has 10T. If I try this again, I may up the butter.

  9. @darb that is the exact reason i was looking into cooking with the flowers! it seemed like such a waste when i was pinching mine back!

    @everyone thanks for the wonderful comments!

    @dave mine packed a punch! my kitchen smelled like basil until yesterday! you used fresh basil? fresh lemon zest? i'd recommend doubling or even tripling the lemon zest unless you're using a high quality ingredient. it is a lower butter shortbread on purpose, perhaps i should have explained that better. for the outcome i think you are looking for you should be upping the butter, but also rolling the cookies out to 3/4 inch thick slab cut instead of the shortbread rounds pictured above. thanks for your input! i hope you do try them again!

  10. these look fantastic! i love a savory "biscuit" and it has become my new obsession!!

  11. i hate when something i work on doesn't turn out right. at least the ice cream was edible. the worst is when you have to throw away good food!

    these look divine. I LOVE shortbread. it's my absolute favorite cookie, second only to florentines. this is a great pairing. lemon and basil are wonderful together, why not in the shortbread right? thanks for sharing this great recipe. cheers.


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