Sunday, July 7, 2013

Lemon Basil Shortbread Cookies

Early last spring, my daughter and her husband took us to the Atlanta Botanical Garden. The tulips were blooming and I took beautiful photos that will ( one day) make perfect painting references. As we exited, we ran into a small bazaar type sales area. Everything appeared to be homemade. I immediately spotted a chef with cookies beautifully displayed. They were shortbread. Not ordinary shortbread, but interesting herb flavored shortbread. I couldn't resist and bought a package for my friend and me to share and dissect!

The flavor of the day was Ginger and Rosemary. I tasted and chatted with the chef. He told me he was working on Lemon Basil. Not to be outdone, I came home and immediately searched the internet for a recipe! Of course, there were several! I chose one and tried it myself. They are scrumptious!

Here's the recipe with some notes from my experimenting (surely you expected that?). I hope you enjoy them as much as we have.

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

1 cup white sugar
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
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 finely chopped fresh basil leaves

I added these ingredients from King Arthur Flour Company
1 T lemon juice powder
1 heaping tablespoon lemon bits

Cream butter and sugar on medium speed of electric mixer until light and fluffy.
Add vanilla, lemon juice, lemon zest, and basil. Mix on low until well combined. Sift  flour and salt together; add gradually to the creamed mixture with the mixer running on low.

Note: The original recipe calls for 3 1/2 cups of flour and 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.  

Remove dough from 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.

* I shaped the dough into a log, rolled in plastic wrap and refrigerated for several hours. Slice into 1/4" circles and bake for 10 to 15 minutes on ungreased baking pans.

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.


  1. yum, I will have to try these. We like to give treats to the guy that mows our lawn. My aunt loves shortbread cookies too so I will have to pass this on. Thank you for finding and testing the recipe.


  2. A good way to gift shortbread ( or any round cookies) is to stack them in a plastic cup, enclose in gift basket clear wrap ( from Michael's) and tie with ribbon or cord.
    Enjoy! They ARE yummmmy!

  3. I got to taste these and I agree, they are delicious!