It’s about time we talked about basil.
Until circa 2009, I rarely bought fresh basil. I had dried basil in my cupboard, and it lasted longer than fresh, so I figured it made more sense. Then, in the summer of 2009 my then-roommate and I split a community-supported agriculture (CSA) share. In those boxes we’d get these beautiful, fresh, huge batches of basil. The best pizza I’ve ever made included local heirloom tomatoes (which I used to make both sauce and toppings), fresh mozzarella, and large leafs of local basil.
I’ve been hooked ever since.
Basil is a big part of my life these days, both in the kitchen and out. Last Spring Ryan started a hydroponic farm so he could supply local co-ops with fresh produce year-round. Currently he’s mostly producing basil, which works out wonderfully if you’re me and want basil on all the things.
If you’re fortunate enough to live somewhere warm, you may think that fresh, local basil year-round is no big thang. In Minnesota, where humans barely survive the winter, finding a way to successfully grow and sustain large crops in -20 degree weather is no small feat.
I’m fortunate to know a basil guy. I have an “in” with local produce, and it’s fabulous.
We regularly put Ryan’s basil (the best damn basil in town, I believe) on pizzas, in sandwiches, in pasta sauces, or blended up into pesto. To switch things up, I decided it was high time I put some basil in my cookies.
I know basil cookies may sound a bit strange to some of you, but hear me out. These cookies are buttery, light, crisp, and have a splash of lemon flavor. Although I usually feel a bit “meh” about shortbread, the lemon and basil make for one flavorful, bright little treat that just meeeeelts in your mouth.
Butter, guys. It’s all about the butter and the basil.
The simple lemon glaze comes together quickly, but an even quicker option would be to just sift a little powdered sugar on top of the cooled cookies. The sprinkle of white will add a little pretty flair.
These cookies feel fancy because of their shape, luxurious texture, and the fact that they include an herb (duh). If you’re refined, maybe you’ll eat them leisurely while sipping black tea. If you’re me, maybe you’ll eat them straight from the plastic tupperware while cleaning up your stressfully-dirty kitchen.
At least my cookies have class.
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
- ½ cup fresh basil, very finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup powdered sugar
- 4 teaspoons milk
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- Preheat the oven to 300°F.
- Cream the butter in a large mixing bowl, then add the powdered sugar and basil and whip until incorporated. Add the lemon juice and zest, and vanilla. and zest, and basil in a mixing bowl. Add the flour and salt, and beat until you have a smooth, sticky dough.
- Form two balls out of the dough. Place one of the balls on a piece of lightly-floured parchment paper, and pat or roll into ¼" thickness. Use a 2¼" biscuit cutter to form the cookie shapes, and place on a parchment or silpat-lined baking sheet. Form the scraps into a ball and pat into ¼" thickness again, and form as many cookies as you can. Use a fork to poke holes in the center of each cookie. Repeat with remaining dough.
- Bake for 35 minutes, until lightly golden. When the cookies come out of the oven they'll feel a little soft, but they will firm up as they cool. Move to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
- While the cookies cool, whisk together the powdered sugar, milk, and lemon juice for the glaze.
- Dunk, drizzle, or brush the glaze onto each cooled cookie.