There are so many delicious things coming out of the oven at Warm Sugar--beyond their usual beautiful cupcakes. If you haven't heard, I'm part of their Artisan's Kitchen Project, whereby a handful of bakers and treats makers can use the bakery's oven and they sell our wares, taking a small percentage. If you haven't been there yet, please check it out! Warm Sugar's open Wednesday through Sunday.
I know there are lots of tasty things planned for March. I, for one, am venturing into shortbread, as it is a traditional thing to approach during the upcoming month. As with anything though, I don't do it straight. (I sort of shudder when someone asks me to make cookies and I ask what kind and they say, I dunno, chocolate chip. Nothing can be more boring to me sometimes, but I get it: sometimes you just want chocolate chip cookies.) These shortbread cookies are going in a savory direction, and they aren't the thick, finger-shaped logs like those you might buy in the store. These are going in a more grown-up, sophisticated, after-dinner kind of direction. (Hah! I say that kind of tongue-in-cheek, 'cause we don't have any sophisticated dinners around here anymore. If we can get everyone at the table at the same time and two small people can eat dinner without melting down/leaving the table ten times/asking for something in the kitchen, it's nothing short of a small miracle.)
Anyway, I also wanted to go savory because there's a surfeit of chocolate, fudge, pretzels, and other treats at Warm Sugar. And I'm trying to find a niche with my slightly left-of-center take on things. The savory shortbread debuted today. I've started with a test batch of lemon rosemary but have others planned, too, depending on how these go. What puts them over the edge is the herbed salt I sprinkled on top of the cookies. I also toyed with slicing a frozen shortbread log versus rolling them out, and hands down, beautiful uniformity won out over the ease of slicing. I can never get a log of cookie dough completely circular and perfect. That's fine for home consumption, but we eat with our eyes first, people, and I'd like what you see to be lovely.
Here's the rough recipe, adapted from several places online, including Food and Wine. As you can see it's pretty easy. There's beauty in that simplicity.
1/2 cup softened organic butter
1/3 cup sugar
Zest of one lemon and several squirts of fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. good quality dried rosemary or 2-3 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary (or to taste)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup of all-purpose, unbleached flour
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Mix together on low speed, the sugar, zest, and rosemary.
3. Add the butter and cream with the sugar until it just comes together.
4. Add the salt, and the flour, and mix just until it comes together. Bring it together with your hands (it will feel and behave a bit like pie crust, albeit more buttery) into a ball. Flatten said ball a bit with your hands, wrap it in plastic or wax paper, and let it chill for 45 minutes to an hour.
5. Remove from the fridge, and cut the flattened ball in half. It's easier to work with smaller bits at once, and I don't like to overwork tender doughs like this, but if you want to roll out the whole thing in one go, it's certainly not too large. Roll it to about 1/4 inch or so in thickness. These are going to be whisper-thin little hits of flavor. Cut them out into any desired shape, but the smaller and more bite-sized, the better. My prototypes at home were round, about 2 inches in diameter, but the squares you see here are about an inch and a half across.
6. Place them onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. They won't spread much, so you will likely be able to fit at least a dozen on each sheet. Brush the tops with milk and stick them in the freezer to chill for 10-15 minutes.
7. Sprinkle the tops with sparkling sugar, demerara sugar or coarse sea salt. If it's herbed, even better. (I just happen to have a collection of fancy salts, most of them given to me as gifts. Thanks, Kelly Prentice, for the rosemary salt from Seasons that goes on these babies!) Bake for 8-10 minutes, rotating once. Keep an eye on these, because they are thin and crisp up quickly. Remove from the oven when they're lightly browned around the edges.
8. Cool on wire racks, and store in an airtight container for up to a week. Honestly, though, they won't last that long.