Sunday, September 30, 2012

Creation Sunday - Lemon Verbena Part 2

Today, Hillary is going to share another excellent and simple recipe that uses lemon verbena: Shortbread.  
For those of you who the word "shortbread" conjures up mouth grimacing memories of stuff obtained in a box or bag, don't worry, real shortbread tastes nothing like the over-processed, over-preserved dry crumbly, cookie-like substances that you get from your local megamart.  Real shortbread is rich, moist, flavorful and decadent.  Best of all, it's extremely easy to make.

If you've never made shortbread before or you've tried and failed, here's a hint: FOLLOW THE RECIPE.  As you well know, In almost every recipe I make, I change stuff up but you can't do that too much with shortbread. All I do is follow this base recipe (which is also quite tasty when made as written), except I don't use any lemon zest and I add 2-4 tablespoons chopped fresh lemon verbena instead of the mint... Really. I don't change anything...

...Okay, I lied; I seriously can't make a recipe without changes anymore (it's a problem, I know)...
-First, I typically follow the creaming method because most other shortbread recipes follow it and because this method helps make sure the ingredients are mixed evenly.  I don't use an electric mixer and I don't mix excessively--just until the ingredients are evenly distributed and it starts to look like cookie dough. I add the verbena in very last after all the other ingredients and usually just mix gently with my hands until it looks more or less evenly distributed.
-Second, I also usually add the tiniest drop of vanilla. Seriously, the amount I put in could probably fit on the head of a toothpick.  If you add much more, the poor cookies will be a mess if they even form dough.  Shortbread is a unique cookie because it has a high fat ratio and often no real emulsifiers like eggs so the difference between "yummy cookie" and "lumpy pile of ingredients that refuse to form a dough" is a seriously small amount of liquid. Another reason we don't want to add too much is that vanilla is a strong flavor and we just want it to smooth out the flavors and help them harmonize just a little bit--more than a tiny drop would yield "vanilla shortbread with some herbs that we think would probably be lemony if we could really taste them."

If you're not familiar with the creaming method, the second half of the article might sound a little overwhelming but I promise it's not AND I promise that it is an excellent method to have knowledge of as many recipes use it (or need to).  Even with my added instructions these are the easiest cookies I have ever made and, in fact, this is the best "oh no I have people on their way to my house right now" dessert to make ever as they take 15-30 minutes total to be finished.
I hope you enjoyed this recipe and encourages you to try making some tasty shortbread-verbena or otherwise.

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