I finally threw a tea party! It had been ages since I hosted a get together with my friends, and a sunny tea party was a lovely excuse. I had a group of about eight ladies over to the house. I asked that each guest bring their favorite tea and treat to share. What a delightful gathering to prepare for- filled with pretty dishes, utensils, linens, and of course, quaint arrangements of fresh flowers. Also, as a gracious hostess, I knew it was my duty (and pleasure) to wrap up a few bundles of my favorite treat, for my chums to take home. A new favorite cookie of mine combines the earthy spice of Rosemary, and the chipper tanginess of lemon. It’s a very simple shortbread cookie, known to have different notes of flavor that are especially good paired with teas.
• 4 Sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
• 1 ¼ Cup Sugar
• 4 Cups all purpose flour
• Zest of 1 Lemon, grated
• 2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
• 1 Teaspoon Almond or Vanilla Extract
• 4 tablespoons finely chopped Rosemary (fresh from your garden would be great!)
• 1 Cup (or so) of additional flour for kneading and rolling the dough
The first thing that I tend to underestimate (and under plan) the importance of, is to set your butter out to soften, at room temperature. I’ve definitely done my share of microwaving, or hard whisking, and the result is terrible. Don’t skip this step, even though you’re so excited about getting started.
Dust off your hand mixer and begin creaming together the butter and sugar, until well incorporated and fluffy. Chop up your rosemary (my recipe calls for a bit more because I wanted the flavor to be quite strong). Add the rosemary into the butter/sugar bowl. Grate and juice the lemon into the same bowl. Add the Almond/Vanilla extract, the two are interchangeable in this recipe because they are not used as the primary flavor, but simply to curb the somewhat dry, and acidic tendencies of the other flavors. Pick your favorite sweet-baking base- I used Almond. Mix these ingredients together, it will smell amazing. Pause for a moment and preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.
Next, slowly start pouring in the flour, and combining bit by bit. The dough will be soft, much like play-dough. Flour your surface, and roll the dough into 1/4 inch thickness. For my cookies I just used a very thin glass, and I floured (or you can use butter/Crisco) the mouth of it first, to ensure the cookies came out cleanly. This recipe does not rise very much, so what you cut is just slightly smaller than the final product.
Place each cookie with about one inch bake space, on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. You will know the cookies are done when they are slightly golden, catch them before they brown because they will be quite hard by then. This should take 20 minutes, give or take, depending on the size of your cookies and heat of your oven. I set my timer for 15 minutes, and watched them closely until until they started to golden.