Test Kitchen - Thai Basil Lime Shortbread Cookies

When Thai basil cropped up as the Test Kitchen ingredient last week, we thought that it would be too simple to use it in a savory entree. Something sweet perhaps? Desserts ran through my mind, and eventually I wondered if a cookie would work. I've found that Thai basil is usually paired with lime in dishes so searched for some baking ideas. I came across a shortbread recipe and adapted it slightly to fit our needs to create melt-in-your-mouth morsels of shortbread goodness. They have the signature lime tartness with an aftertaste of herbal Thai basil packed into a small crumbly package. I'm looking forward to sharing this with others.

Step 1: Ingredients (yields five dozen cookies)

  • 1/2 lb unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 3 tbsps fresh Thai basil, finely chopped
  • 2 limes, zest only (use juice from 1 1/2 limes)
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Step 2: Mixing ingredients
To help bring that much butter to room temperature, cut butter into chunks for greater exposed surface area. In a mixing bowl, combine butter, sugar, basil, zest, juice, and salt. In a separate bowl, combine cornstarch and flour. Add dry mixture to wet in increments - I divided my additions into four parts. Mix well until dough forms.

Step 3: Shaping dough
The shortbread dough needs to get back into usable shape so refrigerate for at least two hours' time after shaping. To shape, divide dough into two portions. On a floured flat surface, roll each half into rounded logs approximately one to two inches in diameter depending on preference. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Step 4: Baking
Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove shortbread logs from the refrigerator and slice into 1/4" to 1/2" cookies placed about an inch away from each other. No worries - don't expand much.

Step 5: Finishing
Bake for 9-11 minutes depending on when the cookies begin to brown a little. Let cool before serving because their base is very crumbly. Enjoy by themselves - they'll easily just melt on your tongue once you put them in your mouth. The original recipe called for a glaze but I don't see a point!

This week's Test Kitchen ingredient: tomatillo
"The tomatillo fruit is surrounded by an inedible, paper-like husk formed from the calyx. As the fruit matures, it fills the husk and can split it open by harvest. The husk turns brown, and the fruit can be several colors when ripe, including yellow, red, green, or even purple. Tomatillos are the key ingredient in fresh and cooked Mexican and Central-American green sauces. The freshness and greenness of the husk are quality criteria. Fruit should be firm and bright green, as the green color and tart flavor are the main culinary contributions of the fruit. Purple and red-ripening cultivars often have a slight sweetness, unlike the green- and yellow-ripening cultivars, and are therefore somewhat more suitable for fruit-like uses like jams and preserves. Like their close relatives cape gooseberries, tomatillos have a high pectin content. Another characteristic is they tend to have a varying degree of a sappy sticky coating, mostly when used on the green side out of the husk." [Wikipedia]

We've seen these all the time but we've yet to actually use them in cooking. Any thoughts come to mind? Comment on the picture when it comes up on Facebook.

Photography by Duc Duong.