These are my favorite cookies that I have ever made. They are savory, buttery, salty and sweet all at the same time. Because they are pretty small, you will find yourself eating one and then five and then ten until they are all gone and everyone is staring at you with daggers in their eyes.
I am not much of a dessert person unless chocolate is involved but what makes these cookies so perfect is the way they are almost not a dessert. But they obviously are.
These cookies also have the ability to be transformed with the use of different herbs and flavors. After making these for the first time last year I became inspired to make my own variation and cranked out a batch of rosemary orange shortbreads (I still prefer the sage—I think I had my proportions off). In the comments for the recipe on Epicurious someone suggests using lavender blossoms instead. The possibilities are endless! But please, please start with sage first. I believe your life may be changed.
We took these cookies to two Thanksgivings, my family’s and Kendall’s where they received approval from many, including a 2-year-old, my father (cookie lover and late-night snacker), two New Yorkers and lots of people who love to eat. We got a lot of compliments and pairing suggestions: “Ooo, they should be partially dipped in chocolate”, “I think these would almost go with cheese. Yeah, the definitely would. They are both a cookie and a cracker”.
So make them and then take them to your holiday gathering and bask in the glory of making the most amazing cookies ever.
Sage-Scented Shortbread Cookies
adapted from Bon Appétit via Epicurious
1. Preheat oven to 350˚ F. Combine flour, sugar, sage and salt in a large mixing bowl.
2. Using a pastry cutter or a large food processor cut the butter into the flour mixture until all the dough comes together. (If you have no idea what I am taking about, check out the video below!)
3. Divide the dough in half and roll each half into a 1-1/2 inch log. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
4. Slice each log into 1/4-inch rounds and place on cookie sheets 1/4-inch apart. Bake 15-20 minutes, until cookies just start to turn golden brown around the edges. Cool on racks before serving.
– Cutting the butter into the flour is what gives pastries like pie crusts and shortbread cookies their tenderness. By surrounding the flour in butter you prevent gluten from forming and gluten is what gives structural integrity to baked goods. The more gluten, the more chewy the bread.
You can cut the flour into the butter in one of two ways. The old-fashion way, my favorite, is to do it manually using a pastry cutter/blender. This tool is very cheap and is the funny thing I’m using in the photos above. It only take 5 minutes or so to do and you will practically be able to taste all your hard work when you bite into your creations.
If you prefer a speedy, more modern approach then use a food processor! Put all the ingredients in and pules until the dough forms. Ta da!
Here’s a video showing the use of a pastry cutter. In this video, they are making a pie crust so the proportion of wet to dry ingredients is a little different, resulting in a different consistency than shortbread dough in the end. I think it is just helpful to see the process. The first time I cut butter into flour I was making a cherry pie when I was 14 years-old and I literally cut it in using a butter knife. I’ll save you from that mistake.