What Is Rosemary Shortbread?

Dan Harkins

Aside from gelatin or pudding, shortbread cookies, or biscuits, are among the easiest dessert treats to make. Just because their basic ingredients are butter, sugar and flour does not mean that they cannot be made with culinary flair. Adding just a single herb to the recipe, for instance, can create a rosemary shortbread with an undeniably distinct flavor.

Rosemary shortbread may be flavored with sweeter herbs like lavender.
Rosemary shortbread may be flavored with sweeter herbs like lavender.

The basic recipe for shortbread is not a gourmet secret, combining just a handful of common pantry items. A batch of dough for nearly two dozen rosemary shortbread cookies contains about 3.5 cups (about 438 g) of all-purpose flour, 0.75 lb. (about three sticks) of butter, and 1 cup (about 200 g) of sugar. Some chefs might add a few dashes of salt and 1 tsp. (about 5 ml) of vanilla extract.

When the batter is fully mixed, just 0.25 cup (about 60 g) of finely minced, fresh rosemary leaves are needed to impart a wealth of distinctive flavor. Rosemary shortbread dough is then cooked with one of a few methods. The batter can be rolled out flat and cut into a variety of cookie patterns that are placed on a greased cookie sheet. It can be poured into a shallow baking pan too, and cooked before the patterns are cut. In general, the oven should be set to 350°F (about 177°C), and the rosemary shortbread will need about a half-hour or more to be fully browned.

Rosemary shortbread can be presented in a range of ways. Preparing it in the classic Scottish shortbread style means scoring the dough into thick rectangular fingers. Other incarnations include the Russian tea cake style of shortbread balls dusted with powdered sugar or a disc-shaped cookie drizzled with lemon icing and sprinkles. Many of these styles of shortbread cookies are presented during the holidays, including the ubiquitous shortbread diamonds, with just half of the cookie dipped in chocolate.

Rosemary is just one tweak on the traditional shortbread recipe. Another common addition is brown sugar for some of the granulated kind. Some chefs also use a little citrus zest in their shortbread dough or other sweet-flavored herbs like lavender. Several other types of ingredients have found their way into a shortbread recipe as well, from cocoa powder, ginger or ground coffee to nutmeg, crushed nuts or dried fruit. Another way to differentiate a shortbread cookie is by creating a glaze infused with a certain type of fruit or nut.

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