Friday, September 3, 2010

Basil Grapefruit Sugar Cookies

I've been dreaming of baking with herbs for quite some time--sage with chocolate has also been on my list for a few months--but I finally got around to baking with basil.  Is there anything that basil doesn't go with?  It certainly paired well with the bodacious grapefruits my friend Jen brought me from her backyard.

I wanted this cookie to be more of a shortbread, but I was seduced by the idea of using olive oil for its distinctive flavor.  Olive oil gets solid when refrigerated, I reasoned, so if I make the dough and freeze it, maybe it will behave enough like it would with butter/lard/margarine/etc.?

Alas, not really.  The cookies were tender, but in a stale-animal-cracker sort of way, which neighbor/friend/taster Devon loved but I found unsatisfying.  If you're going to use that much fat, it should melt in your mouth!  To add insult to injury, there's not really an olive oil flavor, either.  Next time I'll try half earth balance and half olive oil.

Texture aside, though, the cookies tasted really good.  They're not too sweet, and the vanilla rounds out the pointiness of the grapefruit.  The only thing is that upon baking, the basil loses a lot of its flavor while the grapefruit zest does not.  So if you taste the dough before baking to check, keep this in mind.

In veganizing and adapting a recipe from Cherry Tea Cakes, I had to change the mixing method to accommodate the use of oil (as opposed to cutting in the shortening at the end)--it's actually the method for my grandma Nellie's pie crust.  I also doubled the vanilla.

Basil Grapefruit Sugar Cookies
(adapted from Cherry Tea Cakes)

1 TB flax seed + 3 TB water, whisked together
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup sugar
6-8 TB olive oil (or 3-4 TB olive oil and 5 TB earth balance, cut into small cubes)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 TB grapefruit zest
2-3 TB fresh basil leaves, very finely chopped
additional olive oil and nondairy milk, as needed

1. In one mixing bowl, combine the flax mixture, vanilla, sugar, and olive oil.  In a second bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking powder.  Then add the dry to wet and mix.  It will be very crumbly, like a pie crust.
2. Mix in the grapefruit zest and basil, and then add only as much additional liquid (olive oil, milk, water, or a combination) as needed to make a dough that holds together. (As yet untried) variation: This would be where you cut the earth balance into the dough.
3. Place the ball of dough on waxed paper and freeze for about 10-15 minutes.  Preheat oven to 375*.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Then remove dough from freezer.
4. Roll out the dough to 1/4-in thickness.  I did this between two sheets of waxed paper, with a thin layer of flour separating the dough from each sheet, because it made cleanup a lot easier.  Cut out cookies with floured cookie-cutters or a glass.
5. Place cookies on parchment paper and bake at 375* for 9-10 minutes, or until they begin to be golden brown.  Remove from oven and let cool before moving from baking sheet.  Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

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