Amanda & Merrill

Sweet and Salty Herbed Shortbread

March 23, 2010

- Merrill

Several weeks ago, Amanda and I received a delicious assortment of goodies from Maggie Battista (alias eatboutique) that included an addictive sweet and savory shortbread with herbs in it. Neither of us could get enough of the buttery, fragrant cookies -- we had to ration out the package so that we wouldn’t eat it all at once.

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Then a week or two later, I was at my friend Sara's for dinner, and she set out a little plate of homemade sage shortbread rounds for dessert. Inspired by this coincidence, I decided to include my own version of Sara's crumbly, sage-infused treats in a column on Summer Berry Desserts I was working on for the Boston-based magazine The Herb Quarterly.

Below is an adapted recipe that calls for the addition of any fresh herb of your choosing. I'd probably recommend using hardier varieties like sage, rosemary and thyme over herbs like tarragon or basil that bruise easily. But why not experiment? If you find a winning combination, please let me know in the comments section below.

Sweet and Salty Herbed Shortbread

Makes about 27 pieces

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh herbs (sage, rosemary, thyme, lavender, etc.)
  • 1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature

1. Put a rack in the center of the oven and heat it to 350 degrees. Sift the flour and salt into a medium bowl. In a small bowl, use your fingers to gently rub together 2 tablespoons of the sugar and the chopped herbs (this will help release the oils). Whisk this mixture into the flour. 

2. Cut up the butter into chunks and add it to the flour, stirring with a fork to make a soft dough. Gently pat the dough into a 9-inch round or square baking pan. Prick the dough all over with a fork and sprinkle the remaining teaspoon of sugar evenly over the dough.

3. Bake the shortbread for 20 to 30 minutes, until it is golden and no longer looks at all wet. Using a very sharp knife, score into fingers, squares or wedges while it is still quite warm, and let it cool completely in the pan before separating the pieces.

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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RaquelG March 29, 2010
I love the flavor of thyme and lemon together.... what do you think of lemon tartlets with thyme shortbread crust?
robinemcd March 28, 2010
With any of these recipes, mix 2T sanding sugar (or turbinado sugar) with 1/2t sea salt and sprinkle lightly on the top before baking for a slight crunch and a pleasantly salty surprise.
TheWimpyVegetarian March 28, 2010
Great idea!
TheWimpyVegetarian March 27, 2010
I just made these with a combo of rosemary, lavender and lemon zest. Then added a blackberry/lemon glaze. Really yummy! And beautiful to look at. Interesting tasting note: I didn't notice the rosemary as much until I added the blackberry glaze. Thanks for this great recipe! Can't wait to try it in some of my tarts.
AntoniaJames March 23, 2010
I do a rosemary and orange zest shortbread with either a Cointreau glaze or Cara Cara and Meyer Lemon marmalade spiked with whatever orange liqueur I have on hand. It's great during the dark days of February. ;o)
JNoelle March 23, 2010
I've added Anise Hyssop to shortbread before -- more on the sweet side rather than a savory herb, but a really lovely flavor.
Merrill S. March 23, 2010
That sounds lovely.
MrsWheelbarrow March 23, 2010
I make a rosemary shortbread cookie as part of my holiday cookie box every year. It's the perfect taste for Christmas, and exquisite with Champagne.
Merrill S. March 23, 2010
I've never paired the two before, but I will now!
Aliwaks March 23, 2010
So nice, I've baking this semester, this will be my secret weapon! Mrs L. what a great idea! I'm thinking about a blackberry tart with sage shortbread crust??
Merrill S. March 23, 2010
Yummy! Love the idea of pairing dark syrupy berries with woodsy sage.
lastnightsdinner March 23, 2010
I've had those savory shortbreads from the eat boutique goody box, and I agree they are delicious! I seem to recall Marlow & Sons having savory shortbreads from time to time, too. I may just have to re-think this whole "no baking" thing of mine :)
Merrill S. March 23, 2010
If food52 can inspire you to become a baker, we'll consider our work here to be done.
mrslarkin March 23, 2010
LOVE your recipes in The Herb Quarterly, Merrill. And all the cute illustrations. This sounds yummy. I might have to experiment with my Lemon Posset and make a tart, like apartmentcooker did.
Merrill S. March 23, 2010
Wow, I'm so flattered that you read my pieces in HQ! I think the lemon posset/herbed shortbread combo could be a real winner.
dymnyno March 23, 2010
mmm butter and flour...great crust and great shortbread!
Merrill S. March 23, 2010
So true! My mother's go-to pie crust is a buttery, crumbly, pat-it-into-the-pan crust. Nothing better.