These crumbly, melt-in-the-mouth lemon thyme shortbread cookies combine the sophisticated simplicity of a shortbread biscuit, the zesty bitterness of lemon, and the earthy flavour of thyme. They are incredibly easy to make, and can be an excellent, albeit unconventional, addition to this year’s Christmas cookie spread.
There are many things that I could blabber on about in this post, but let’s be honest here – we all know there’s only one topic we really want to talk about. And as it’s December the 1st, it’s totally fine to talk about it. You know, Christmas.
I was told that listening to Christmas music and doodling merry snowmen, red-nosed reindeer, and jolly gingerbread people is only really acceptable in December (apparently people are fed up with Christmas cheer starting in September – I do so wonder why). Of course, I paid no attention to it, and have been at it from mid November – well, to be completely truthful, I started listening to ‘Fairytale of New York’ way way before that, but that song is just too amazing to be listened to only around Christmas time.
In a similar vein, let’s defy societal expectations, and make these lemon thyme shortbread cookies as part of this year’s Christmas cookie spread. Amidst all the usual suspects: the gingerbread, cinnamon, orange, chocolate, and peppermint cookies (which are all a-h-mazing, naturally, and will certainly be making an appearance on this blog at some point), they are bound to stand out – and, well, sometimes you just want something… different, especially when different means delicious, crumbly, melt-in-the-mouth cookies.
I’m perfectly willing to bet that these lemon thyme shortbread cookies are what sunshine tastes like. There is a slight bitterness (but not overpowering, oh no!) from the lemon zest, which teams up with thyme to give an out-of-this-world depth of flavour and will fill up your kitchen with a smell that I can only compare to lying in a meadow brimming with herbs on a sunny day. Which is totally impossible in late autumn verging on winter, but Christmas is all about miracles and unexpected gifts, isn’t it? (I would like to point out here that these cookies are the good kind of unexpected gift, should there be any doubt – but really, why would there be?)
There is sophistication in the simplicity of a good shortbread cookie (or shortbread biscuit, or just shortbread, I don’t care so long as I can eat them, and trust me, neither will you). However rather than being bland and boring (oh my, what a blasphemous idea!), the cookies’ simplicity allows complex flavours to come into their own. Thus, the lemon zest is not just bitter, it’s delightfully aromatic in that way that you know but cannot really describe. The thyme is earthy and fresh, and it’s hard to determine whether you’re tasting it with your taste buds or with your nose (it may sound weird, but it’s so true: try tasting something like turmeric or cinnamon without breathing in their scent – yep, ‘tastes’ like … well, tasteless powder; see: magic… or rather science, but exclaiming “Magic!” excuses strange hand gestures, weird face expressions, and a funny voice, so we’ll stick with it).
Because there can never be too much sunshine in our lives (especially if you’re from the UK, in which case: I know… I know), I wholeheartedly encourage you to make these lemon thyme shortbread cookies. I was thinking of renaming them ‘sunshine cookies’ but that sounds kind of shifty in the flower-power-and-mysterious-ingredients-that-make-you-happy kind of way. (Although these cookies are bound to put a smile on your face… just not for that reason…) Anyway, treat this post as an invitation to abandon societal acceptability (as applied to Christmas cookies, duh) and make these cookies for Christmas – or right now, sure, why not. And if expressing your inner rebel isn’t incentive enough, just think about it: you can experience what sunshine tastes like. Go on, bake them. You know you want to.
LEMON THYME SHORTBREAD COOKIES
- 125 g unsalted butter, softened
- 85 g sugar
- 190 g flour
- pinch of salt
- leaves of 15 sprigs of thyme
- zest of 1 1/2 lemon
Cream together butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
Add thyme and lemon zest to the butter/sugar mixture, and mix well until uniformly distributed.
Sift together flour and salt, and add to the butter/sugar mixture.
Mix with a wooden spoon, or use a stand mixer, until the dough comes together in a ball.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead it briefly together into a smooth but not sticky dough.
Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes (for best results leave in fridge for 1 – 2 hours). (Note 1)
Preheat the oven to 350 ºF (175 ºC).
Line a baking tray with baking/greaseproof paper.
Roll out the cookie dough about 1/2 cm thick (Note 2), cut out the cookies with a cookie cutter of your choice, and place them onto the baking tray, leaving at least 1/2" (or about 1.5 cm) space between them.
Optional: Prick the cookies (this is purely for decorative purposes).
Refrigerate the cut out cookies for about 20 minutes. (Note 3)
Bake in the preheated oven at 350 ºF (175 ºC) for 15 – 17 minutes, or until the edges are a light golden colour.
Leave to cool, and enjoy!
The cookies keep well in a closed container in a dry and cool place for about a week (nuh-uh, no way will they last that long).
Note 1: Prolonged refrigeration prevents the cookies from being chewy and spreading too much during baking.
Note 2: If the dough is too cold to be rolled immediately after being taken out of the fridge, leave it to warm at room temperature for about 5 – 10 minutes.
Note 3: This second refrigeration is necessary if the cookie dough has become too warm during the rolling out and cutting process. Putting them back into the fridge before baking ensures that they won't spread too much during baking.