This blog post is brought to you by my friend PJ Graham, who makes the most delicious cookies and baked goods. Here, she shares a way to add some variety to your cookies and other sweets. Enjoy!
Sweeten Things Up with Herbs
You may have heard about herbal butter or oils, but herbs can infuse something sweet as well – sugar! You can do this with many fresh herbs such as rosemary, lavender, lemon verbena, thyme, and mint.
To make an herbal sugar, you will need:
• 2 cups cane sugar
• 3 to 6 sprigs of the chosen fresh herb
• Small jar or container with an airtight lid
Place the sprigs of fresh herb in the jar or container. You can bruise the herbs to help the sugar absorb the oils more readily (some folks even grind the herbs in a mortar and pestle and leave the herb specks in the sugar).
Pour the sugar over the herb and seal the lid on the jar. Shake it well. Let it sit to absorb the herb’s oils – the longer it sits, the stronger the flavor will be. For most herbs, it’s best to let the sugar absorb the oils for several days and up to two weeks (rosemary is an exception – I’ve made usable rosemary sugar in just a few hours). Shake the jar once or twice a day.
When the sugar smells as strongly of the herb as you desire, remove the herb sprigs and reseal the jar until you want to use the sugar.
Stored out of direct sunlight in a sealed container, the sugar can stay good for a long time. If it loses the true smell of the herb, it’s time to throw it out.
Using Herbal Sugars
So how do you use herbal sugar? These sugars can add a special touch when used to sweeten tea or lemonade. Add subtle herb flavor to sugar cookies by rolling the balls of dough in an herbal sugar before flattening them. Or, replace plain sugar with herbal sugars to add a unique twist to a standard recipe. My secret recipe for Rosemary Apple Pie includes rosemary sugar – it makes a huge difference!
If you’re not comfortable winging how to use herbal sugars, here’s a recipe to get you started:
LEMON ROSEMARY SUGAR COOKIES
1/3 cup rosemary sugar
3-3/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup butter, slightly softened (or margarine or butter-flavor Crisco)
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 to 1 teaspoon lemon extract
Zest of one lemon (or add more extract)
1 to 1-1/2 tablespoons fresh chopped rosemary
Grease cookie sheets and set aside. Preheat the oven to 375°.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, soda, cream of tartar, and salt. Set this aside for later.
In a large bowl, beat the butter for a few seconds to break it up and then add the sugar. Beat until fluffy. Add the eggs, milk, vanilla, lemon extract, zest, and chopped rosemary; beat until combined. Add the dry ingredients, beating just until combined.
Shape the dough into 1- to 1-1/4-inch balls, roll in the rosemary sugar, and place two inches apart on the cookie sheets. Flatten each ball slightly with the bottom of a glass. Bake for 8 minutes or just until they start turning golden in color.
Note: Because they continue to bake after removing them from the oven, it is always better to slightly undercook cookies rather than overcook them.
Let the cookies sit on the sheet for a minute or two before moving them to a cooling rack.