Citrus Basil Butter Cookies

Confession – I am ardently in love with fresh basil.  Head over heels.  Smitten kitten.  I want to marry it.  All of those things.

Basil is wonderful in many Italian dishes and paired with its BFF’s, tomato and mozzarella, but basil is also a marvelous ingredient in buttery cookies, especially when you also add in the citrus tang of lemon and lime zests.

I found this recipe a little odd.  The dough comes together in a food processor, similar to making pie dough.  The recipe said the dough would form “moist clumps,” but mine wouldn’t hold together to form a ball, so I added in 2 teaspoons of milk to make it wet enough to shape into balls.

The extra milk is probably why the cookies stayed a little moist in the middle, so if I make these again I will poke a few holes in the center of the cookies with a toothpick before I bake them .

Overall, if you love basil like I do, you will want to experiment with these cookies so you can enjoy the burst of fresh basil, citrus and butter when you bite into them.

Citrus Basil Butter Cookies
Adapted from Bon Appetit

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar, plus more for pressing  cookies
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 tablespoons sliced fresh basil  leaves
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons milk
Sanding sugar (optional)


  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
  • Combine the flour, sugar, butter, basil, zests, lemon juice, and salt in the bowl if a food processor and pulse a few times to combine.  If you don’t have a food processor, whir in a blender.
  • Slowly drizzle in the milk until dough just comes together.
  • Roll tablespoons of dough into balls and arrange on baking sheets, leaving 2″ between each.
  • Take a flat-bottom measuring cup and lightly cover it in additional powdered sugar, then press onto each ball of dough to lightly flatten it.
  • Sprinkle tops of the dough with coarse sanding sugar, if desired.
  • Using a toothpick or piece of raw spaghetti, poke a few holes in the center of each cookie.
  • Bake until the edges are brown, around 12-15 minutes.
  • Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Yield:  16 cookies

Print Version

Thanksgiving Recap

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving – and that you fell into the same food coma I did come Thursday evening.   I had a great time visiting with my family and counting all of my many blessings.

There are a lot of us so we do Thanksgiving “family-style” with all the food set up in one spot…or, as you can see, on every available inch of my mom’s counter.  Covered in copious amounts of tin foil.  Underneath was a turkey, a spiral ham, a pork roast, a tray of stuffed shells, and a tray of veggie lasagna.  Plus sides. 

We are Italian.  The phrase “too much food” doesn’t exist.

My mom and Arthur had me as their guest for 2 nights and took great care of me.  They are terrific.

Arthur used to wake us up on Thanksgiving morning by “making the turkey dance” before it went in the oven.  This consisted of coming into our bedrooms with the turkey like a hand puppet and waving it over our heads while we hid under the covers, shrieking.

Thankfully, he now just sticks to basting and carving.

Our Community Servings pecan and pumpkin pies were both delicious…especially the pecan.  I could have eaten it with just a spoon.  Dangerous.


Sadly, one thing I was not thankful for was the batch of Italian Meatball cookies I ruined when I forgot to add the baking powder.  Not a proud moment, but it happens…and I will admit it!

In need of dessert one way or another, I grabbed a lemon cake mix and a brownie mix and doctored them up with the help of some trusty Bundts.

Lemon Pound Cake Bundt:

The side of the cake mix box told me I could turn it into a pound cake by adding a box of instant pudding mix and tweaking the egg, water, and oil extras.  My mom didn’t have lemon pudding so I used vanilla.  I also added vanilla oomph by poking 2 dozen holes in the baked cake with a toothpick and then pouring a vanilla glaze of powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla extract over the top to drain down into the cake.  A dusting of powdered sugar added class.  I love how powdered sugar accentuates the lines of a good Bundt.

This pan is my mom’s, one of the few styles I don’t have, so it was fun to try it out.

Also on the menu was a Thanksgiving edition of Brownie Bundts – this time with sprinkles:

I used a Ghiradelli brownie mix (the best of the mixes) and made a quick glaze using a little melted butter, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, and milk.  Some autumn sprinkles made them holiday-ready!

And of course, I couldn’t forget to include these 3 boys from my visit.  They are very clean.

My favorite Thanksgiving Day treat was a new appetizer my sister Courtney made.  I will be sharing that recipe next, so stay tuned!

Cranberry Lemon Bread

I have been heavy on the pumpkin this fall, so it only seemed fair to add another cranberry recipe to the roster before we switch gears to winter.  I was disappointed to see a lot of cranberry bread recipes calling for canned cranberry sauce.  Say what?

I finally found a nut bread recipe in the Better Homes and Gardens cook book with a variation for cranberry nut bread.  I omitted the nuts and swapped out the orange zest for lemon zest.  It seems to be an unofficial rule that cranberries go with orange and blueberries go with lemon, but I don’t support that rule.

This bread is delicious.  The lemon zest is subtle in both appearance and taste, but definitely balances the tartness of the cranberries.  I had actually never baked with fresh cranberries before and I admit I was skeptical when I started chopping them and saw their hollow, teeny-seeded interior…but the end result was delicious.  And lovely in color.

I am headed to my parents for a few days to celebrate the holiday and visit with family and my mom’s 3 Siamese cats (you may remember them from this post).  John will be in Plymouth with his family, and while I am sad that we have yet to spend a Thanksgiving together in 3 years, the history nerd in me can’t argue with someone spending Thanksgiving in actual Plymouth.  Or with his terrific family!

Of course, my family is wonderful, too.  I always look forward to Thanksgiving because it’s an occasion to just sit around the table and visit and eat and tell stories and make each other laugh.  I am so grateful to be a part of it.     

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  I hope you have a wonderful (and delicious) holiday.


Click for the full recipe

Lemon Bars

Sometimes the dessert picks you.  I recently found myself in the following situation: 

  1. I was finally in possession of a proper lemon squeezer/juicer.  It was $1.99 at Marshalls (yes!) and the orange matches my Tupperware measuring cups, which cost way more than $1.99 on Etsy. 
  2. I had an upcoming dentist appointment, and my dentist is near my Nana’s house, and Nana loves lemony sweets. 
  3. I was the proud secondhand owner of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Christmas Cookie Book.  It cost $1 and contained a recipe called “The Ultimate Lemon Butter Bar”.

Clearly it was time to make Lemon Bars…a wonderful combination of cool, citrus lemon curd and buttery shortbread.  No chocolate necessary, thank you very much.

The shortbread process was simple enough.  Butter, flour, sugar…blend, press, bake.  The lemon curd was trickier.  I needed my candy thermometer.  I needed two hands.  I needed to remember what hollandaise sauce looks like as a comparison.

But for once, getting and measuring the lemon juice was easy.

My shortbread was a little on the crumbly side so I am looking forward to another shot at that using my hands instead of a mixer, but I was very pleased with the lemon curd.  I think this could also be done very well with a pressed crust using Walkers shortbread cookie crumbs as a base.

Nana gave me her nose, so I give her lemon desserts made with love!

Lemon Butter Bars
Adapted from “Rose’s Christmas Cookies” by Rose Levy Beranbaum

Shortbread Crust
8 tbsp unsalted butter (1 stick) – room temp
2 tbsp powdered sugar
2 tbsp granulated sugar – superfine if possible
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

  • Place 1 oven rack in the middle of the oven.  Preheat to 325.
  • Line an 8×8 baking pan with nonstick or heavy-duty aluminum foil so the foil hangs over 2 sides.
  • In a large bowl, whisk the sugars until combined.
  • Add the softened butter and cream together until light and fluffy.
  • Using your fingers or a mixer, slowly add in the flour until incorporated.
  • Pat the dough into the lined pan and prick holes all over with a fork.
  • Bake for 30-40 minutes until edges are lightly browned.

And while it’s baking…

Lemon Curd Filling
4 large egg yolks (use the whites to make an omlette!)
3/4 cup sugar
3 fluid oz. lemon juice (2 1/2 large lemons)
4 tbsp unsalted butter – room temp
pinch of salt
2 tsp lemon zest

  • Before you begin, place a strainer over a large bowl near the stove.
  • In a heavy saucepan, blend the egg yolks and sugar with a wooden spoon.
  • Stir in the lemon juice, butter, and salt.
  • Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and resembling hollandaise sauce – around 6 minutes or to 196 degrees on a candy thermometer.  Do not allow mixture to boil, and if it begins steaming, lift it up from heat for a few seconds to prevent boiling.
  • Once thickened, pour the curd at once into the strainer and press it with the back of a wooden spoon until only residue remains.
  • Stir in the lemon zest.
  • When the shortbread comes out of the oven, lower the temp to 300.
  • Pour the lemon curd on top of the shortbread and return it to the oven for 10 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.
  • Once cooled, refrigerate for an additional 30 minutes to completely set the lemon curd before cutting into squares.
  • Lift foil to remove shortbread from pan and place on a cutting board.
  • Cut into squares and cover with sifted powdered sugar.

Man, that was a long one…but they were delicious!

Lemon Squeezers

I have been busy lately with work and studying for (and passing!) my PHR exam, but I did manage to find some time to make a Bundt cake…using my Chrysanthemum mold for the first time.

Reactions consisted mostly of “Wow!  Is it a pineapple?”  Maybe that’s because I did a glazed lemon cake and it was yellow…but it looked and tasted lovely.  Special gratitude to my mother for cleaning the pan for me while I was asleep (I made it at her house…normally I don’t have elves cleaning my dirty pans).

While making the cake I got to use my mother’s lemon squeezer.  It worked so perfectly I asked her where she got it and she said it came with her from our old house and that she thought she sent away for it in the mail “years ago”.  This prompted me to look for her model online, and sure enough, it was made by Sunkist.  I tracked down a photo of it.

This is all you need (but check out some of those other crazy things in that photo…what is that…a lemon spigot!?).  Citrus is a big component of the cakes I make and I have just been squeezing my fruits into bowls and then picking out the seeds.  Not very smart when there are a vast array of lemon squeezers out there.

The oldest known lemon squeezers were found in Turkey and date back to the early 1700’s.  The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office lists over 200 patents for lemon squeezers, the majority of which were registered between 1880 and 1910, which I will now refer to as The Golden Years of Lemon Squeezing Ease.  The are pretty simple things.  You push down on a lemon to force the juice and pulp from the rind; and the juice passes through the sieve.  You can then obtain the maximum amount of juice the lemon has to offer for your baking, and the rind is still fine for zesting.  Because the lemon juice is very acidic, the squeezer can only be made of acid-resistant materials.  Lemons are jerks like that, but that’s what makes them lemons.

Like my first car, a 1990 Toyota Corolla named Doris that ruined me for all cars since.