Herbal cookies

I love cookies and I love herbs so herbal cookies have two of my favorite…

Herbal cookies

I love cookies and I love herbs so herbal cookies have two of my favorite things to eat. They are easy to make, small enough to not over-do-it when eaten (unless you want to), very flexible and easy to adapt with different flavors.

In history, cookies were used as little test cakes for testing oven temperature. A small amount of cake batter was put on a pan, set into the fire fueled oven, and watched to see how long it took the batter to cook. If the oven was found too cool, it would be stoked up with some additional wood or coal, if it was found too hot, some wood or coal would be removed or allowed to burn longer before putting in the cake to even out the temperature. What a wonderful flavor treat that started as a tester and now has evolved into a favorite for almost everyone and a good learning tool for beginning cooks. As a Home Economics teacher, I would use the preparation of chocolate chip cookies to teach my students proper measuring techniques. I showed how to measure brown sugar, flour, shortening, eggs, and liquid. It kept their attention with a reward of a fresh baked cookie at the end. I still like making chocolate chip cookies!

Cookies have many flavors, sizes, shapes and forms. They are grouped into six basic types, depending on the stiffness of the dough and the method of handling. The six types of cookies are: drop (dropped off spoons like chocolate chip cookies), bar (baked in a pan and then cut like brownies), refrigerator (rolled into a tube shape then sliced and baked like chocolate-vanilla pinwheels), rolled (like sugar cookies), pressed (put in a cookie press like spritz), and molded (rolled in a ball like peanut butter cookies). Cookies can be served in a variety of ways; as an accompaniment to dessert (cookies and ice cream), or a dessert by itself, at teas or receptions, as a lunch box treat, and, of course, the most popular way of all – snacks. When I was quite young, my mom would make Russian Tea Cakes for Christmas, my favorite cookies. I would sneak into the kitchen, pop a Russian Tea Cake into my mouth, close my lips around it so no one could tell I had anything in my mouth and go into my bedroom to chew the cookie and destroy the evidence – sneaky, but delicious.

You can buy cookies ready-to-eat, as frozen dough, refrigerated dough and as a mix. Adding herbs to cookies makes something wonderful, even better. Putting herbs in an icing to go on top of ready-to-eat or home baked cookies is one way. Mixing the herbs right into the dough and then baking them is another way. You can also try steeping the herb in warmed liquid that is used in the cookie or the icing or try herb flavored ice cream between two cookies making flavorful ice cream sandwiches. You can experiment adding different herbs to some of your favorite recipes opening your flavor horizons to new taste treats. Some herbs to try: Anise hyssop, Basil, Lemon Balm, Lemon Verbena, any of the Mints, Monarda, and Rosemary, to name a few.

Store crisp, thin cookies in a container with a loose fitting lid. Or if the cookies are soft, store them in a tightly covered container. If you want to freeze cookies, they should be put in a sturdy container lined with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and each layer should be separated with additional foil or plastic wrap. Cookies can be stored in the freezer for 9 to 12 months. Dough can also be frozen. Put the dough in the freezer either before or after shaping. Thaw dough and bake cookies as usual.

Following are some flavorful cookie recipes using herbs and spices. Try them, you will be glad you did.

AUTUMN BARS Makes 4 1/2 dozen