Week Four: Biscuits- Alain
Biscuit Week, Part Two:
Alain's Botanical Biscuits
I cannot tell a lie. Regardless of my feelings for Alain, I'm almost always most excited about his bakes and biscuit week is the prime example of that. All of these bakes made me super excited and, like Alain, I got my herbs from my own garden. Unlike Alain, my garden is not an expansive oasis but a collection of potted herbs on a very small deck/patio/not-quite-yard, because I live in a city. But still, it's lovely to have and use fresh herbs.
Alain's descriptions weren't (at least, to my American eye) extremely obvious for what *types* of biscuits he was making with his herbs so I've interpreted as I did, and hope it's not too far off from the author's intent. In any case, they all came out quite tasty, in my opinion, so I hope you all like them too.
For Bake Expectations the contestants only needed to make twelve cookies. None of these recipes are that. If I had been smart about this, I would have cut many of the recipes in half rather than bake full batches of dozens of cookies of each, but alas, I did not really think this through ahead of time. Instead, I baked a LOT of cookies and used a truly obscene amount of butter. As I mentioned in my last post, this was fine because I shared with friends and neighbors and colleagues, and you get full recipes because of it. Enjoy!
I went with my standard shortbread recipe, but added lavender. I've done this before with other flavors (not lavender because, quite frankly, it's not my favorite. My mom adds candied ginger sometimes and that is truly excellent). What I'm saying is there's nothing ground breaking here, but it's infinitely adaptable and always yum. I used a mix of fresh and dried lavender because the fresh is very herby and less lavender-y, so first I ground up about a tablespoon of dried lavender, then chopped about an equal amount of fresh.
- 3/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar (plus extra for sprinkling)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tbs finely ground dried lavender
- 1 tbs finely chopped fresh lavender
- Preheat oven to 350F
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and 1 cup of sugar until they are just combined.
- Add the vanilla
- Add the flour, salt, and lavender, beating gradually into the butter-and-sugar mixture
- Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together.
- Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk.
- Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.
- Roll the dough 1/2-inch thick and cut with a 3-inch heart-shaped cutter.
- Place the hearts on a parchment-lined baking sheet
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown.
- Cool immediately on wire rack
Keep in mind shortbread dough is extremely crumbly before you pull it together. It's kind of a pain to work with, if we're being totally honest, but I do love it anyway.
Also note that while chilling the dough is essential, when you're rolling it out it has to be ever so slightly warmed up or it'll just break apart. It does still need to be cold though, and it will be hard to roll cold, but it needs to be because you don't want it too warm when you're cutting or it won't hold its shape or bake properly. It's one of those processes that you just have to keep trying at until you know exactly what feels right. If you're not sure, just start cold and bang at the dough as best you can. If it gets too warm, chill it again. If the individual cookies get too warm, chuck the whole baking sheet in the fridge for a bit to chill them before baking.
Honey Thyme Biscuits
So, again, I'll remind y'all that I'm American (I'm from the northeast but I did live in the south for a bit so I am self-proclaiming that I'm allowed to say “y'all.” It is the superior way of say “you all”) and so I wasn't sure if honey biscuits were a thing on their own so I turned to Google, as one does, and I found this. I adapted it to be a honey *thyme* biscuit, as follows, and I think it came out quite nicely. In fact, it may have been my favorite of all the nine kinds of biscuits I made. It made two dozen biscuits this way.
- 100 g soft butter
- 100g sugar
- 1 large tablespoon of honey
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- 1/8 tsp powdered lemon zest (or try it with fresh! probably would be better, but I had the dried stuff on hand)
- 180g self-raising flour
- Preheat oven to 350F
- Beat the butter and sugar in a bowl with a wooden spoon until creamy
- Next beat in the honey and the egg yolk
- Gently mix the thyme, lemon zest, and flour into a soft dough
- Chill the dough for 30 minutes or more
- Take a teaspoon of dough and roll it into a ball
- Then do the same to the remaining dough
- Space out on a greased baking tray
- Cook for 10 minutes
Rosemary Butter Cookies
For these, I went with a butter cookie recipe from a cookbook I got as a gift from my aunt many years ago. It's called Sweet Maria's Italian Cookie Tray: A Cookbook by Maria Bruscino Sanchez. The only thing I changed was adding rosemary. Here, I wanted to try something other than just chopping and adding herbs, since I did that with the prior two, so I used the method I learned from the recipe included in Rosaline Palmer for Alain's basil buttercream to infuse the butter with a handful of rosemary, then I strained out the rosemary and chilled the butter back to a solid form before making the cookies.
- 1/2 lb butter
- small handful fresh rosemary
- 3/4 c sugar
- 1 egg
- 2 1/2 c flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- pinch of salt
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the rosemary
- Cook for fifteen minutes over a low heat, stirring intermittently
- Then strain out the rosemary, and transfer the butter to a small bowl
- Leave it to cool in the refrigerator (or freezer) until it resembles softened butter
- Preheat oven to 350F
- Cream butter an sugar in an electric mixer until very fluffy, 3-4 minutes
- Add eggs and mix until well blended
- With mixer on low, add dry ingredients and mix until just blended
- Pipe with pastry bag, or shape by rolling into small round circles and pressing flat. (I intended to use my cookie press but the dough was too stiff and it didn't work. I'd already chilled the dough in logs for the cookie press, so I sliced like you might slice sugar cookies or pre-made dough tubes you buy in the grocery store.) I also pressed a few fresh rosemary leaves into the tops of the cookies but I don't think this added anything really so feel free to not.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until edges begin to brown
- Using a metal spatula lift cookies off cookie sheet and onto wire cooling rack