There’s a certain curiosity associated with baking with herbs. For me it started with a visit to Lavandula in Victoria’s beautiful Hepburn Spa region and Stephanie Alexander’s lavender scones. Before too much longer I was inspired to add a little finely minced fresh lemon thyme and a tablespoon of gin to one of my family’s favourites; a cream cheese pound cake. The result was divine. A revelation. The sharp tang of citrus rounded out by subtle herbal undertones. A marriage made in heaven.
These holidays, with a full house of willing taste testers, I’ve been at it again. Experimenting in the kitchen. Our rosemary bush and lone lemon tree are thriving; two of the few non ornamental plants in our garden I somehow haven’t managed to kill off. Rosemary and lemon. A classic flavour combination used in Italian cooking all the time. Granted usually in a triumvirate with garlic as a wonderful flavour base for all manner of savoury dishes. Here they’re combined with polenta and pine nuts, sans garlic, to produce a gorgeously crisp on the outside but soft on the inside Italian style cookie. Deliciously sophisticated and decidedly moreish, they’re a little taste of Italy, receiving a resounding thumbs up.
Lemon Polenta Cookies With Rosemary and Pine Nuts
Makes 36 cookies
1 cup sugar
finely grated zest of one lemon
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, plus extra to garnish
1 cup (250g) butter, softened
freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 cup finely ground polenta meal
1/2 cup pine nuts, lightly roasted and coarsely ground, plus extra to garnish
1/2 teaspoon fine table salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
a little caster sugar, to garnish
PREHEAT oven to 170C. Line 3 baking trays with baking paper.
PLACE sugar, lemon zest and rosemary in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine.
TRANSFER the sugar mixture to a large mixing bowl and beat with softened butter until pale and fluffy.
ADD eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a silicon spatula.
STIR through the lemon juice.
SIFT together flour, polenta meal, baking powder and salt. Fold through the biscuit batter with the coarsely ground pine nuts.
FORM level tablespoons (or heaped teaspoons) of the mixture into balls.
SPACE well apart on baking trays and flatten very slightly. Garnish with rosemary, pine nuts and a sprinkling of caster sugar.
BAKE for 15 minutes at middle to top oven rack positions until golden on the edges and bottom.
ALLOW to cool a little on oven trays before transferring to wire racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.