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Fresh herbs give cookies unique flavors

About the only time of year I bake cookies is in December. So it's no wonder that other than lavender cookies, I had never thought of using the bounty of fresh herbs in our garden for sweets.

But I've now remedied that.

Many herbs make a tasty addition to a butter cookie, including thyme, basil, oregano, tarragon, mint, lavender flowers, rosemary, lemon verbena and rose geranium.

Dried herbs may be substituted for fresh herbs at a ratio of 1 to 3. However, dried herbs are not as flavorful as fresh herbs and I don't recommend them.

I use Dakota Maid unbleached white flour since it is made in North Dakota. And I always use unsalted butter. Have the butter at room temperature for all baking projects.

This recipe also incorporates fruit into the cookie, calling for the zest of citrus fruit. The zest is just the colored part of the skin and not the white pith underneath. It comes off easily with a grater or with a sharp knife, after which it must be minced.

I sometimes use my spritz cookie press to make butter cookies. It's good practice for my holiday baking.

I have used all of the above-mentioned herbs in my butter cookies except oregano, mint, lemon verbena and rose geranium.

My friend, the late Irene Davenport, told me that her mother used the leaves of the rose geranium to line a buttered cake pan before adding the batter and that it gave a wonderful flavor to the cake. However, I've yet to find rose geranium in the spring when I want it.

Butter cookies

8 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 large egg yolk

2 tablespoons minced fresh herbs

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

2 cups flour

With an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar, salt and vanilla together until smooth and creamy.

Mix in egg yolk, herbs, and lemon zest until well incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add flour and mix just until incorporated.

Scrape onto a lightly floured board and knead a few times, just until the dough is smooth. Turn onto a sheet of wax paper or plastic wrap and roll into a log, wrap up and refrigerate for several hours or freeze.

Before baking, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment.

Cut dough into 1/8-inch-thick slices and place them on sheets about an inch apart. Bake until just beginning to turn golden around the edges, about 16 to 18 minutes. Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Readers can reach Forum columnist Andrea Hunter Halgrimson at