Getting more plants and herbs into your food isn’t always challenging. As I learn more about herbal studies and the benefits to various plants, adding them to my diet in some form seems the easiest and most beneficial way to use them. As a chef, of course adding something new to my diet is easy, but it’s something that really anyone can do.
Making cookies, especially a shortbread, is one of the easiest ways to play with flavor combinations and incorporate these herbs into a nice snack. I love shortbread for so many reasons. It’s quick and easy to whip up, it’s only a few ingredients that you probably already have on hand, and it’s not full of ingredients many try to avoid. Yes, it still has butter and sugar, but it’s not as high of an amount of say a cake with buttercream. Eating a couple a day isn’t going to be detrimental to your health, and by adding some herbs you then get the benefits of those herbs for your health!
That brings me to this cute little digestif, for digestive cookie. Of course I love the French culture, and digestif is one of favorite words. Digestives also should be a lot more common. Traditionally in food it was a little drink or food that you would consume with a large meal to aid digestion and have a good feeling after feasting. Why in the world did we stop that? This cookie is made with two herbs with multiple benefits and one major benefit that I love is that both are digestive aids. So of course make them into a cute little digestif cookie!
The first herb we have is caraway seed. Caraway seed is one you may already have or have seen in blends. It is common in Eastern and Indian cuisine but has not gotten the recognition it deserves in western cuisine. It has a nice earthly flavor that is similar to licorice, anise, and fennel. It is really good in both savory and sweet creations so it’s really an herb we all should have and be using. Like many herbs, caraway has some anti-inflammatory properties that are great for those with digestive issue or medical conditions. Of course talk with a doctor if you can about this before using but this is a natural remedy you can easily look into. Not just the anti-inflammatory benefits, caraway is of course the main subject here, as a digestive aid! It has shown to help relax the muscle tissue through the digestive track, thus helping the body digest and reduce any symptoms of poor digestions. Caraway also has shown signs of aiding in weight loss in some studies. It hasn’t been studied enough in my opinion but just another reason why we need to look at plants for medical benefits and cures.
With the caraway I wanted to use another herb that I have been trying to use more of in unique ways, juniper berry. You honestly may have had juniper berries before or at least something made with them, gin. Juniper berries give gin it’s distinct flavor, a little spicy and pine like. Although juniper is very popular and you may even have juniper bushes or a tree in your yard, not all junipers are the same so please find a culinary source or make sure you are collecting berries from the right species. At the end of the day, juniper is a great herb to keep around. It has been used for thousands of years and modern science has shown the truth of why we still use it to this day. Juniper berries are packed with antioxidants. I’m sure you’ve seen a lot about those little things in recent years but they are so good for your health so getting them as much as you can is great. As with caraway seeds, juniper also has anti-inflammatory properties that can aid digestion. The antioxidants have even been linked to possible aids in diabetes. Of course I want to see more studies and science looking at this but it is promising to see these natural remedies.
Both of these herbs are great on their own, they also just happen to pair really well together and make a great flavor. I ground both of them down into a powder and mixed them into the shortbread cookies base. Just a simple butter cookie and now we have some digestive aid herbs to give back when we enjoy this treat. I love the subtle sweetness to these cookies and they just melt in your mouth when you bite into them. Even if made without the herbs it’s a great cookie. Let’s look at the recipe.
Caraway Seed and Juniper Berry Cookies
135g Granulated Sugar
265g Unsalted Butter, soft
¾ tsp Caraway Seeds
1 ½ tsp Juniper Berries
1 ea Egg
400g All Purpose Flour
In a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle, grind the caraway seeds and juniper berries together until fine.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter, sugar, and herbs together for 3-5 minutes until lighter in color and fluffy.
Add the egg and beat until creamy and smooth.
Add the flour and mix on the lowest setting until a dough forms. This will take a few moments and start out dry looking but don’t add any liquid!
Take dough, roll into a log about 2 inches thick, and wrap with parchment paper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Slice dough log into 1/8 inch to ¼ inch slices. Place on a lined baking pan.
Bake in a 350°F oven until center is dry and edges are barely browning, about 10 minutes.
Allow to cool slightly then enjoy!
This is one of the simplest cookies to master. You will notice there is no leveling agent. You really need to cream the butter and sugar together in the beginning. This will also help release a lot of the phytochemicals that we want for the digestive aid. When it’s ready for the flour, let the dough take its time. It took mine about 1-2 minutes to fully come together. It was nothing like other cookies doughs where they come together fast. Don’t worry! Just keep mixing. It’s not going to ruin it if you think you over mixed it so don’t stress yourself out.
After the dough is made, it shouldn’t be so sticky that you can’t roll it on parchment or a counter. You can also use plastic wrap here but I try to avoid that stuff and stick with more eco-friendly options. Once rolled, it will be fine in the fridge for a few days (3-4) but you can also freeze it so that you can have cookies whenever you want! The thicker they are the longer they bake but it will always be in the 8-15 minute range. Thicker will have more of that melt in your mouth quality.
If you want to take this cookie to the next level, cut thin and bake then sandwich with jam. I used a strawberry jam I’m trying to finish up and it was a nice fruitiness that really complimented the caraway and juniper flavors. You can use any jam you have. That’s one of my favorite ways to finish showbread cookies. Also helps get through jams if you’re like me and hoard them in the kitchen.
Definitely try this recipe out and let me know what you think. I love the way it turned out and the added benefits of the herbs is a major plus in my books. If you don’t like one of the herbs or as much feel free to take it out or lower the amount to let the other flavors shine through. As always though leave a comment and tell me what you’re baking in your kitchen!