RECIPE

The lemon rosemary cookies that remind me of an Italian vacation

"I am transported back to Italy and my first sip of limoncello when I make these cookies"

Published November 12, 2022 4:30PM (EST)

Rosemary Shortbread Cookies (Getty Images / Julie Vinogradov / 500px)
Rosemary Shortbread Cookies (Getty Images / Julie Vinogradov / 500px)

In "Bibi's Gulf Coast Kitchen," columnist Bibi Hutchings takes you on a culinary journey across the coastal south. Come for the great food writing, stay for the delicious recipes.

Lemon cookies were always a bit of a shock to my system when I was a child. Drawn to the platter of homemade cookies, I was shy on the take once I knew they were lemon, scared of the sharp sourness that might be lurking within. I can remember my reticence like it was yesterday, both wanting a cookie but not wanting the possible puckering acidity that might be lying in wait.

These lemon cookies are never shocking. They are balanced and fresh just like this beautiful sunny fall day I am currently enjoying. The lemon and lemon zest, along with the fresh rosemary, harmonize brilliantly, creating a sort of tribute to this time of  year when, thankfully, the humidity and the temperatures have dropped. Here where I live along the coast in Alabama, lemon trees, both "regular" and the sweeter Meyer variety, are in most every yard, so now is the ideal time to make these cookies as our lemons are just beginning to ripen. 

The combination of lemon and rosemary is a match made in heaven, a pairing to which I was first introduced when I decided to drive to Italy while vacationing in Nice, France in 1999. Just seven miles across the French-Italian border, I stopped in Ventimiglia, Italy, a charming resort town on the Ligurian coast between the Italian Riviera and the Cote d'Azur. And on a day much like today here at home, cloudless, crisp and bright, I ordered a limoncello cocktail in a little cafe overlooking the small harbor at the mouth of the Roia River. It was perhaps the best thing I had ever tasted at that point in my life, and when I returned home, I served my version of it to everyone I knew. Infused with fresh rosemary and rimmed with sugar containing finely chopped rosemary, it was absolutely amazing.   

Fresh lemon and rosemary paired together not only tastes great but smells intoxicating. When you bake these cookies, the beautiful fragrance that permeates your home is better than anything I've ever diffused from DoTerra or Young Living. It is invigorating and uplifting, just what I needed after the long, hot summer we endured here along the Coast. 

I prefer these cookies in the afternoon alongside tea rather than coffee, particularly a creamy cup of Earl Grey or Darjeeling. I think they're better suited as a snack than an after dinner dessert; although, my husband might disagree as he can't get enough of them. 


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Made with both cornmeal and flour, they have a heartiness that I really like. The cornmeal does not add the sort of texture that say oatmeal would, but rather it provides a depth of texture as well as flavor that is very unique. When you taste these cookies, it is hard to believe there is only slightly less cornmeal than flour because it is impossible to single out the cornmeal in the finished product. 

Even though I am transported back to Italy and my first sip of limoncello when I make these cookies, this recipe is one hundred percent home. My Meyer lemons have come in first this year, and I love the sweeter, less acidic lemon flavor they impart to this recipe. Similar to the Italian lemons—the tarter Sorrento and the sweeter Sfumato—used to make limoncello, my two lemon varieties impart different levels of sweetness and tartness.  

Meyer lemons are a cross between a sour lemon and a mandarin orange and are more floral and sweet with a thinner skin. Until 1975 they were only available as an import from China, but they are everywhere now, perhaps because they are a little more cold-hardy than the rest. I love both my Meyer lemons and my sour lemons (Lisbon? Eureka? I'm no longer sure what sour variety I have) and am thrilled to have such an abundance of fresh citrus each year.

Bring the sunshine in with these Lemon Rosemary Cookies. From the fresh woodsy, piney scent of your chopped fresh rosemary to its minty, floral fragrance as it bakes, these fresh lemony cookies are just right for the season.

Lemon rosemary cookies
Yields
24 cookies
Prep Time
20 minutes, plus chilling
Cook Time
15 minutes

Ingredients

2/3 Cup all-purpose flour

1/2 Cup cornmeal

2 Tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped

1/8 tsp salt

1/2 Cup unsalted butter

1/2 Cup sugar

1 egg

2 Tbsp lemon zest

1 tsp to 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, optional

1/2 tsp vanilla


 

 

Directions

  1. Combine flour, cornmeal, rosemary and salt. Set aside.

  2. Beat butter and sugar until creamy, then add egg, zest, lemon juice (if using), and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy.

  3. Stir in flour mixture or beat in at low speed.

  4. Shape dough into a 1 1/2" diameter log, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm.

  5. Preheat oven to 350.

  6. Line cookie sheets with parchment.

  7. Unwrap dough and slice into 1/4" cookies and place on cookie sheet.

  8. Bake to a light golden color tints the edges, about 15 minutes.


     


Cook's Notes

Flour
If you'd like to make these cookies gluten-free, this recipe works fine as long as your flour choice has the appropriate rising agents to make it a measure-for-measure replacement. I have made these using spelt flour, which has gluten but is a non-wheat flour, without adding any rising agent with success. 

Sugar
I have used coconut sugar as well as Swerve, an erythritol "sugar," to make these cookies. The recipe accommodates most any substitution I have ever thrown at it. 

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By Bibi Hutchings

Bibi Hutchings, a lifelong Southerner, lives along a quiet coastal Alabama bay with her cat, Zulu, and husband, Tom. She writes about the magical way food evokes memories, instantly bringing you back to the people, places and experiences of your life. Her stories take you all around the South and are accompanied with tried-and-true recipes that are destined to become a part of your memory-making as you share them with your friends and family.         

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