Grapefruit Basil Shortbread

So much of the food I make is the result of the random cravings that I get. Where do they come from? Who knows. But isn’t that how it always is with inspiration? Bits of ideas floating around in your head start crashing into each other and sticking together, until one day, a single coherent idea comes fully-formed to the forefront of your mind, demanding to be realized, and often in my case, eaten. It’s a beautiful thing, but it’s a mystery. So that’s as much explanation as I have for why I made these grapefruit basil shortbread cookies. The idea came calling, and it sounded irresistible.

Part of the inspiration for these cookies undoubtedly sprang from the basil plant that I bought a few weeks ago. This plant is probably one of the best $3 I’ve ever spent. It costs only slightly more than buying a bunch of already-cut basil, but it lasts for so much longer, and there is always the potential for regrowth. It’s been great to be able to reach for a few leaves of fresh basil whenever needed, and not have to worry so much about using it all up before it goes bad.

At first, I was timid about cutting the leaves because I didn’t know how to do so without killing the plant. But according to several friends who are also looking after their own plants, you’re supposed to cut the stem right above any baby leaves you see growing; that way, the stem will transport nutrients directly to the baby leaves, encouraging them to grow new branches. I’ve only had this plant for a few weeks, and basil is known to be rather slow-growing, so I’m still waiting to see if this theory holds true. Fingers crossed!

The flavors in these cookies are subtle. People who aren’t told what the ingredients are might have a hard time picking out the individual tastes. My taste testers guessed orange, tangerine, and lemon before landing on grapefruit, and only named basil as one among several different possible herbs.

Personally, I loved the brightness of the grapefruit offset by the delicate scent of basil. Each cookie left my mouth buzzing with the slight tingle I get when eating grapefruit. The texture of the cookie is delicate, with a fine crumble thanks to the corn starch. But one of my favorite things about these cookies was how pretty they looked topped with the glaze. The little flecks of coral-pink grapefruit zest are a unique and lovely touch that I’d love to bring to any sort of pink-themed party or shower. 

Grapefruit Basil Shortbread
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For the Shortbread
  1. 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  2. 1/2 cup corn starch
  3. 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  4. 1/8 tsp. salt
  5. 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  6. 2 tbsp. minced basil leaves
  7. 2 tbsp. grapefruit zest
  8. 1 tbsp. fresh grapefruit juice
For the Glaze
  1. 1 cup powdered sugar
  2. 1 1/2-2 tbsp. fresh grapefruit juice
  3. 2 tsp. grapefruit zest
Instructions
  1. 1. Cut butter into 1/2-inch cubes and leave out to soften for about 5 minutes. Sift together flour, powdered sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Place butter cubes, flour mixture, basil leaves, grapefruit zest, and grapefruit juice in a food processor. Pulse until combined into a smooth dough.
  2. 2. Scoop dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap and wrap tightly. Form into a cylinder and refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm. (If dough is too soft at first to form into a cylinder, wrap in plastic wrap and then firm in refrigerator for about 30 minutes, or until dough is more workable.)
  3. 3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Unwrap dough and cut into 1/4-inch slices. Place cookies on a baking sheet, about 1 inch apart. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until firm and just slightly golden-brown. Let cool for 2 minutes on baking sheet, and then carefully transfer to a cooling rack to cool.
  4. 4. To make the glaze, sift powdered sugar into a bowl and add 1 1/2 tablespoons of grapefruit juice, stirring together. Add more grapefruit juice as necessary to achieve desired viscosity. Add grapefruit zest. Top cooled cookies with a bit of glaze, turning the cookie to cover evenly. Let glaze set for at least 10 minutes before serving.
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