I was really not expecting to like these. Or maybe I should say, I was highly skeptical. Licorice is one of my least favorite flavors in existence, and tarragon tastes kinda like licorice, so the odds were not in my favor. But as is often the case when I take a risk for Baked Sunday Mornings, I’m happy to report that I was… flat wrong. Not only was I very wrong, these Lime Tarragon Cookies from Baked Elements were a sleeper hit, and I have all sorts of designs on when I can make them again. And again. These soft, citrusy pillows with their white chocolate caps are a little dreamy, if I’m being totally honest. And if you’re trolling for a cookie dough that comes together quickly and easily, yet is more interesting than the run-of-the-mill chocolate chip cookie, give these a whirl– they might surprise you too.
The dough is made using a modified creaming method. I say ‘modified’ because there are a few differences compared to the typical cookie dough. First of all, the recipe calls for confectioners’ sugar rather than granulated, which makes for an extra smooth mixture that blends more quickly. Secondly, after combining the butter and sugars, you add the tarragon and the lime zest and juice and whip it up on high in your mixer. Most recipes call for beating on medium speed, but (thirdly) there are no eggs or leaveners in this recipe, so I presume that they get a lift from the high-speed mixing. The green speckles from the lime and tarragon should be evenly distributed at this point.
Then you just dump in the flour and mix until it’s absorbed– like I said, these are wicked easy and low-fuss. While mixing in the flour, the batter goes through a brief stage of looking dry and crumbly, but fear not, as it will smooth out. The finished dough will have a light, soft texture and should not be terribly sticky; I think it’s rather pretty with its green flecks!
The directions call for chilling the dough for at least an hour before portioning it onto your cookie sheet. Out of habit (thanks to the Momofuku Milk Bar method that I use frequently), I scooped the dough before chilling, assuming that I was then supposed to flatten them down. I started to do this, then realized that you’re supposed to roll the dough scoops into balls and bake them without flattening… which would be much easier to do *after* chilling the dough. So really, I should just follow directions. But no matter, I rolled ‘em, chilled ‘em overnight, and baked ‘em the next day…
The recommended baking time is 13-15 minutes, until the edges are “golden brown and just start to darken”. This started to happen around 12 minutes, so I pulled them out right at 13 minutes. They were puffed up in the oven, but once they had settled, some of them looked a little lumpy in the center because the dough balls didn’t spread that much in the oven. I baked a couple of the cookies in my usual flattened style just for comparison, and those seemed to bake up more evenly.
The final steps are to prepare the cookie toppings, white chocolate and lime zest strips. I’m not generally a fan of white chocolate, because of its cloyingly sweet flavor and because it’s a pain to melt. To minimize the offensive flavor, I used white chocolate chunks, rather than chips. Bars and chunks tend to be higher-quality white chocolate, whereas most of the chips on the market are “white chips”, not necessarily white chocolate. (I’m not sure what flavor “white” is, but it ain’t chocolate.) As for the melting problem, I usually manage to scorch white chocolate even using the double-boiler stove method, despite my best efforts to control the heat and keep out any trace of water. Sure enough, I had to do it twice– the first batch had the consistency of a chunky paste. White chocolate is much more delicate than dark chocolate, and thus more sensitive to heat. The texture of the second batch was something like store-bought frosting– thick, smooth, and creamy.
I had visions of drizzling pretty white chocolate patterns on my cookies, but even the second batch was way too thick for that. (It came out of my pastry bag resembling toothpaste, which was not the look I was going for…) So I ended up spreading the chocolate with an offset spatula, which was fine. In fact, it covered up the lumpy centers of some of the cookies. Incidentally, the recipe yielded 18 cookies (using a 2-tablespoonish ice cream scoop), which was 50% more than expected, so I ran out of chocolate with about 6 cookies to go. Next time I will melt about 5 ounces of chocolate, rather than the prescribed 3 ounces.
The other minor chocolate issue was tempering, which actually has both pros and cons here. Since the chocolate wasn’t tempered, it didn’t fully harden; the softer texture was nice to bite into, but makes the cookies hard to stack because the chocolate smears a bit. Also, the “frosting” won’t develop the shiny surface of tempered chocolate, instead drying eventually with a dull, spotted surface. However, because it’s white chocolate, this wasn’t a huge deal– you could only see the spots if you look very carefully. Next time I will attempt to temper the chocolate just for kicks, but I’m really nit-picking here.
As for the lime zest, make sure to do this at the last possible moment, because citrus zest becomes dried and shriveled after sitting out for a bit. (Unfortunately, shortly after taking my initial photos, the zest had already begun to curl up.) For the zest in the cookie dough, I used my usual Microplane citrus zester, but for the garnish, I used a strip zester to get longer pieces. Sprinkle just a handful of strips over the white chocolate on each cookie.
I was very pleased with the cookies visually, but still unsure about that whole tarragon business. Finally I bit into a cookie… and broke into a huge grin! These were absolutely lovely– I don’t think I’ve ever made anything like them. The lime was just perfect– a well-balanced burst of citrus that was not too tart, yet strong enough to be the dominant flavor. The tarragon was… not immediately detectable– score! The white chocolate was an ideal topping for these cookies. It was not overpowering or cloying, instead imparting a touch of sweetness and a pleasant creaminess to the cookies.
I came dangerously close to replacing the tarragon with vanilla bean seeds because of my aversion to that licorice-like flavor, but I’m so glad I took the chance, as there was no need to switch. I did reduce the quantity of the tarragon slightly though, using a *scant* teaspoon rather than a full teaspoon. I detected no unpleasant tarragon flavor, but I definitely think it lends a certain je ne sais quoi to the finished cookies. And if you do like licorice, feel free to bump up the tarragon a bit to your own taste. Incidentally, I think lime-vanilla cookies would be awesome in their own right, so I may try that variation next time.
Texture-wise, I just adore these– soft, moist, and buttery in my mouth. Now, I took my cookies out of the oven after 13 minutes to avoid burnt edges or overbaking, and they were slightly underbaked in the centers. I often prefer my cookies a little underbaked, so this wasn’t a bad thing per se, but I will leave them in for an extra 30-60 seconds in the future. (Don’t worry, this in no way affected my devouring them.) Alternatively, you can flatten them, which helps them bake more evenly– I actually liked biting into the flatter cookies better than the domed ones, so I will revert to the method of portioning and flattening the cookies before chilling. (That way, you can just pop them right in the oven from the fridge, and they are easy to freeze as well.)
These cookies are easy, yummy, and wonderful for any cookie-appropriate occasion. I love the fruity twist, creamy topping, and soft texture– these are instant favorites in my kitchen! Visit Baked Sunday Mornings for the recipe for Lime Tarragon Cookies, and check out my baking buddies’ cookies too!
© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2013.