Lemon Balm Cookies

On Thursdays, I usually play a fun game with my followers on Instagram called "Where in Kansas City am I?" I take a picture and give a hint to the place I'm at, and the players will guess where I am by tagging them. It's a fun way to connect with local businesses and an even more fun way to help me discover new places. The winners get to pick the place I go next! I did not do this today, though...

Today was a dreary spring day, but it was spring nonetheless, and it was not so rainy that I couldn't work a bit in the garden. Even better, a friend in my permaculture/farming group mentioned that they had about twenty bare-root pecan trees to get rid of so of course I had to jump on that. 

I had never planned on having pecan trees in my garden, or as a part of my miniature food forest. Then again, I never planned on having a baby or settling down in Kansas City, so here we are. Pecans are fatty and tasty, and although I don't like pecan pie, the wood from a pecan tree is great for craft and building projects, as well as great for use in the smoker. I can also freeze the nutmeats and find ways to use the pecan meal for plenty of yummy things. Finally, the pecan trees were free, which I cannot resist.

Not only did I plant three bare root pecan trees, but I planted the remainder of my cold-weather crops today. After all of that, I wanted so much for something sweet...

You can, of course, make a big jar of simple syrup using what's there of your spring flowers for use in your coffee and tea, but that does not a meal make

Let me also go on record in saying that the reason spring is not my favorite season is that there's almost nothing ready to eat in spring aside from flowers and herbs. No potatoes, no pumpkins, no apples, no berries...but that doesn't mean I shouldn't use what's available in my garden anyway. 

Lemon balm is one of my early-bird herbs that always show their lovely little heads in the garden first, even before the peppermint comes back. I hadn't ever utilized them in cookies before, so I thought "why not?" These cookies are so comically easy.

Lemon Balm Cookies

  • 12-15 leaves of fresh lemon balm
  • 1 cup or 7 oz granulated sugar
  • 1/3 c or 1 oz powdered sugar
  • 5 oz dairy-free butter
    • I like Trader Joe's brand and Miyoko's brand
  • 1 oz vegan cream cheese
    • I still like Trader Joe's brand but, again, Miyoko's is awesome as well
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp corn starch
  • 2 c or 8 oz flour
Use a mortar and pestle to crush together the granulated sugar and lemon balm. You'll want it so that the lemon balm is completely pulverized against the sugar. If you do not have a mortar and pestle, you can simply mince the lemon balm finely and infuse it in the butter by melting half of it in the microwave or on the stovetop. Let it sit for at least ten minutes before adding the other half of the butter and the cream cheese. Let that sit for another ten minutes before continuing. No matter which way you want to go with flavor extraction, let it sit for a while, at least while you preheat your oven to 350 F.

Stir the butter and cream cheese together by hand with a wooden spoon until light-colored and completely homogenous. Add the sugars and stir. Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix vigorously with all the strength of your arm to help dissolve the sugar. Add the egg and mix until wholly incorporated. Dump in all of your dry ingredients and stir, quite slowly, to mix thoroughly. You may allow it to set in the fridge for about 30 minutes for more tender cookies, but you may also bake them straight away.

On a silpat mat, scoop out tablespoon-full balls of your dough and press them down gently with a fork to create ridges. You can also use your fingers if you like. I prefer the fork because I think it's a little prettier. Bake the cookies for ten minutes and cool on a cooling rack. You can store these in a cookie jar for up to a week on the counter, but I doubt that they'll last that long.

These are an excellent way to use up the early-bird lemon balm that shows up in most gardens in the early spring. Catnip, oregano, and thyme are great substitutes for this as well, but keep in mind that with hard or woody herbs the flavor will be more intense. Soft herbs such as lemon balm, mint, basil, etc., will be a more gentle flavor so you'll want to take your time and be mindful of that when creating your cookies.

You can frost these with any icing, but I personally like them plain with a cup of coffee.