I'd like to be able to say I tested dozens of ideas and recipes for my entry in the non-traditional shortbread category in the first annual Shortbread Contest at this years' Scottish Games. But the fact is, this original recipe for Honey Mint Pesto Shortbread is the first idea I had, and I stuck with it.I wanted my non-traditional shortbread to be flavored with something seasonal yet unexpected. Traditional shortbread variations include brown sugar and spices such as cinnamon or Allspice. My garden is currently full of fresh mint, and so I took my cue from the garden. The mint pesto recipe can be found in the Rookie Cookery archives (link below). My process was to simply to add the pesto into a standard shortbread dough.
The first batch I made had a very subtle hint of mint. I liked the subtlety of the mint quite a bit. However I felt the mint was not pronounced enough for my entry into the contest, so on the second batch I more than doubled the mint pesto added to the dough.
Because the mint pesto calls for honey, I did some research into the effect of substituting honey for sugar in baked goods. My biggest concern was that the honey would make the shortbread too sweet or too moist, and I considered cutting back on the sugar and increasing the flour in my basic recipe to compensate. My final decision was to keep the original ingredient amounts, although in retrospect I think I would have preferred to add a quarter cup of flour to the recipe below.
The resulting shortbread was kind of a hybrid (some might say unholy love child) between shortbread and a kind of minty baklava. I liked its tenderness and fragrance. Plus, it has the added bonus of giving me another use for honey mint pesto. On a personal note, I was proud of myself for taking a chance, stepping outside my comfort zone and entering a contest with this recipe. Even though it garnered no ribbons, it was a success for me. If you try it, please let me know what you think in the comments.
TO MAKE THE MINT PESTO:
one half recipe of Honey Mint Dessert Pesto:
1 cup of fresh, cleaned and loosely packed mint leaves
1/4 cup of chopped walnuts
1/6 cup of honey (eyeball it)
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
In a food processor, briefly chop the nuts. Then add all other ingredients and pulse into a smooth paste.
TO MAKE THE SHORTBREAD DOUGH follow these directions (with alteration, as follows)
AND ADD ONE QUARTER CUP of the honey-mint pesto to the dough. Blend in mixer until thoroughly incorporated.
Place the dough on a silpat or parchment lined pan, score as directed, and bake at 375 degrees F. until the edges begin to turn golden (about 15 minutes).
After the shortbread has cooled for 15 minutes, gently slice into wedges without moving it out of the pan. Wait until it has cooled completely before transferring shortbread to a serving plate.