The art of baking: Lemon and Thyme Shortbreads

PUBLISHED: 11:40 09 August 2016 | UPDATED: 12:05 09 August 2016

Lemon and thyme shortbreads from Carol Kearns

Lemon and thyme shortbreads from Carol Kearns

Carol Kearns

The Cake Lady, Carol Kearns, tell us how to combine her two: baking and growing herbs with this delcious receipe

or me, gardening is all about flowers. While I’ve flirted briefly with growing vegetables, frankly I find them all too labour-intensive. As for gluts - I very quickly tire of eating the same thing day after day and I’m amazed how even the shortest row of runner beans will produce enough to feed an army. Turn your back on them and you suddenly have beans large and tough enough to turn into rope rather than anything edible.

The one type of culinary plant I do enjoy growing though is herbs. Over the years I’ve grown them in pots on the kitchen windowsill, tucked among the flowers in the borders and I’ve even gone so far as to have designed a herb garden with box hedging, gravel paths and a feature garden urn.

When I first started growing herbs in the garden I chose them for their flowers. It didn’t take long to work out, however, that these weren’t the best for culinary use and I soon focused on those that I could use in my cooking. I now have a series of pots by the back door in which I grow rosemary, thyme, lemon thyme and sage for year-round picking, with parsley, chives, mint, tarragon, coriander and dill for the summer months. Basil struggles outdoors in our climate and so remains on the kitchen windowsill.

Fresh herbs can make such a difference to your cooking, but it’s only in more recent years that I’ve started using them in baking. Last year my series of 2lb loaf tin cake recipes included a recipe for orange and rosemary cake which, if you missed it, can now be found at This month, thyme works brilliantly with lemon to give a lovely summery flavour to these delicious, easy-to-make shortbread biscuits.

Lemon and thyme shortbreads

Makes 16


100g unsalted butter, softened

50g caster sugar

1 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme leaves

Finely grated zest of one lemon

½ tsp lemon extract

50g semolina

125g plain flour, sifted

You will need:

1 baking sheet

butter for greasing or non-stick liner

1 Preheat the oven to 190C/gas mark five and either lightly grease the baking sheet with butter or line it with a non-stick liner.

2 Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy using either a electric hand mixer or a wooden spoon.

3 Stir in the thyme, lemon zest and lemon extract. Add the semolina and flour, and work the mixture with a wooden spoon until it resembles course breadcrumbs. Use your hands to bring the mixture together into a dough, kneading it lightly.

5 Roll the dough into a sausage shape 16cm long. Using a thin, sharp knife, cut the dough into 16 equal slices. Place on the baking sheet. 6 Bake on the middle shelf for about 12-14 minutes. The shortbread is ready when it is a pale golden colour.

7 Leave the biscuits to firm up on the baking sheet for a minute or two before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

8 Sprinkle with caster sugar and store in an airtight container

See more recipes and baking tips on Carol’s website; her illustration work can be seen at

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