Justin Burke-Samson pulls inspiration from his life to come up with the delectable creations he makes as the pastry chef of lauded Kindred restaurant in Davidson, North Carolina and Hello, Sailor, located in nearby Cornelius. Originally from California, Burke-Samson spent a few years in Boston before moving to North Carolina in 2015. While in Boston he started working in the food industry to put himself through college, ultimately graduating with a master's degree in the social policy and management field.
As such, a career in restaurants wasn't exactly the plan for Burke-Samson—let alone in the kitchen, as he started out in the front of house—but he seems to have found his niche in baking and pastries, a passion for which was first given to him by his late grandmother. "The reason I became a pastry chef is because of my childhood and what an important role being in the kitchen was in my family and life," he states.
After teaching himself the ropes before refining his skills in professional kitchens, today he is at the helm of the pastry programs of both one the country's best restaurants and one of the most highly anticipated (Hello, Sailor opened earlier this month).
Below, Burke-Samson shares a recipe for lemon and thyme shortbread cookies with dark chocolate from Kindred.
Lemon and Thyme Shortbread Cookies with Dark ChocolateRecipe courtesy of Justin Burke-Samson, Pastry Chef at Kindred and Hello, Sailor, Davidson and Cornelius, North Carolina
Yield: approximately 30 cookies
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cups sugar
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
Zest of 1 lemon
2 cups dark chocolate chips
1 teaspoon coconut oil
1. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt; set aside.
2. Using a stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on medium/high until smooth and fluffy, about 8 minutes. Turning the mixer on low, add the thyme and lemon zest; then add the flour mixture until just combined.
3. Turn the dough onto a work surface and shape into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and flatten into a disk. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, but preferably overnight.
4. Preheat oven to 350˚F; line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
5. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let rest at room temperature for 5 minutes. Using two pieces of parchment paper (or silicone baking mats), place the dough between the pieces of parchment paper and roll out to about 1/4-inch thick. Using a cookie cutter, preferably shaped in a rectangle, stamp out the cookies. Place about 1 inch apart from each other on the prepared cookie sheets.
6. Bake until the cookies are a pale golden color and the tops look dry, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool.
7. Meanwhile, add the chocolate and coconut oil to a microwavable bowl. Microwave the bowl at 30-second intervals, stopping to mix between intervals, until all of the chocolate is melted and ingredients are fully incorporated. (You can also use the double boiler method, if preferred.)
8. Dip half of cookies into the dark chocolate to coat and place back on the parchment lined cookie sheets until the chocolate set, about 30 minutes. Cookies can be stored up to 4 days in an airtight container.