The winter holidays cry out for cookie cutter cookies, and this is an easy recipe that uses a flavorful native desert herb (but you can substitute store bought lavender). And what better way to celebrate the season than to add a taste of the Sonoran Desert to your holidays?! Easy with this recipe.
Our family always had lots of cookies in all shapes and sizes, because our neighborhood included folks with “Hanukkah bushes” and folks with “Christmas trees.” So we make cookie cutter cookies with dreidels and elephants (for the one that Judah the Macabee’s brother heroically slew). We also made decorated angels and Santa’s sleighs. And gingerbread men and ladies too – but that is a different recipe.
GF Cookies are Easy
When I (Jacqueline Soule) went gluten free over a decade ago there were no gluten-free flour options available. I experimented with what I could find (rice flour) and ground almonds in the blender to make flour. I found that powdered xanthan gum* helps mimic the action of the wheat gluten, making virtually any wheat-free dough stick together.
* Science Nerd Shares
Xanthan gum is another great scientific product brought to us by a creative woman scientist. More about this female scientist at the end of this article.
Lovely Desert Lavender
Desert lavender (Condea emoryi, formerly Hyptis emoryi) is a shrub that is native to the Sonoran Desert. It is often found in the sandy soils along washes. It is one of the favored plants of honeybees in early spring, and I leave the flowers for them until later in the year when I harvest again and again. I dry the flowers in a terra cotta plant saucer, and jar them once dry. Recently here on Savor the Southwest we discussed creating desert lavender infused honey – makes a great gift! Back in National Iced Tea Month (June) we discussed desert lavender for iced tea.
About GF Flours
Gluten-free flours can introduce a nutty or earthy flavor to a recipe. Not what you are looking for with a sugar cookie exactly, so adding some desert lavender helps create a new flavor to experience. The nuttiness is well complimented by the lavender. I have used up to 5 teaspoons of ground lavender in this recipe before it seemed excessive to guests (but not to me).
Father Kino Appreciated Desert Lavender
The last few copies of this out-of-print award winning Southwestern book are now for sale. Father Kino’s Herbs: Growing and Using Them Today
The review says:
“Award-winning garden writer Dr. Jacqueline A. Soule has pulled together a fascinating book on the life of Father Eusebio Francisco Kino and some of the plants that he brought to Southern Arizona and northwestern Sonora, and area called the Pimeria Alta.”
A steal at only $20! This link is to our sales site. The profits from the sale go to the local Horticulture Therapy non-profit Tierra del Sol Institute. We hope you will help support this great Southwest non-profit!
Desert Lavender GF Cookies
Makes roughly 2 dozen, depending on size of cookie cutters.
3 /4 cup butter ( 1 1 /2 sticks)
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs or 3 small, works well with 2 duck eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3 1/2 cups gluten-free flour blend (you can use regular flour)
1 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if included in your flour blend)
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 teaspoons dried ground desert lavender
1 /4 teaspoon sea salt
Prepare the Desert Lavender
Use a mortar and pestle to grind the desert lavender before adding to the recipe. Crushing the buds brings out the flavor more fully, rather than chopping. Leaving them whole makes the dough too crumbly.
Make the dough
Cream together butter or dairy-free butter and sugar.
Add eggs, vanilla, and almond extracts and mix until thoroughly combined.
Combine dry ingredients and lavender in a separate bowl.
Add the dry ingredients to the sugar and egg mixture and mix well to combine.
Wrap the dough in parchment paper, or a beeswax-cloth food keeper (from Savorist Monica King) and allow it to cool in the fridge for 30 minutes, or overnight.
Make the cookies
Preheat oven to 350F.
Roll out dough to 1 /4 inch thickness.
Do this between two sheets of parchment paper (see Preparation Tips below) or, if you have none, a lightly floured board. Roll to a 1/4 inch thickness.
Cut out desired shapes and transfer to a oiled or parchment lined baking sheet.
Bake for 12 – 14 minutes, until barely brown at the edges. They will continue to cook out of the oven.
Allow to cool slightly on the baking sheet before transferring to a cooling rack.
Once cool, decorate as desired, or just enjoy them.
Refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes to allow it to firm up and be easier to handle.
This recipe can be made vegan and dairy-free easily using vegan butter and egg alternative.
If possible, avoid flouring your work surface as this will effect the cookie texture. Parchment paper works great for rolling out the dough.
This recipe is not overly sweet. If you prefer your cookies on the sweeter side, increase the sugar to taste.
* Xanthan gum was discovered in the 1960’s by Dr. Allene Rosalind Jeanes and her research team at the United States Department of Agriculture. Xanthan gum is a polysaccharide and is now a common food additive. It is an effective thickening agent and stabilizer to prevent ingredients from separating. It can be produced from simple sugars using a fermentation process, and derives its name from the species of bacteria originally used, Xanthomonas campestris. This is the same bacterium responsible for causing black rot to form on broccoli, cauliflower, and other leafy vegetables, but it can be used for great good.
By the way, Dr. Jeanes was Jewish, so I believe she would appreciate her discovery being used for Hannukah cookies.
And Here’s Our Cookbook – makes a Great Stocking Stuffer!
Using Honey in New and Savory Ways offers 36 pages of tips for using honey in your cooking, as well as in all manner of dishes. A steal at only $6!
We hope you will help support some local Southwest folks!
From the review:
“Honey is for more than desserts and this book can help! Using honey in cooking savory dishes helps engage all your taste buds and adds a layer of added flavor to everyday dishes – plus holiday fare.”
Beekeeper? We offer volume discounts – because if you sell honey in local markets you might want to offer some of these books as well.
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The authors of this website have researched the edibility of the materials we discuss, however, humans vary in their ability to tolerate different foods, drinks, and herbs. Individuals consuming flowers, plants, animals or derivatives mentioned in this blog do so entirely at their own risk. The authors on this site cannot be held responsible for any adverse reaction. In case of doubt please consult your medical practitioner.