The holidays cry out for cookie-cutter cookies. Our family always had lots – Hanukkah cookies including dreidels and elephants (for the one that Judah the Macabee’s brother heroically slew). Our Christmas cookies included decorated angels and Santa’s sleigh cookies. And what better way to celebrate the season than to add a taste of the Sonoran Desert to your holidays?! We make it easy with this recipe.
When I (Jacqueline Soule) went gluten free over a decade ago there were few gluten-free flour options available. Always the scientist, I experimented with what I could find, like rice flour. I also ground whole almonds in the blender to make flour. Then I found powdered xanthan gum.* It helps mimic the action of the wheat gluten, making wheat-free dough stick together.
*Xanthan gum is another great scientific product brought to us by an innovative woman scientist. More at the end of this article.
Desert lavender (Hyptis emoryi) grows well in the Sonoran desert and 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. SavortheSW discussed desert lavender as a tasty syrup, and on GardeningWithSoule I shared using it for tasty herbal iced tea.
Gluten-free flours can introduce a nutty or earthy flavor to a recipe, which compliments the desert lavender well. I have used up to 5 teaspoons of ground desert lavender before it seemed excessive to guests (but not to me).
Desert Lavender Cookie-Cutter Gluten-Free Cookies
Makes roughly 2 dozen
wet ingredients ¾ cup butter ( 1 ½ sticks) - warm to room temperature 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 dry ingredients 3 1/2 cups gluten-free flour blend (you can use regular flour) 1 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if part of your purchased flour blend) 1 teaspoon baking powder 3 teaspoons dried ground desert lavender ¼ 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 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 Monica King) and allow it to cool in the fridge for 30 minutes, or overnight. If life happens, this can store for at least three days if well sealed against drying out.
Make the cookies
Preheat oven to 350F.
Roll out dough to a ¼ inch thickness.
Do this between two sheets of parchment paper (see tips) 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 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 used, Xanthomonas campestris. This is the same bacterium responsible for causing black rot to form on broccoli, cauliflower, and other leafy vegetables.
To learn to use other savory Sonoran herbs, visit Savorist Monica King Saturdays at the Arivaca’s Farmers Market, or come to one of Savorist Jacqueline Soule’s free lectures. We try to mention both on our Facebook page. We both have copies of Father Kino’s Herbs: Growing and Using Them Today (Tierra del Sol Institute Press). This link is to Amazon and if you buy the book there we will get a few pennies.
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