Lemon and Lavender go together like peanut butter and jelly, like pancakes and maple syrup, like, well, like lemon and lavender. These floral shortbread sugar cookies are so delicate and delicious, perfect for spring, an afternoon tea under cherry blossoms, or just to enjoy with your favorite book or newest Netflix binge. These cookies are also gluten free AND vegan. I know, I know. Vegan shortbread, I can hear the eye roll. But trust me when I say that this recipe is incredible and results in a cookie that tastes just like the gluten and dairy full version we’ve known, loved, sometimes dreaded, and enjoyed for years.
Lavender is a flavor that is becoming more and more popular, and one that I love using . Gone are the days of this delightful herb being resigned to a potpourri bouquet, or to the bottle of essential oil that helps us fall asleep. Don’t get me wrong, I use lavender in those capacities all the time, let’s not get it twisted, but I am loving that I am seeing it in recipes and on menus more and more. I had a lavender soy latte from Irving Farm the other day and it blew my wee little mind. Lavender has a beautiful and delicate floral bouquet. The first time you try it in a cookie or a pie or in a caramel, you might not be able to place it until someone tells you that it is lavender and then sit back and let your mouth and mind do a happy dance as it all floods to you. When cooking with lavender, be sure that it is food safe whenever you are using it in a recipe. There are so many farmers markets that sell lavender throughout the city, but not all of it is safe to eat because of pesticides and other stabilizers that might have been added to it during the growing process. If you are sourcing your lavender from a farmers market, be sure to ask if it is safe to consume - typically the growers will have some that is - and most grocery stores will sell dried lavender in their herb and seasoning aisle. It can be seasonal which might give you some trouble in terms of finding it, but once it is dried and stored in an airtight container it will be fine for a very long time. Always give it a good sniff before use, if it smells dull and ashy it is probably time to repurpose the old herb and treat yourself to a new batch.
I used a stand mixer with the paddle attachment for these cookies, but a hand mixer or just some good old fashioned mixing with a spatula by hand will do just fine.
Let us talk about vegan butter for a spell. I am an Earth Balance fan. I really like the texture of it and the flavor. More than all that, I like the way that it works in to the batters and doughs that I use it in. Because there is a higher ratio of different fats, it can be tricky if you are using it for something like lamination, but any time you are using a recipe that calls for the butter to be creamed with the sugar and eggs, it is a pretty safe best to assume that you can substitute Earth Balance in at a 1:1 ratio with the butter you are trying to avoid. There are some other brands out there - believe it or not most margarine on the market is in fact vegan and have been this whole time, a fact that blew my dad’s mind - but the texture of Earth Balance holds up better to me, and when it is cold it can get really stiff, which is great when you are trying to cut it in to a pastry/pie dough. Country Crock and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter are made to be easily approachable (see spreadable AF), which is great if you are putting it on your morning toast, not so great if you are going for a textured dough.
To start off, I like to blend the lavender and lemon zest with the Earth Balance for a good few minutes in the mixer. If you are able to leave the mixture overnight I would recommend doing that just so the flavors can get really happy. By creaming the Earth Balance with the zest and the herb, more of the oils are released and the base of the buttery spread will absorb all of the deliciousness.
Once the spread has been infused, it is time to cream in the sugar. Let’s talk about sugar for just a momento here. Did you know that regular white table sugar is not actually vegan? Companies use bone char to help with refining the sugar, and some of those bone fragments can sometimes find their way in to the sugar. Not big pieces or anything like that, it’s not like you’re going to open up your bag of Domino and see a big old chunk of bone, but microscopic fragments do end up in there, rendering the sugar to be not vegan. Why in 2019 are sugar companies still using bone char to refine sugar is absolutely beyond me, but here we are and there are ways around using regular white table sugar.
Organic cane sugar is a game changer. The flavor is more developed, it isn’t bleached in any way, and hey! No bone char to refine it! The only downside of it is that the grain is a little bit bigger and it doesn’t dissolve as easily in to batters and doughs as regular white table sugar might. When I have used organic cane sugar in the past in it’s whole form, it has left batter a little broken and can sometimes cause it to separate. It is also very noticeable when making a smooth dough such as for a shortbread or sugar cookie. Luckily, there is a very quick fix to this issue. By popping the organic cane sugar in to a food processor or blender - I use a NutraNinja and it is a BEAST - you can smooth out the grain from course to fine with just a few pulses.
Now, the sugar is ready to be creamed in to the buttery spread smoothly and without any lumps. After you have creamed the sugar in to the compound spread for a few minutes, it will be light and fluffy and ready for the sifted dry ingredients to be added in gradually.
Once the dry has been incorporated, you are going to want to turn the dough out on to a generously floured surface. Depending on how the dough has turned out, you might find that you need to knead in a bit more flour. This is totally fine to do. The dough can be wet and sticky, if you were to roll the dough out in this state it would be extraordinarily difficult to do to begin with, and if you were able to manage it in to a rolled out sheet and cut it in all of its sticky goodness, the shapes would spread out in the oven and you would be left with a very thin, gummy, and dare I say, sad cookie. The dough will feel a little stiffer than play dough at the right consistency.
I want to talk for a second here about baking with gluten free flour. Depending on the blend you are working with, it can tend to soak up all of the moisture in your dough or batter, leaving you with a dry and crumbly mixture that works for some things - see any crumble topping anywhere, so delicious - but for cookies, it can leave a texture that is not what you were going for. Because gluten free blends are typically made of a higher starch content, this is where the texture issues come in. I have fallen IN LOVE with Pamela’s Products, y’all. The blend is damn near perfect and it works almost exactly like regular gluten full flour and you can replace it at a 1:1 ratio which just, I mean, come on. Who doesn’t LOVE THAT. Texture wise, when you feel it, there is a little bit of that gluten free grit that we all know and love to sometimes hate, but the chalkiness, the dryness, and - I’ll just say it - the sadness that accompanies most gluten free flour blends just is not present here. I love baking cakes with this flour, cookies come out so delicious, and don’t even get me started on brownies. Just don’t do it, because I’ll be here all night. AND THE TASTE. Almost indistinguishable from gluten full flour. Ok, back to the process, but for real, Pamela you hold my heart and I love you. Yeah. I said it. I love you. Ok. I’m glad that’s out there. Love you. K. Bye.
So, once you have you dough amassed in a lovely round like this, you are going to take your rolling pin and roll it out until it is about 1/4” thick. These cookies, like the baker making them, are thick and its amazing and delicious. You could go thinner for sure, but there is something really satisfying about biting in to the short quality of this cookie and feeling one quarter of an inch against your teeth with that really amazing ‘schmoonsch‘ sound that only a short bread type cookie can make.
Now that the dough has been rolled, it is time to cut out our shapes. I went with a cute little tulip because #spring.
I try to be as economical with my cutouts as possible. With a shape like this there will undoubtedly be negative space that we can’t access, but fewer things in life get me down as just placing your cutter all over the dough willy nilly. Aside from it triggering all of my OCD, it is actually not great for the dough. The less times you have to regather the dough in to a ball and roll it out to start the shape cutting process again, the better. The more the dough is handled and worked, the tougher it can become, and remember, we are going for that ‘schmoonsch’ sound, so, be crafty, be thrifty, but above all, be smart with that cutter placement.
Now, before we are going to bake these, we are going to line our beautiful little cookies on to a cookie sheet - I lined mine with parchment paper, but you don’t really need to, I’ve never had these stick, you just…you just never know 100%, know what I mean ::Ally stares off in to the dark memories of cookies sticking to pans as Enya music plays:: anyway, where were we - and then we are going to pop them in to the freezer for at least an hour. I kept mine in over night because I had the time. This will help us from losing the shape of the cookies as they bake. There is quite a bit of the buttery spread in these cookies, which is just delicious fat that loves to spread out and take up as much space as possible when it gets hot. You might be asking, why didn’t we just chill the dough before we cut the shapes? It is an excellent question. We do this because the Earth Balance when it is chilled gets hard. Like, very VERY hard. If we were to chill the dough before we rolled it out, we would essentially have to wait for it to thaw before we rolled it out, and would then have to pop it back in to the fridge or freezer to harden again. The dough will be stiff enough to roll out and if you have added more flour when you turned it out, it shouldn’t be sticking to your rolling surface or to the pin. By rolling it first and then chilling it, you are saving yourself time and heartbreak. Yes. Heartbreak.
Once your dough is sufficiently chilled - at least 1 hour or overnight - you are ready to bake!! Set your oven to 350° and adjust your racks to the middle. You are going to want to bake these for 15-20 minutes, or until the edges have begun to turn a very light golden brown and your kitchen smells incredible. I am a firm believer in baking with your nose first. If something smells done, like these cookies, or a chocolate cake, if you are smelling it and your brain is saying, hey this smells done, 99.99999% of the time you are correct. Also, every oven is different, so bake with your nose, bake with your eyes and think of the timer as more of a guideline than anything.
The smell that comes off of these cookies is unreal, my friends. It’s like you are walking through a beautiful meadow at dawn and all of the woodland creatures come over to hang out and bring you flowers. Seriously, the fragrance is amazing. Once the cookies are done, transfer them to a wire rack and let them begin to cool.
Now again, because there is so much sugar in these cookies, I like to try and balance that sweetness in any way that I can. We are going to do that by making a glaze, which is sugar based so I can hear you questioning how this will bring the sweetness down, but in truth, this glaze is really more of a wash. In a small bowl, you’ll want to combine 2 tbs of powdered sugar - hey, real quick. Powdered sugar is also not guaranteed to be vegan, #bonechar #therehastobeabetterway #iknow #wewillfigureitouttogether, so be sure that you are using a vegan company like Wholesome - with the juice of one lemon. The mixture will be more sour than sweet, and if you want to up the sour ante, add some more zest or juice to it. It will also be very fluid, so again, it truly is more of a wash than a glaze. After your cookies have cooled completely, take a pastry brush, or hey, use your fingers if you like, and apply a thin layer to the top of the cookies. You don’t have to do this bit, but I like the added sour on the top.
And there you have it, friends. Vegan, Gluten Free, Lavender Lemon Sugar Shortbread cookies. These pair deliciously with earl grey tea and are a delight with a drier prosecco. These cookies are also RIPE for decorating with vegan royal icing…but more on that later : ))
I hope that you try these cookies and that you enjoy them! If you do make them, please tag me @bakewithbo on instagram and let me know how they turned out! Until next time, friends. Stay hungry!
Lavender Lemon Sugar Shortbread Cookies
Vegan and Gluten Free
Prep Time : 10 Minutes Chilling Time : At least 1 hour - up to over night
Cook Time : 15-20 Minutes Yield : 24 Cookies
You Will Need :
3/4 cup buttery spread, softened
3/4 cup granulated organic cane sugar, blended/processed in to a fine powder
1 tbs plus 2 tsp dried lavender
Zest of 3 lemons
1 1/2 tbs cornstarch
2 tbs non dairy milk - I used unsweetened soy milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups gluten free flour - like Pamela’s…because I love her and her flour - plus more for dusting and adjusting
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
*Lemon wash :
2 tbs powdered sugar - like Wholesome brand
Juice of 1 lemon
The Process :
1. Place buttery spread in a large mixing bowl and mix using whisk or paddle attachment until smooth and creamy.
2. Add lavender and lemon zest. Mix for 2-3 minutes to release oils in to the spread.
3. Add in sugar and beat for 3 minutes or until pale in color and fluffy, then add in cornstarch, non dairy milk, and vanilla. Mix until well combined.
4. In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Incorporate dry ingredients slowly in to the sugar mixture 1/4 cup at a time. The dough should be crumbly and pliable, like play dough. Turn on to a well floured surface and bring together in to a ball. If dough is too sticky, knead in more flour 3tbs at a time until the dough stops sticking to your fingers/work surface.
5. Roll out dough to 1/4 of an inch thick and cut in to your favorite shapes. Place on a lined baking sheet and transfer to the freezer for a minimum of 1 hour - over night is best*.
6. Preheat oven to 350°. Bake 15-20 minutes or until the edges are a very light golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.
7. In a small bowl, mix together powdered sugar and lemon juice, stirring until there are no lumps. Once cookies have cooled, apply an even layer to the top of your cookies.