Christmas Cookies: Shortbread with a Twist

[Jump to the recipe: Lemon-Lavender Shortbread]

My local Austin food blogger brethren and I love nothing more than to get together and share food. And while the food is important – we are food bloggers after all – we get together for so many other reasons. We have a shared passion for not just food but for writing about it. We love to talk about our successes and our messes, discuss experiments in flavors and cooking styles, and learn more about one another beyond our blogging lives. We were only really organized this year by Addie Broyles of the Statesman, and I have to count my many new food blogger friends as one of the great gifts of 2009.

It’s probably not a huge surprise that we took advantage of the holiday season to get together for a cookie swap. There were some pretty amazing contributions to the day, including bacon-laced chocolate chip cookies from Eat This Lens, fruitcake cookies featuring high-quality bourbon from our local cookie guru Cookie Madness, beer and chocolate walnuts from MisoHungry, some really interesting Chinese New Year cookies from Austin Epicurean, beautiful truffles from The Rebeccamendations, Mexican chocolate cookies from Cosmic Cowgirl, and so many more fantastic goodies there are too many to name. Carla of Austin Urban Gardens was kind enough to host us at her lovely house, and the whole thing was organized by Lisa from Lisa is Cooking and Ceclia Nasti, host of KUT’s Growing Concerns show. It seems the food bloggers are made even better when we’re infused with some gardeners.

As we all talked about what cookies we made and why, my thoughts about cookies from last week (Cookies = Love) are confirmed. While we all left the swap with an amazing collection of holiday treats, the cookies were just the excuse to get together to celebrate and share. Each time I nibble on a cookie this week, I’ll think fondly of my fellow bloggers and the times we’ve shared this year. My contribution to the swap were shortbread, but not just your everyday, average shortbread.

Shortbread with a Twist

I really love shortbread. There’s something so very satisfying about a bite of a tender, buttery cookie. It’s so simple yet so satisfying. I’m also a fan of mixing unexpected flavors into cookies to make them a bit more interesting. This year for example I made a Jasmine-Scented Orange Rounds recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens Ultimate Cookies magazine specifically because I was intrigued by the idea of tea as a cookie ingredient instead of as a beverage. Along the same lines, a recipe for Lemon-Thyme Shortbread in the Better Homes and Gardens Christmas Cookies magazine caught my eye because it combines a traditionally savory herb – thyme – with honey in a shortbread cookie. I took the idea and ran with it, but instead of thyme, I used lavender because I was lucky enough to run across it. Lavender is such a soothing herb that I thought it would go nicely with the comfort of the shortbread and I have to say I’m happy with the result. You can of course use thyme, or even dried lavender.

The magazine’s method calls for cutting the butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter, but that’s a bit more work than I really have time for, so I used my trusty food processor and it worked just fine. This recipe is also a further departure from a traditional shortbread because it includes a little bit of yellow corn meal to add crispness and crunch to the cookies. I really like this addition and think it adds to the twist. The honey gives the whole thing a nice rich finish that makes each bit just that much more decadent. In short, this isn’t your grandmother’s shortbread, but you’ll probably like it anyway.

Recipe: Lemon-Lavender Shortbread

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens lemon-Thyme Shortbread Cookies Laced with Honey


  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Makes: 64 1 inch cookies
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Weight Watchers™ Points: 1 each


  • 1 ¾ c. all-purpose flour
  • ½ c. powdered sugar
  • ¼ c. cornmeal
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 ½ tsp. finely chopped fresh lavender
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • ¾ c. butter, cut into ½ inch cubes, cold
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar in the raw or other coarse sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Combine the flour, sugar, cornmeal, salt, lavender, and lemon zest in the bowl of a food processor. Use 5-6 on/off turns to combine.
  3. Drizzle the dry mixture with honey but do not mix.
  4. Add the butter to the mixture and process until the dough is begins to come together in large, moist clumps, 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  5. Pat the mixture into an 8 inch by 8 inch square on an ungreased cookie sheet.
  6. Cut the large square into 64 1 inch squares, using a ruler as a guide. Don’t separate the squares.
  7. Sprinkle the coarse sugar over the dough.
  8. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the cookies set and just begin to brown.
  9. Remove the pan from the oven and immediately re-cut the large square into the 64 squares you created before you put the dough in the oven.
  10. Set the baking sheet on a wire rack and let the cookies cool completely on the sheet.

Recipe for Success

  • If you can’t get fresh lavender, you can use dried lavender. Fresh or dried thyme are also options.
  • You can use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut the shortbread. Or, if you have a fluted pastry wheel or other cutter, you can create a pretty scalloped edge on the cookies instead of a straight edge.
  • Short bread is so rich that I like to make very small bites. For larger cookies, simply increase the square size to 1 ½ inches or so. You could also create rectangles that are 2 inches long and 1 inch wide.
  • If your fingers are sticking to the dough as you shape it into a square, dust the top of the dough with a little extra cornmeal.
  • It’s very important to take the time to pre-cut the shortbread before you put it into the oven. These cuts will largely disappear when the dough bakes, but they will provide you with a scored guide to make cutting the finished cookies much easier.
  • Be sure to cut the cookies while they are warm. Once they cool they will crumble instead of cut evenly.
  • Just before you serve the cookies, drizzle them with a little extra honey for an additional touch of sweetness.
  • Store the cookies between layers of waxed paper in an air-tight container for 3 days at room temperature or in the freezer for 3 months.

Lavender on FoodistaLearn more about lavender


  1. Natanya,

    Thanks for the shout-out! That picture is gorgeous and so were your shortbread!

    Enjoy your vacation!

  2. Natanya,
    This looks DELICIOUS. I am a fan of lavender in baking, but would have never thought of your good idea to bring it around during the holidays. Thank YOU for sharing!

  3. thecosmiccowgirl /

    nice write-up, my friend. i am very appreciative of our food community as well…thanks for putting it into words for all of us!