Today, a little something you're definitely going to want to add to your December cookie jar.
First of all, this is a shortbread cookie, so it's rich and basic in the best way. But next, we tweak. Powdered sugar—which is cut with corn starch—will get you the lightest cookie possible, and it's usually what I'd use. But today, we're infusing the sugar in the cookies with fragrant dried lavender and bright and floral lemon zest. It's a hauntingly delicate and subtle effect, and I wanted a firmer structure, an emphatic little crunch to ground the ethereal fragrance and keep the whole thing from becoming too precious. So regular cane sugar it is.
And since shortbread cookies are sinfully easy to make, they make wonderful last-minute gifts. The lavender and lemon additions make them so lovely and thoughtful that everyone will be too busy enjoying the cookies to question the effort you put in. The recipe halves and doubles well, so make as many, or as few, as you need.
If you do give them as gifts, packing them in mason jars in parchment cups with extra dried lavender poured over makes for a nice presentation and extra scent. Highly recommended.
Lavender and Lemon Shortbread
yields about 20 cookies
1 TBSP dried lavender flowers
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup natural cane sugar (evaporated cane juice)
1/2 cup nondairy butter, such as Earth Balance
1/4 tsp fine sea or kosher salt
1 cup all-purpose flour (measure by spooning in and leveling off, not scooping)
The day before you want to make the cookies, stir together lavender, lemon zest, and sugar in a small airtight container. Let sit 24 hours. Run sugar through a sieve into your mixing bowl to extract the scented sugar. Add a few pinches (app. ½ tsp) lavender-zest mix to the mixing bowl with the scented sugar. Reserve remaining lavender and zest for another purpose (such as tisane).
Cream sugar, butter, and salt until smooth, pausing to scrape the sides of the bowl as needed, if using a stand mixer. Add flour. Mix until fully combined and dough begins to come together. Form into a rough log with your hands, kneading a bit to bring the dough together fully. Transfer to a piece of parchment. Shape into a neat 5x2-inch log. Roll up in the parchment and chill one hour.
Heat oven to 325. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
Use a sharp knife to cut the chilled dough into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Working quickly, lay cookies on the lined baking sheet. Bake on the center rack until fragrant and lightly browned, 20-23 minutes. Let cool one minute, then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Cookies will crisp as they cool.