Thursday, January 19, 2012

Rosemary Lemon Shortbread Cookies

Gluten-Free, Vegan Rosemary Lemon Shortbread Cookies

Do you have that one recipe?  You know the one I'm talking about.  The one that people are still talking about months, and even years, after you make it.  The one that's always requested at gatherings and parties.  The one that would happily be accepted as a birthday, graduation, or anniversary present.  The one that causes fights when it comes down to the last piece.  The one

Well, [cue drumroll] ladies and gentlemen, this is mine.  

The inspiration for this recipe goes back to 2003.  I was still in my first year of grad school and I was at my classmate's house studying late one night.  We were taking a break when her roommate came home.  Eager for further distraction from numbers and citations, we went to the kitchen to greet her.  From her purse she produced a white pastry bag, which she held out in front of her.  Before we could even ask what was in the bag, she said, "You have to try this."  

From the bag she produced two slices of pale, off-white shortbread, glistening with sugar. We cut them into smaller pieces and my classmate and I took a bite at the same time.  Our eyes wide with both confusion and happiness must have been quite a sight, because it left her roommate in stitches.  "It's rosemary shortbread!" she laughed.  "Isn't it awesome?"

As the three of us lunged for the remaining pieces, "awesome" became quite the understatement.

So much flavor in every melt-in-your-mouth  bite.

So a couple years into my gluten-free journey, I set out on a mission to make a shortbread cookie that would inspire that same combination of elation, inner laughter, and eye-widening tastebud disorientation.  My very first batch was adapted from a recipe by Nana Lee on, and over the next few years, the recipe evolved with various experiments with different ingredients, techniques, and accommodating additional dietary constraints.  The most recent changes were informed by Michael Ruhlman's book, Ratio, and my involvement with the Gluten Free Ratio Rally.  And today, I am happy to share the most recent edition of the recipe with you.

Rosemary Lemon Shortbread Cookies
Gluten-Free & Vegan

1/2 c or 80 g softened vegan butter
1/4 c or 40 g finely ground palm sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/4 c or 30 g  brown rice flour
1/2 c or 40 g white rice flour
2/3 c or 40 g tapioca starch
1/3 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
fresh rosemary sprigs to garnish (optional)
1 teaspoon palm sugar to garnish (optional)

1.  Add rosemary, lemon zest, and palm sugar to softened butter.  Mix to incorporate.
2.   Sift flours and starch and mix until uniform in color.  Add salt.
3.  Gradually add dry mixture to the butter until just combined.  Add lemon juice and form into a shaggy, slightly crumbley dough.
4.  Cover dough and chill for at least 4 hours to allow flavors to come together.  I chill mine overnight.
5.  When ready to bake, remove dough from refrigerator and allow it to temper for 5-10 minutes to bring it to a 'workable' temperature.
6.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
7.  Form dough into small balls and flatten to approximately 1/3".
8.  Gently press a fresh rosemary sprig into each cookie and lightly sprinkle with palm sugar.
9.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Allow to cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack for an additional 10 minutes.
10.  Makes 14-18 cookies.

A quick dip in hot water helps release the rosemary's fragrance and flavor.

Chilled, fragrant, and ready to roll.

The dough may crack as you flatten it.  Just mush the edges back together.

Gussied up and ready to bake.

If you don't have fresh rosemary on hand, feel free to either substitute a heaping teaspoon of dried rosemary or use another herb of choice (e.g., cilantro, mint, basil, shiso, etc.) in equivalent amounts.  And if you're curious as to how I got the pretty edging on each cookie, I used the tines of a fork.  So simple.

What makes these cookies even more special is the freedom that people have to enjoy them.  Gluten-free, vegan, refined sugar free, nut free, and even soy-free if you use a soy-free vegan butter like I did.  For many, the combination of these dietary constraints can seemingly take away the option of enjoying cookies, cakes, and other baked goods that are delicious.  And that is a huge reason why I started this blog in the first place: to show them that it is possible and that the option is there.

Tea time.

Now for as many people who have pleaded with me over the years to publish this recipe, there have actually been quite a few who have pleaded with me to not share it.  The latter group's argument was that someone would steal the recipe and take credit for it.  It's a valid point, and it's definitely made me pause on more than one occasion before hitting "Publish" on other recipe posts.

But at the end of the day, I want The Canary Files to be a reflection of me, and the standards that I hold myself to.  While I'm aware that internet theft happens all too frequently, for me, writing and recipe-making/sharing in fear is the real culprit, stealing so much of the joy and discovery from the process.  I will never choose to publish mediocre recipes, or recipes that have deliberate omissions, to keep others from misappropriating my intellectual property. And I also don't personally believe in saving recipes for a "better" opportunity.  One, that opportunity is never guaranteed; and two, I always believe that my best is yet to come.  And should someone steal this, or any of my recipes, then that is a decision that they will have to live with.  What goes around always comes around, and no matter what, my truth will always be my truth.

With the recent controversy surrounding anti-piracy bills, publishing this recipe seems timely.  And it also seems right, sharing a recipe that I am particularly proud of with you.

"Life is a gift, and it offers us the privilege, the opportunity, and responsibility to give something back by becoming more." - Anthony Robbins

Enjoy this recipe, and please take care of it.  May it bring you, and those with whom you share it, happiness and more.


  1. I do have one of those recipes, and I've never posted about it on my blog. Yet. That's so great that your cookies have been transformed and remain in your repertoire. The lemon and rosemary sound great!

  2. The cookies look lovely. I love that this is gluten free and vegan

  3. These look amazing! I can just smell (and taste) them now- so yummy. Thanks for posting!

  4. It can feel scary, but it's definitely worth it, Lisa! Looking forward to you sharing your "one." :)

  5. Thank you, Joy! You would never know that they're so allergen-friendly from the taste and texture. And that _is_ lovely.

  6. Thank you, Stephanie! It's my pleasure. :)

  7. Always a winning combination. You are very fortunate to have all that Rosemary available to you! Om nom nom nom nom. I remember visiting you before and using some of that lovely rosemary and making a lemon cashew rosemary cookie =) I think your shortbread looks very cool and I like the little extra rosemary on top.

    I think it's time for tea and these cookies =)

    Thanks for sharing, kuya!

  8. Thanks, Jess! I am quite fortunate to have access to so much rosemary. Grounding and strong.

  9. Shortbread is my favorite dessert! of them. :) I made a rosemary and pinenut shortbread for my cookbook that I literally couldn't stop eating. Which wasn't necessarily a good thing... Anyway, love this recipe! Adding it to my Thanksgiving dessert link love post this week.

    1. It's one of my favorites, too! And rosemary and pinenuts sound a-mazing in a cookie! Duly noted. :) Thank you so much for the comment and the link love!

  10. Thanks for the posting of your "go to" cookie. I will try it tonight and let you know how it goes.

    1. Please do! Looking forward to hearing how you like them!


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All the Best,

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