Rosemary-Thyme Shortbread Cookies

Abingdon Cookie Time Jar

Abingdon Cookie Time Jar

by Cat, February 2008 (Photo, right, from Wikipedia, but link is lost)

I know, it’s hard for some of us to think about using savory herbs in a sweet treat, but trust me, you won’t regret it. In my experience, these herbs work wonderfully with goodies that contain lemon juice and/or zest. Betty Hallock and Donna Deane, authors of the 2007 newspaper article (1) that accompanied the recipe I have adapted here, write:

“Rosemary and thyme…work just as fabulously in desserts [as in roasted meats and sauces]:  creamy custards, buttery cookies, pies, crisps and cobblers made with fall fruit such as apples and pears.

Like lemon zest or ginger used in baking, rosemary and thyme focus the elements in fruit that aren’t sweet while tempering the sugars.  But the two herbs add their own pungent, piney nuances.”

“For a creamy, luxurious flan, bruised sprigs of the herbs (with leaves and stems) are infused in a milk and cream mixture for one hour. [In this case, the rosemary oils can overpower the thyme], so use more thyme than rosemary in the recipe.”

Rosemary-Thyme Shortbread Cookies

This recipe is adapted from an October 2007 article in my local newspaper, the Daily InterLake, who picked it up from the Los Angeles Times (1).

I recommend using real sugar (such as Rapadura sugar or part Rapadura and part white cane sugar) for this recipe, and not trying to replace it with stevia or other non-sugar sweeteners. This is because shortbread requires the 3 main ingredients: flour, butter and sugar for the right texture.  However, a combination of xylitol (a sugar-alcohol), and a bit of maple syrup might work, as in my adaptation of the recipe.  (I’ve not yet tested this version).

The original recipe uses 1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour, but I prefer to use part whole wheat pastry flour or sprouted wheat flour and a bit of coconut flour, or a combination of whole grain and unbleached white flour. (Or whole spelt flour with a bit of coconut flour would also work).  Coconut flour is used instead of part of the white flour to increase fiber content, and requires equivalent quantity of liquid (such as milk) because it absorbs a lot of liquid, helping to keep the cookies moist. If you replace the coconut flour with white flour, also omit the milk.

Regarding baking powder: be sure to use aluminum-free baking powder, and that your baking powder is still fresh (its activity decreases with time, as moisture allows the baking soda and cream of tarter or other weak acid in the baking powder mix to react and form carbon dioxide, which deactivates the powder before you use it). Unless  you bake a lot, I find it much easier (and less waste) to make my own in small quantities; see my  homemade baking powder recipe.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies, depending on size.

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • ¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour, or whole spelt flour
  • ¾ cup unbleached white flour
  • 2 Tbsp coconut flour *
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp Unrefined sea salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick) real unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • ½ cup xylitol (or ¾ cup Rapadura sugar or white cane sugar, or a mix of both), and omit the maple syrup);  [NOTE: I’ve not yet tested the xylitol/maple sugar version]
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup (grade B) (omit if using real sugar)
  • 1 ½ Tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary or thyme, plus more for sprinkling
  • 2 Tbsp milk (Alternately, replace coconut flour with unbleached white flour and eliminate the 2 Tbsp milk)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp milk (for brushing)
  • Equipment:
  • 1 medium bowl (or 2 bowls if not using a stand mixer)
  • stand mixer fitted with paddle blade, hand mixer, or wooden spoon
  • spatula
  • waxed paper
  • rolling pin
  • cookie sheet
  • cooling rack


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.  Butter the cookie sheet.
  2. Sift flour and baking powder in a medium bowl; whisk in the salt.  Set aside.
  3. Cream butter in bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment (or in a medium bowl using a hand mixer or wooden spoon).
  4. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean with the tip of a knife, into the butter.  Continue to beat until blended.
  5. Add xylitol and maple syrup (or sugar and no maple syrup) and mix until light and fluffy, making sure to scrape down sides of the bowl.
  6. Beat in the chopped herb, then beat in the egg and 2 Tbsp milk just until blended (omit the milk if not using coconut flour).
  7. Beat in flour mixture just until dough is well-mixed.
  8. Chill dough: Remove dough to a counter or board, and flatten into a disk. Wrap dough in waxed paper, twisting the ends of the paper to seal. Chill for 15 minutes.
  9. Shape cookiesRemove waxed paper and roll dough on a lightly floured surface to ¼ inch thick.  Cut out cookies into 2-inch squares, rounds, diamonds, triangles or stars.
  10. Place them on prepared cookie sheet.  Brush tops of each cookie with milk, then sprinkle with a little chopped herb.  Place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator to allow the cookies to chill another 15 minutes.
  11. Bake in preheated oven 9 – 12 minutes, until the cookies have faint coloring around the edges.
  12. Remove sheet from oven and transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool.


  1. Daily InterLake, Oct 31, 2007; originally from the Los Angeles Times (

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