Botanical Christmas Cookies 🌱❃
I baked six dozen sugar cookies for a garden club luncheon last week. Since we are all rather fond of plants, I went with a semi-botanical theme using fresh violas and fennel from our garden. I also used dried herbs and other nuts, fruits, and candies from my pantry.
My goal was to create simple, delicious cookies that looked like those I imagined Marmee might have baked for Jo, Amy, Beth, and Meg. She would have used whatever goodness had been put up from the March orchard and garden, along with sprinkles of sugar and spices valued like gold dust.
What an entertaining baking project this turned out to be.
And the best part—I foraged the decorations from my own pantry and garden. I was so pleased with how my botanical Christmas cookies turned out, I thought I would share my ideas with you.
Sugar Cookie Recipe
Do you have a favorite sugar cookie recipe? Use it. This post is more about flavor combinations and design than the recipe itself. There are many great basic sugar cookie recipes online. THIS ONE is a keeper. You can even use pre-made dough if you want a shortcut. No worries—I’ve been known to do it. (See my chili-lime sugar cookie post HERE).
The fun in this particular baking project is in the gathering of ingredients and the development of flavor combinations.
From the garden: I snipped fennel, as well as a few happy-faced violas. (Yes, violas and pansies are edible.) I wanted to use mint and thyme too, but our plants looked a bit dispirited after several recent freezes (and I didn’t want to go to the grocery store).
From the spice cabinet: I used cinnamon, Herbs de Provence with lavender, and silver sanding sugar (which isn’t technically a spice, but that’s where I keep it).
From the pantry: I used small marshmallows, candy cane, raisins, candied ginger, and roasted almonds.
From the fruit bowl: Zest of one orange and one lemon.
Here were the flavor combinations I created:
Tips and Tricks
- Divide dough into several batches and bake a dozen at a time. Keep dough chilling in the fridge before baking. Between each batch, rinse cookie sheet under cold water to cool it. Chilled dough and a chilled cookie sheet will help keep your cookies from spreading.
- For cookies with lemon and orange zest flavors, add the zest to the dough before baking.
- Add toppings when the cookies are hot from the oven.
- A toothpick makes a great tool for moving and placing wisps of fennels and tiny bits of ginger.
- Snip raisins into pieces.
- Regarding the marshmallow cookies, cut small marshmallows in half and arrange the pieces on the cookies (in a floral design) while they still have one minute to bake. Return the tray to the oven. While they finished baking, the marshmallows will melt.
- Dust some of the cookies with powdered sugar. Others (like the cinnamon ones), dust with silver sanding sugar for sparkle.
- For the raspberry-filled cookies, make a shallow indentation in the cookie dough and fill it with jam before baking.
Other Flavor Possibilities
There’s really no telling how many different combinations I could have come up with given enough time and dough (pun intended).
A few more ingredient/flavor possibilities:
Extracts—almond, mint, or others
Other nuts—pistachios, walnuts, pecans, etc.
Tiny dark, milk, or white chocolate chips or shavings
Drizzle of icing
Bits of candied fruits
Toasted coconut flakes
Allspice, ginger, other spices
Flaxseed or sesame seed
Dried cherries or cranberries
Other fresh herbs—rosemary, lemon thyme, mint
Lemon curd, orange marmalade, other flavored jams and jellies
And now, a few close-ups of these yummies.
Orange Zest + Violas
Raspberry + Powdered Sugar
My botanically-themed sugar cookies were a hit at the luncheon, and I’ll definitely be making them again. Soon!
I’d be hard-pressed to choose a favorite (but trying to decide is half the fun). You know, you can’t serve something without tasting it first…
Guess what? These cookies aren’t limited to cookie exchanges or goodies for Santa. Since they aren’t frosted red and green or decorated with holiday sprinkles, these botanical cookies will pair well with any season, any cookie reason.
Yay for that!
Grace Grits and Gardening
Farm. Food. Garden. Life.