On the third day of Christmas … my true love sent to me … Herb de Provence Orange Butter Cookies.
In Provence, the heart of the Christmas festivities extends over three days (December 24-26), during which time the table is never cleared, thus allowing the angels to partake of the festivities and seasonal delicacies. I kid you not! When I am an angel, this seasonal French celebration is going to be high on my list of earthly visitations. I hope reservations are not required.
For now, however, since I cannot levitate myself to France for the holidays, I decided to bring a little of the aromatic French countryside to my own holiday table, which on Christmas eve will glitter and sparkle with more than a dozen new butter cookies, most of which are already nestled in tightly sealed metal tins in the cool recesses of the pantry. For “short” cookies such as these, a period of cool mellowing is most advantageous.
Although the herb blend we know today as herb de Provence was not actually “invented” until the 1970’s, Provencal cooks have combined thyme, savory, rosemary, and many other herbs that grow in the region for eons. Adding lavender, orange peel and cloves to the mix is probably a rather recent inspiration. It’s a flavor combination that rings my bell any time of year.
For this special cookie, I was inspired by a glazing technique I spotted at the Wine Imbiber blog. Hosts, Rich and Leah, present Iced Lavender Lemon Tea Cookies glazed with a thin powdered sugar icing that includes dried lavender and lemon zest. Incredibly pretty!
To glaze a cookie, you dip the top of the cookie into a thin icing, rather that drizzle or slather a thicker icing on top. When you turn the cookie right-side-up, the excess glaze slides off and you are left with a thin, transparent glaze. However, this only works if the glaze is exactly the right consistency. You will have to experiment with a few cookies to get it just right.
Herb de Provence Orange Butter Cookies
These delicate, crisp, butter cookies are flavored with vanilla, orange, and herb de Provence. The transparent glaze encases additional Herb de Provence and finely grated orange zest. They are almost too pretty to eat.
Note If you don’t plan to glaze the cookies, increase the powdered sugar to 1½ cups.
2½ cups unbleached, all-purpose King Arthur’s flour (12 ounces)
½ cup cornstarch (3 ounces)
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1½ cups fresh unsalted butter, at cool room temperature (3 sticks)
1 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons dried Herb be Provence (store bought or recipe below)
finely grated zest of 1 large orange
½ teaspoon orange oil (or 1 teaspoon orange extract)
1-2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
finely grated zest of 1 large orange
1 tablespoon dried Herb de Provence (or more if you like)
- In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour, cornstarch, and salt. Reserve.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and powdered sugar.
- Add the vanilla, Herb de Provence, orange zest, and orange juice, and incorporate.
- Add the flour mixture and mix very briefly on very slow speed, just until a dough forms.
- Divide the dough in half and set each half over a long sheet of plastic wrap or waxed paper.
- Bring the long edges of the wrap lightly over the dough and squeeze and shape the dough until you get a uniform 12” long x 2¼” wide x 1” deep inch rectangle of dough. Repeat with the other half of the dough, which may not extend to 12-inches long.
- Seal the plastic wrap around each portion of the dough and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight. (The sealed dough can be refrigerated for 2-3 days if necessary.)
- Remove one of the dough bars from the refrigerator and cut crosswise into ¼-inch thick slices.
- Arrange cookies slightly apart on cookie sheets that have been lightly coated with vegetable spray.
- Bake at 350° for 11-13 minutes, rotating pans at the halfway point to ensure even browning.
- Remove from the oven, loosen each cookie with a thin spatula and let cool for 3-4 minutes on the pan. Remove cookies from the cookie sheet and place on a wire rack and cool completely.
- Store airtight in layers, separated by wax paper rounds, in a cookie tin, in a cool, dry place. These cookies improve with age. They keep for 3-4 weeks. Cookies may also be frozen.
- Shortly before serving (up to a couple days), in a small bowl, combine the powdered sugar, orange juice, ornge zest, and Herb de Provence.
- Dip the top of each cookie in the glaze and place on a wire rack to let the glaze set. If the glaze is too thick, thin with orange juice, one drop at a time. If it is too thin, whisk in additional sifted powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time.
- Serve or again store airtight in layers, separated by wax paper rounds, in a cookie tin, in a cool, dry place.
Makes 6-7 dozen, 2¼” x 1” cookies.
Herb de Provence
This is a lovely herb blend, compatible with sweet, as well as savory, dishes.
NOTE If using in cookies or other applications in which the herbs will not have a chance to hydrate and soften, grind the rosemary coarsely using a mortar and pestle before combining with the other herbs.
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon dried summer savory
1 tablespoon dried lavender
- In a small bowl, combine the herbs.
- Store airtight in a cool dry location.
Makes 1/4 cup.
To follow along as we bake our way through this year’s cookie collection, see the kickoff post, Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Starry Night.
Also, check out last year’s collection, Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Deck the Halls.