Floral Scented Shortbreads (Gluten-Free)

These cookies combine the lovely aromatic quality of Indian deserts with a crisp and not too sweet shortbread.  I was inspired by the cardamom, pistachio and rosewater shortbread on the lovely food blog My Darling Lemon Thyme.  I enjoyed these rose scented cookies so much, that I started experimenting with orange blossom water and culinary lavender.  Rose water and orange blossom water are available at Indian and Middle Eastern markets.  I got the culinary lavender from the lavender farm down the road from my mother’s house on Maui.   They are a nice local, family run business and you can mail order from them by clicking here.  In addition to culinary lavender, I highly recommend their lavender lilikoi jam and the lavender gardener’s salve.  I imagine that I will continue experimenting with flavours and spices to add to these cookies…earl grey tea shortbread?  Cocoa nib shortbread with a bit of chili pepper?  Sesame and Sea Salt shortbread? Yeah, you have not heard the last of this basic recipe from me.

I also made some changes to the gluten-free flours used to match my own tastes.  I tried the recipe with brown rice flour, white rice flour and mochi flour.  Any of these are excellent, so use whatever one you can find.  If you are able to choose, the mochi flour will produce the crispest cookie and the brown rice flour will produce the softest (but still crisp) cookie.  The white rice flour was in the middle.  For my tastes, I prefered the softness of the brown rice flour for the rose scented cookies and crispness  the white or mochi flour for the orange blossom and lavender cookies.  My taste testers really like the crispy ones.  I also use arrowroot starch instead of cornstarch.  For some reason, I HATE the taste of  cornstarch in baked goods, but it does not seem to bother other folks the way it bothers me, and cornstarch is much easier to find than arrowroot starch.  Either one will work.

This dough is really fun to work with!  How often do you hear that comment in connection with gluten-free baking?  It seems to benefit from being handled.  The more I worked with it, the more smooth and pliable it became.  It was like a sculpting material.  It really made me wish that I owned fancy little cookie molds because this dough could totally hold a complicated shape.  Also, I would recommend this recipe even for people who do not have to eat gluten-free.  The best recipes for crispy shortbread always call for rice flour because it is a huge benefit to the texture of the cookie.  I had a friend in college who made shortbread from her grandmother’s recipe every christmas.  The cookies were so good that I spent years prying the secret from her….rice flour.


Makes 16 cookies

adapted from My Darling Lemon Thyme

  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  • 2 tsp rosewater
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom seeds, ground
  • 3/4 cups rice flour (I liked brown rice flour best)
  • 1/2 cup arrowroot starch (cornstarch works too)
  • 1/8 cup tapioca starch
  • pinch of salt (don’t skip this!)
  • 1/4 cup pistachios chopped
*Scroll to the bottom of the post for directions!


Makes 16 cookies

  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  • 2 tsp orange blossom water
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom seeds, ground
  • The zest of 1 orange (about 1 Tablespoon)
  • 3/4 cups rice flour (I liked white or mochi rice flour best)
  • 1/2 cup arrowroot starch (or cornstarch)
  • 1/8 cup tapioca starch
  • pinch of salt (don’t skip this!)
  • 1/4 cup flaked coconut
*Scroll to the bottom of the post for directions!
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 Tablespoon lavender flowers
  • The zest of 1 lemon
  • 3/4 cups rice flour (I liked white or mochi rice flour best)
  • 1/2 cup arrowroot starch (or cornstarch)
  • 1/8 cup tapioca starch
  • pinch of salt (don’t skip this!)
  • 1/4 cup flaked almonds


  1. Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.   Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl untill light and fluffy.  
  2. Add whatever floral essences, spices and zests you are using to the butter and sugar mixture and beat to combine. 
  3.  Add the rice flour, arrowroot starch, tapioca starch and salt.  If you are using the pistachios, mix half of them into the dough as well.  I used my hand to combine the dough and continued working it until it was glossy, pliable and every crumb had been gathered into the ball.  
  4. Divide the ball of dough in two.  Divide the two balls into four lumps each.  Divide each lump in half to make 16  even sized cookies total. Roll each of the 16 lumps into little balls and place, evenly spaced on a lined cookie sheet.
  5. Using a wet fork, compress each cookie twice at 90 degree angles to flatten them and make a crisscross pattern on the top.
  6. If you are using pistachios sprinkle whats left of them on top of each cookie.  If you are using sliced almonds or coconut,  press a pinch of them into the top of each cookie.  This looks and sounds harder than it is.  It really only takes a second and they end up looking very fancy!
  7. Bake the cookies for 20-25 minutes or until they look a bit golden.  Allow the cookies to cool before eating them!  If fact these ones really taste better after having a day to mellow and blend.



8 Comments Add yours

  1. pgwr says:

    I’ve been making your shortbread recipe for a couple of years now. Recently I became the gluten free baker at a cafe in New Orleans. My first item was your shortbread, flavored with rose, cardamom, and almonds. Their first day out, they earned a wild rave from a GF woman: “The best GF cookie I have ever had!!!!! Where can I get this recipe???”
    Thank you!
    And another thanks: you came and led a class on puppets at the Off Center in Austin, TX many years ago. I attended a presentation of yours as a 14 year old I believe, and it stuck with me, inspired me for a long time. The puppet whose neck spouted red (blood) ribbons made a special mark. Then here I was, using your recipes, only to realize–it was that puppet woman!
    All this to say, your aesthetic certainly has benefited me in a couple of ways :).


    1. How strange and wonderful! I am so happy that have had success with the shortbread and I’m also thrilled to have corrupted your young mind with bizarre puppet images! I love Austin and that puppet class at Off Center was one of the best groups of students that I’ve taught. New Orleans is one of my favorite cities. If I get back there, I will have to come have a treat at your cafe! Thanks for reaching out!

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