Last month I made these sweet little cookies for a workshop titled Cultivate Your Calm held by Pause, Gatherings for Women. Why? Well, the event was billed as "an evening for women who want to discover the secrets to creating feelings of peace and well-being" - and nothing fits the bill more than these two gentle, delicious aromatic nervines traditionally used to reduce anxiety and uplift the spirit!
Lemon balm is a delicious, lemony herb in the mint family, and Juniper Berry is the spicy aromatic teeny tiny cone of the Juniper tree. Both are renowned for reducing stress hormones like cortisol - while gently stimulating mental focus. Both are also very ancient and sacred herbs. Lemon balm, (Melissa officinalis) Latin name takes its name from Melissae which means ‘bee’ in Greek. And for 2000 years it was sacred to bee priestesses (called Melissae) who worshipped goddesses associated with the moon.
In the Middle Ages, it was employed in cure-all elixirs for promoting general happiness. Lemon balm is safe to consume on a regular basis, even for children- unless you are on thyroid medication, so check with your doctor. As a very mild bitter and relaxing herb, it's also great for nervous indigestion and you can use the fresh plant (or recently dried) in tea or as a medicinal plant tincture.
For those who have never encountered the juniper berry, imagine the spicy exotic notes of nutmeg and allspice, and the scent of fresh-cut evergreen branches combined.
Renowned for its cleansing, clearing and protective qualities, the berries were burned as a purifying incense by ancient Egyptians and Greeks, and used as a smudging herb by Siberian shamans. And they have a long history in cooking and baking!
Not only do their calming & uplifting healing influences double up in this cookie, but their combined flavours sing on the tongue! Well I think so anyway!
Lemon Balm & Juniper Berry Sugar Cookies
- 1 cup butter, room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 4 cups flour
- 1/3 cup finely minced lemon balm (you can whir in a food processor too)
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- 2 Tbsp lemon zest
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ¼ cup Juniper Berry Sugar (recipe here)
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- Cream the butter and sugar together, then add the eggs. Add the lemon juice/zest, minced lemon balm and salt and mix a few seconds. Add one cup of flour and continue to mix as you add the baking soda. Add the rest of the flour, one cup at a time. The dough will be stiff.
- Form two rough balls from your dough. Put dough balls in a bowl covered with a tea towel and chill in the fridge for an hour.
- Roll the dough out approx. 1/4″ thick and cut out your shapes with a cookie cutter. Or just use a glass to make them round.
- Sprinkle liberally with Juniper Berry Sugar.
- Bake 8-10 minutes depending on thickness of your cookies.