Let’s talk lavender! Well known for its beautiful flowers and aromatic scent in the garden, it’s loved the world over.
As an avid gardener, I have large swaths of this plant in my yard and for years I’ve been using it in bouquets, drying it, and making wreaths. I’ve shipped it to my daughter in NY and tucked it into a hot bath at night. That said, for years I’ve had it on my culinary to-do list to use it more in the kitchen and this year I finally got around to it!
My lavender bushes are JUST in full bloom and this is apparently the best time to use lavender for culinary purposes as this is when the essential oils are most potent.
After mulling my options and perusing some of my books, I opted to make a Lavender Shortbread, using the recipe from The Herbfarm Cookbook by Jerry Traunfeld as my launching pad. I have adapted the technique significantly from Traunfeld’s recipe but one step in that recipe struck me as crucial–blending the lavender flowers with a small amount of sugar prior to adding it to the butter and remainder of the sugar and then getting on with the recipe. Although the recipe doesn’t explain WHY they do this process, it’s apparent to me that the whizzing of the sugar and the lavender plays a key role in dispersing the extraordinary and heady aroma of the lavender into the sugar which acts essentially as a flavor carrier when combined with the butter and other ingredients.
While I was whizzing the lavender and the sugar, I wondered if the lavender would become too potent in the recipe and resemble Granny’s Pomander ball! However, the end result was deliciously subtle! The recipe is easy and the shortbread freezes great so it’s easy to stash a little summer sunshine away for a rainy winter day!
A simple shortbread featuring the heady aroma of lavender!
Keyword: baking, cookies, lavender, shortbread
KitchenAid Stand Mixer
Cuisinart Food Processor
Nordic Ware English Shortbread Pan
Nine Inch Square Baking Pan
3 teaspoonsfresh lavendar buds
2sticksbutter, chilled and cut into pieces
Preheat the oven to 300 F
Combine the lavender buds and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse the processor four or five times to combine and then run the machine for about 10 seconds to pulverize the lavender and sugar. (This processing step goes a long way towards dispersing the lavender essential oil into the sugar!)
Put the lavender sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the butter. Beat the sugar and butter on low until the mixture is smooth and creamy, but NOT fluffy. Add the flour and combine well to make a cohesive dough.
Transfer the dough into a nine inch square baking pan or into a Nordic Ware English Shortbread Pan, which also measures 9 inches by 9 inches. Press the dough into the pan, smoothing the edges to get a tidy edge. (Pressing the dough into the Nordic Ware pan ensures that the dough with take on the pan's floral impressions.)
Refrigerate the dough in the pan for about twenty minutes prior to baking to let the dough rest.
Bake the shortbread in the middle of the preheated oven for about 20 to 25 minutes or until the shortbread is just slightly colored. Let the shortbread cool in the pan on a rack for about five minutes and then turn it out onto the rack to continue cooling. Cut the shortbread into 9 pieces when almost cool.
Store the shortbread in an airtight container. It also freezes very well.
Serve with tea, ice cream, and/or fresh seasonal berries!
Admittedly, mine has yet to start. I’m still in R&D mode. Reading recipes. Checking the baking cupboard. Stocking up on the essentials. That said, looking at the world around us, I’m going to put a plug in for Keep it Simple Christmas Cookies!
I know, it’s fun to make picture perfect treats but given the global pivot at hand, I’m thinking I’ll stick with one of my tried and true favorites–the Land O’ Lakes Best Ever Butter Cookie. I first tried this recipe probably ten years ago and it has been at the top of the heap over since.
Why? Aside from being easy to follow, it’s versatile, delicious, and uses only seven ingredients, most of which I probably already have on hand.
Over the years, I’ve turned these into raspberry sandwich cookies, much like a linzer cookie. I’ve rolled them into logs and used them as Slice and Bake cookies, which keep in the fridge or freezer and are really convenient to have on hand. I’ve also extracted the cookie cutters from storage and cut the dough into all sorts of fun shapes for Christmas. I’ve even packaged them up into a pretty cookie tin and sent them across the country.
So, for the holiday baking this year, I am going to do myself a fLavor, and keep it simple!
Sunshine, open spaces, and fresh air are often the best antidote for a case of “the blues”.
Well, at least that was my theory last Saturday when my husband and I decided to take a spontaneous trip to pick blueberries at Mountain View Blueberry Farm.
Located in Snohomish River Valley, this lovely nine acre farm dates back to the 1940s and boasts nine different varieties of plump and gorgeous blueberries. When we were there Saturday, we were greeted by their gracious staff, asked to wash and sanitize our hands at the hand washing stations, and given the green light to follow the pathways out to the berry fields. Lucky for us, the Blue Crops, which are big plump berries, were available for picking and in short time we filled two 10 pound buckets with the beauties!
While plucking, we enjoyed watching and listening to the families and children picking in adjacent and socially distant rows. One little guy gleefully told his mom she could make a “bazillion dollars” with all these berries and another child clearly wasn’t ready to leave when it was time to pack up and trek back out to the car!
Our day trip was short and sweet and in the end we carted home a hefty haul of blueberries that are now washed and stashed in the freezer. That said, before I froze all the berries for winter baking, I did bake a beautiful blueberry pie for dessert that night.
Served with scoops of vanilla ice cream, it was indeed the best medicine for battling any blues!
As we shift from the luscious berries of summer into the more robust fruits of fall, I’d like to put in a plug for the humble pear. I know many folks favor apples at this time of year. I certainly serve a lot of them at my house. Nonetheless, there is something delightfully earthy and comforting about a pear. They taste great on their own. They are flavorful and elegant with cheese. They work great in cozy homey desserts like tarts, crumbles, and cobblers. They can, however, be tricky to judge for ripeness.
Have you ever bought a pear, carted it home, sliced it open and found it to be rock hard and taste less? Or, have you sliced it open only to find that it has gone bad from the inside out? Well, thanks to USA Pears, which is the Pear Bureau Northwest, I learned to tackle those problems a few years ago. On their website, they feature a tricky and successful method for checking a pear for ripeness. You simply “Check the Neck.” To do so, you simply apply gentle pressure to the neck of the pear with your thumb. If it yields to pressure, it’s ripe and you are good to go!