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Cookie Lavender: Lavender Shortbread recipe

lavender shortbread

"Is this cookie lavender?" Sarah looked up from her herb snipping with a big grin. "I hope it's cookie lavender!"

Most people probably associate lavender with soap or maybe perfume, but not cookies! Who has ever heard of lavender cookies?

Well, let's start with the obvious: yes, they smell like lavender! (and butter, if that helps) The scent is either intoxicating or...well, off-putting might be an appropriate term. I have taken these to several parties and I love the reactions.

PurpleenglishflutterbySome people smell them and immediately get the lavender scent. I can tell because the response is usually a skrinched nose accompanied by a moment while a polite way of ask if they contain...umm, err, soap is sought. (Seriously, I can see the wheels whir. The thought goes: "These smell like soap! OMG! I can't say that? But she knows how to cook! How could she...but she must have tasted one...but...SOAP!" So far, I haven't laughed, but it is getting harder.)

Others simply can't identify the scent.

Every once in a while, a sniff is met with an arched eyebrow, and an inquisitive glance. Those people get a special little note in my internal list of people I can suck into tasting weird creations. Err, I mean recipe testers!

One bite, however, and the cookies have gained a fan. Never fails. These tender little cookies are melt-in-your-mouth buttery with a delicately floral taste. Nary a hint of soap.

There are several types of lavender commonly available, but for culinary uses, English Lavender is what most cooks choose. Most other lavenders are too strong, being either more camphorous than sweet or simply overwhelmingly flowery.

Interestingly enough, English lavender is actually not a scientific designation of lavender. This common name refers to a number of lavender species with the most common being Lavandula angustifolia officinalis, which is most common and prized for its sweet scent and flavor along with superb oil quality. The Lavandula angustifolia species "Hidcote," "Munstead," and "Melissa," along with Lavandula intermedia "Provence" are amongst the favorites for cooking.

Although only a handful of lavenders are suitable for culinary uses, there are a number of others that definitely deserve a spot in your garden. Some of my favorites are:

spanish lavender

Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas) has lovely bracts, often called "rabbit's ears" or "wings," making it one of the showiest garden lavenders. I have half a dozen different Spanish Lavender species, including several shades of purple and one or two pinks, but this yellow lavender (said to smell of lavender and rosemary) is going on my endlessListOfThingsIWant right now!

French lavender (Lavandula dentata) has finely-toothed leaf edges and small, pale purple flowers. It is another attractive, and less common, plant for the garden.

Lavandin (Lavandula intermedia) is a hybrid cross between L. angustifolia and Lavandula stoechas with particularly long flower stalks. Lavandin is commonly used for perfume oil and is also common in gardens.

Woolly lavender (Lavandula lanata) has silver leaves and dark purple flowers, making it a beautiful landscaping plant.

Sweet Lavender (Lavandula heterophylla) is an oddly named plant as it is far too camphorous to use in cooking. It is one of the tallest lavenders, however, with spikes of up to 4 feet.

Cookie Lavender (Lavandula cookieus), which isn't a species, but should be, is usually Munstead, but occasionally Melissa, or even Alba, grown in my front garden bed. Soon in Sarah's garden too.

Lavender Shortbread

Makes 24 cookies

While it might look a bit complex, this recipe is a breeze to make. They can be partially made ahead of time (see Notes) and are even tastier the day after baking.

Ingredient

Volume

US weight

Metric

Sugar

1/2 cup

3 1/2 ounces

100 grams

Butter

1 cup (2 sticks)

8 ounces

224 grams

Flour (see note)

2 cups

9 ounces

252 grams

Lavender buds

4 teaspoons fresh

2 teaspoons dried

too light to weigh

Make lavender sugar

Combine the sugar and lavender buds in a food processor or herb grinder and process until the buds are chopped into small bits. If you have only a standard food processor, you may want to make larger quantities of this sugar at a time. You can use 2 cups of sugar and 1/3 cup of fresh buds (or a scant ¼ cup of dried) and store the unused portion in an airtight jar on the pantry shelf.

Make the dough

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the butter and lavender sugar and mix on low speed (or by hand) until smooth.
  2. Add flour and mix until dough comes together in a cohesive ball.
  3. Turn dough onto counter and press gently into a rectangle. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes to firm up the butter a bit.

Shaping

  1. Remove dough from refrigerator and roll it into 1/4 inch thick (roughly a 10x10 square).
  2. Cut cookies with cookie cutters or sharp knife. (Remember these cookies are very rich and tend to crumble when they get too big so keep them fairly small.)
  3. Place cookies ½ inch apart on parchment-lined cookie sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (This firms up the butter so the cookies spread less and are more tender.)

Baking

  1. Preheat oven to 300°.
  2. Once oven is hot, remove the cookies from the refrigerator and immediately put in oven.
  3. Bake 20-25 minutes until the bottom is barely browned.
  4. Let cool on a rack. Store in airtight container for several days or freeze. If they last more than a day. Which really isn't likely. Seriously. Do you see a picture of a baked cookie anywhere around here?

Nutritional information - per cookie: 122 Calories; 8g Fat (56.6% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 12g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 21mg Cholesterol; 78mg Sodium.

Exchanges: 1/2 Grain(Starch); 1 1/2 Fat; 1/2 Other Carbohydrates.


Notes

Englishlavenderalbacr Flour It is important not to use more flour than is called for in this recipe lest you get overly dry, crumbly cookies. If you remember from this article, measuring a cup of flour is treacherous business, so if you are measuring by volume, make sure the flour is well aerated (shake the container before measuring) to avoid getting compacted (and thus heavier, meaning more) flour.

Lavender sugar You can create a large quantity of this lavender/sugar mixture and store it in your pantry for many months. I suggest using buds that are at least partially dried if you plan on doing this. (See also this article on lavender sugar.)

Freezing These cookies can be frozen at a number of different points in the process:

  • After mixing, before rolling out Form rectangle of dough, wrap tightly in two layers of plastic wrap and place in freezer bag or other container. Thaw in refrigerator for a couple of hours before rolling and cutting.

  • After rolling out, before cutting Divide dough in half, roll out each half, wrap tightly in two layers of plastic wrap and place in freezer bag or other container. Let rest on counter for 10 minutes before cutting.
  • Cut-out, unbaked cookies Freeze in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Once the cookies are solidly frozen, place in layers, separated by plastic wrap, in an airtight container and store in freezer. These cookies can go straight from the freezer into a preheated oven and require an additional minute or so of baking time.
  • Baked Wrap tightly in plastic and then in freezer bag or other container. Remove as many cookies as you need at any given time and thaw between paper towels on counter for at least 30 minutes.

This recipe comes from one of my favorite, and most used, cookbooks: The Herbfarm Cookbook by Jerry Traunfeld. It has some truly wonderful recipes along with brief, yet very useful, references on most of the herbs he uses in the book, food and herb pairings, and even herb gardening. Plus, gorgeous pictures!

Lavenderfieldsforevercr

Some photos courtesy of Robin Catesby, who is a talented writer, marvelously fun artist, great photographer, and runs Belly Timber (home of the original Christmas Cookise of Cthulhu and this - just go look, trust me, it's cool!) with Chopper Dave, my favorite extreme chef. They were once fortunate enough to live close to the lavender farm in those photos and she was gracious enough to share these lovely images with us. The lavender field overlooking the pond is quite the tempting spot, isn't it?



Speaking of edible flowers, I was interviewed by Liz Nakazawa for The Mettle of Petals in the May edition of Northwest Palate magazine which is, as they say, on newsstands now. Welcome to readers of that article who have found their way here.

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