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May 22, 2007

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.

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February 23, 2007

bethCookies (and other weighty subjects)


How much does a cup of flour weigh? Seems like a simple question, but it is actually anything but:

  • What kind of flour: all-purpose, cake, bread, pastry? (Whole grains just complicate this equation so we are not going there…not today anyway.)
  • Sifted: before measuring, after, or not at all?
  • Scooped from a container or spooned into the measuring cup?
  • Measured while hopping on your left foot or right?

(Okay, I made the last one up, but you know what? It might actually make a difference because the shaking would make the flour settle…in which case, more would fit in your cup! Determining this, however, would require a complex equation taking into account your weight, the structural integrity of your kitchen floor, and how often heavy trucks drive by and shake the flour before measuring. Too much work.)

In any case, depending on who you ask, and how they measure, a cup of flour can range from about 3 ounces to about 6! Even the mid-range is 4 1/4 – 5 1/2, which is a huge difference when you are baking. One article I came across said: "I can make a cup weigh almost anything I want."  Now, isn't that helpful?

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December 27, 2006

brownies with craisins by way of Jackson Pollock

"Always serve too much hot fudge sauce on hot fudge sundaes. It makes people overjoyed, and puts them in your debt." Judith Olney


If Jackson Pollock made brownies, they would look just like this. Or at least they should. Go clicky on that link and then tell me those brownies aren't Pollock worthy.

These treats started as a rather plain, yet very nice, brownie from a book called The Joy of Chocolate by Judith Olney (the source of the delightful quote). They were supposed to get frosting and a customized chocolate graphical signature of sorts atop that, which always seemed rather frou-frou and counter to my needs when making brownies. If I had the time for all that work on individual brownies, I wouldn't be making brownies, I'd be making mud puffs!

And yet, plain frosting seems so plain somehow. So I had to improvise. Hence the Pollock. Because flinging chocolate at a pan of brownies is much more fun, and a lot faster, than any sort of organized and orderly laying out of designs on perfectly divided squares.

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July 11, 2006

awesomeGrrl bakes Pie Cookies with Aunt Marcella


Contrary to what the corporate media would have you think, not all kids grow up without a clue about cooking, some even get lots of hands-on time early on. I was one of those lucky ones, as is the monstrrr in these pictures. Let's call her awesomeGrrl, because she is awesome (the kid speaks three languages already...oh, and American Sign Language...geez!) and she's learning all about being an awesome cook and baker from a very young age. She makes a mean salad, is learning how to bake and has even had "Baker Ben" visit from England to teach her about bread baking. And she's not even three yet!

(Did I mention that one of those languages is Mandarin Chinese? I suppose that's not so intimidating to some of you, but I am amazed by her language skills. One day recently, when she was not quite 2.5 years old, I asked her to count to ten in Mandarin. She hopped from foot to foot while saying words in Chinese in a sing-song voice. I sat in rapt attention, hoping to catch a single word well enough to repeat it back — and not liking my chances —  as she pranced around the room counting. After a minute, her mom burst into laughter and said, "Those aren't numbers, she's just messing with you!" Oh my, such sarcasm at two and a half, awesomeGrrl's going to be fun as she grows up. )

Piecookies1 awesomeGrrl's Aunt Marcella came to visit recently and they baked Marcella's Pie Cookies. These cookies are the cupcake of pies: tender sour cream pastry and a rich date filling shaped into tiny little puffed flowers. In the family since the turn of the last century, the recipe for these cookies was passed to Marcella when she was about nine years old, which would have been quite a few years ago, since Marcella celebrated her 80th birthday a while back by throwing herself out of a perfectly good airplane, but that's another story. As you might guess, Marcella is a bit of an awesomeGrrl herself; more than a few of women in the family point to her as who they want to be like when they are 80.

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May 23, 2006

someoneElse's Snickerdoodles for Susan

Snick2006 If one end of the food blogging spectrum dictates that dinner gets cold while "just one more quick picture" gets snapped, the other holds onto the last handful of cookies until they can get a picture taken, even if it means foregoing the only cookies in the house. Critical mass (or critical lack of mass, i.e., the last four snickerdoodles) was hit today, driving me to get out the camera and take this picture so that I could eat one. (Hi, my name is kitchenMage and I am a cookieholic...) Just in time too, that plate holds the remnants of a double batch!

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