Friday, March 4th, 2011
A guest post by Katie Githens. You can follow Ms. Githens on her own blog, Clary Sage, where she writes about the quirks and comforts of cooking and life on the West Coast.
Cooking with flowers has never thrilled me. Call me crazy, but not once have I thought, “You know what this salad needs? Nasturtiums!” I leave the blossoms in the garden and call it a day.
Then along came a lavender bush. This specimen is a lavender plant the way Andre the Giant was a human. To quote his character Fezzik from The Princess Bride: “It’s not my fault being the biggest and the strongest. I don’t even exercise!” Over the winter, the purple perfumed colossus began swallowing the back porch and encroaching on the flagstone pathway. So I did the only thing I could. I grabbed the pruning shears. And then a cookbook. By Sunday evening I had enough lavender satchels to outfit three-dozen bridal showers and a new cookie recipe to boot.
While the name—lavender fleur de sel shortbread—sounds like a fussy accoutrement for tea and crumpets (pinkies up, love), the dough came together easily, especially with the extra tablespoon of butter I added. It was a touch too crumbly otherwise. Little wonder that the wafer-thin shortbreads are buttery, flaky, and notably savory.
My husband even detected a hint of rosemary—perhaps the peppery musk of the rosemary bush that grew next to the lavender, or maybe the herbaceous essence of the fresh lavender plant itself. I don’t own any cookie cutters, but I found that the metal rim of a ¼-cup measuring tin is ideal for the task. I punched out a baker’s dozen of perfect silver-dollar shortbreads in no time flat. The only trick is budgeting enough time for chilling the batter and the cookies. My lavender-spiced pastry-making binge had its naysayers, however, namely the brigade of honeybees who usually attend to the flowers’ nectar. And my dog who usually attends to the bees. Despite my admonishments, she finds them as irresistible as Flamin’ Hot Cheetos—she must have acquired my husband’s love for spicy foods.
Aptly, these shortbread wafers are delicious with a drizzle of honey.
Lavender Fleur de Sel Shortbread Recipe courtesy of Leite’s Culinaria. If fresh lavender is unavailable, look for culinary lavender in gourmet stores. Christie Matheson of Leite’s Culinaria recommends the variety sold by Matanzas Creek Winery in Santa Rosa, California, online at matanzascreek.com.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons chopped dried lavender blossoms (or 2 1/2 teaspoons fresh blossoms)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened (plus 1 tablespoon if needed)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Fleur de sel
- Sift the flour and fine sea salt together in a small bowl.
- Combine the sugar and lavender in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix for 15 to 20 seconds to combine. Add the butter and mix until combined. Mix in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix on low speed until it forms a soft dough.
- Shape the dough into a disk, wrap tightly in plastic, and refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thick and cut it into 1 1/2- to 2 1/2-inch shapes (circles, squares, or hearts) using a cookie cutter or knife. Place the shapes on the baking sheet, sprinkle with some fleur de sel, and place the baking sheet in the freezer for 15 minutes, until the dough is stiff.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
- Bake the lavender shortbread cookies for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the edges turn golden brown. Let cool for 5 minutes on the sheet, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. The shortbread keeps for up to 5 days in an airtight container.