I’ve been wanting to bake with lavender since attending a cooking class with my mom a year or two ago. Together with some other mother/daughter teams, we watched the chef slice and dice and elaborate on his slicing and dicing. Truth be told, I wasn’t all that impressed with the chef’s teaching style – especially when he implied that no home cook would bother to make their own curry. Clearly the man didn’t know his audience. Nevertheless, a few of his culinary ideas weren’t total garbage and a couple may have even found permanent residence in my kitchen. One is a shrimp grilling trick I keep meaning to share here, and another was the lingering memory of a lavender crème brûlée.
I can count the crème brûlées I’ve had on one hand, so it’s not much to say that this one ranked near the top, but it stands out. Like salt minus all that, you know, saltiness, lavender provides a contrasting, even intriguing, je ne sais quoi to a dessert recipe. It seems counterintuitive that it’d be there, but then ends up being just so, so right. You’ll have to look elsewhere for that crème brûlée recipe, but before you do, make these shortbread cookies.
I was lucky enough to find fresh lavender at the local farmer’s market, but dried should do the trick as well. When I went back for more lavender a couple weeks after first making these, I mentioned to the farmer how amazing his produce tasted baked with flour and butter. It’s the beauty of the market – getting to meet the farmer, comment on her tasty kohlrabi, or hear from him what he does with so much zucchini. I was surprised to hear my lavender grower didn’t even know the flowers could be used to culinary ends. How tragic that he’s been growing lavender all this time and didn’t even realize it could be more than just a pretty, fragrant potpourri. Not could, should. From here on out, seeing lavender in a bouquet will only make me think of missed opportunities.
For you classy folks out there, these are perfect as photographed here – with a cup of tea and a few rays of the afternoon’s fading sunlight. For my co-workers, they were a refreshing cookie time snack, enjoyed with stories about bad haircuts or baby chicks. For me, well, I won’t lie. I ate a disturbing number of these as frozen, unbaked treats while curled up with a (sadly, not good) book.
Salted Lavender Shortbread
Adapted from Leites Culinaria, makes about 50 1.5” cookies
I changed the salt type and amounts, because I don’t keep $12 a teaspoon fleur de sel around and, if I did, it wouldn’t be going into cookies. Use 1/4 teaspoon salt for a more standard shortbread, or 1/2 teaspoon to get an extra kick. I liked these better with the 1/2 teaspoon salt.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
4 teaspoons fresh lavender blossoms, or 2 teaspoons dried*
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
* Culinary lavender is available dried at fancy grocery stores or online stores. It may also be located at your local farmer’s market if you look hard enough. If using fresh lavender, rinse with water, pat dry and then remove blossoms from the stalks before using.
Sift the flour and salt together in a small bowl.
Combine sugar and lavender in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the butter and mix until combined. Mix in vanilla briefly, followed by the dry flour mix until a dough forms.
Shape dough into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll dough out about 1/4 inch thick and cut using a small cookie cutter of your choice. (I used the inside of a linzer torte cutter.) Place baking sheet in freezer for 15 minutes, until the dough is stiff. (I imagine time in the fridge would work just as well for those of you without an inch of space left in your freezer. Mom and Amanda, I’m looking at you.)
Preheat oven to 350ºF while you wait.
Bake cookies for 12 to 15 minutes, or until edges just start to brown. Be prepared for an incredible, refreshing aroma when you open the oven. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, if you can wait that long before sneaking a taste.