Tag Archives: cookies

{lavender shortbread}

as i’ve said in previous posts, it doesn’t take much to make me don my apron (random cravings are usually considered valid excuses to bake), but this week i do have a legitimate need to bake: it is my duty to contribute 6 dozen delicious cookies for the studio tour this weekend.

last year i baked up a couple of batches of ginger crunch and they were received with oohs and aaahs.  i was planning a repeat performance this year until inspiration struck when i was cutting some lavender from my garden.  i dug out my ‘celebrate lavender festival 2002 cookbook’ and read through the recipes.  there’s a lovely lavender sugar cookie dipped in dark chocolate which i’ve made several times, though i envisioned them all melting together in the heat this weekend and decided i needed something sturdier.  lavender shortbread cookies fit the bill perfectly.

these pale and speckled little bites taste like summer (well, like my imaginary summer in the south of france).  they are mysteriously fragrant – buttery and floral.  they are indeed sturdy, though they taste delicate and soft and not at all like they should be consumed with egg-nog.  they are so easy to eat on their own, one after another, though they beg to be paired with some lavender lemonade on a hot afternoon, or to be taken with tea (proper cup and saucer, and at least one lace doily).

this recipe is as simple as it gets.  the most taxing step is making the lavender sugar, and really, it’s not too taxing at all.  the notes suggest using a food processor or spice mill.  i found my food processor didn’t mince up the lavender buds adequately, so instead i pounded them with my mortar and pestle, which ground up the buds nicely.  the contents did look much like lawn mower clippings, but i went with it and everything turned out beautifully.  as long as the buds are broken up into little threads, you won’t detect their texture in the finished cookies.

my plan for the weekend cookies is to sprinkle them with some lavender sugar prior to baking so they look a little more dressed up (but i’ll sift the lavender out because, though the whole buds do look pretty, they aren’t so nice to chew on).  i hope that they will garner a few oohs and aaahs as well!

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lavender shortbread cookies (from ‘the 6th annual celebrate lavender festival 2002 cookbook’, this recipe was contributed by ‘the herbfarm cookbook – 2000’)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled, but take out of the fridge 15 minutes before making the dough
4 tbsp fresh lavender buds, or 2 tsp dried lavender buds
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour

• make lavender sugar: you’re basically grinding the lavender buds with the sugar and there are a few ways you can do this. if using a spice mill or coffee grinder (clean, of course), mix the buds with 1/4 cup of the sugar and grind until fine, then mix in the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. if using a food processor, mix the buds with all the sugar and blitz until fine. i used my mortar and pestle (see notes in post above) to grind up the lavender buds, then mixed with 1/4 cup sugar and ground some more, then stirred in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar.
• beat the butter (which was on the counter for 15 minutes) with the lavender sugar in your stand mixer on low-speed until the mixture is smooth and there are no detectable lumps of butter when you roll a tsp of the dough between your fingers. DO NOT beat until fluffy. add the flour all at once and mix on low-speed until it forms a cohesive dough.
• turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface (i use a tea towel*) and form it into a smooth rectangular block with no cracks. using a rolling-pin (and more flour, sparingly), roll dough into a 12″ x 9″ rectangle, 1/4″ thick, rotating the dough a quarter turn (gently) each time you roll to ensure it doesn’t stick (i never have this problem when using a floured tea towel). using a straight edge and a paring knife or pastry wheel, cut the dough into 3″ x 1 1/2″ bars, or cut with cookie cutters (i cut into smaller squares and slightly oblong bars). using a spatula, transfer cookies to parchment lined cookie sheets, leaving 1/2″ between the cookies, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before baking.
• preheat oven to 300 f. bake cookies until they are coloured lightly like sand, not browned, 22-25 minutes (mine were ready at 18 minutes so start checking early! you don’t want these golden or brown, just pale). lift one to check the underside; it should be just a shade darker on the top. place pan on a rack and cool completely on the pan before moving. stack the cooled cookies in an airtight container and store at room temp for up to a week.  makes 24 cookies (unless you cut them smaller, like i did).  enjoy!

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the necessity of {spoon cookies}

junior spoon cookies (not yet sandwiched)

when it comes to the holidays, my inner domestic-snob (IDS) takes over my usually placid and muchmore reasonable self.  she recoils at the sight of plastic decorations and battery-operated toys.  she silently cringes in the company of store-bought pies and cookies that never expire, and part of her soul weeps at the popularity of hastily    stuffed gift bags over properly wrapped packages.  now, before i offend everyone who has ever given a gift in a bag or bought a pie (myself included), i must explain that i exist on both sides of this pretentious fence.  i’ve been known to devour tubs of icing and store-bought cake mix, and i readily admit to gifting a hotwheels set to our 5-year-old nephew (i don’t think a crocheted scarf would have garnered the same squeal of delight).  i admire the best ingredients and the finest products, but a militant martha stewart clone i am not.  neither am i oblivious to reality – life is hectic and the pressure to please is immense.  i love all sincere gifts, regardless of their wrappage or what’s inside, and i truly appreciate the effort put into meals and treats, whether they come out of a freezer section or a cookbook.  while i acknowledge that my IDS is, well, a snob, i do appreciate her pesky voice reminding me to try a little harder.  sure, my efforts generally fall somewhere between perfection and reality (usually a little closer to the latter), but this middle ground is good enough for me.

thus, my plan is to share with you some of my favourite handmade items of joy.  most are edible (the stir part) or wearable/usable (the stitch part), and all are giftable (and IDS-approved).  i hope you enjoy!

•••

i shall begin with spoon cookies.  to me, these are the ultimate gift cookie.  i’ve been making these every christmas since i came across the recipe in the december 2005 issue of gourmet (RIP).  they are pain-staking.  they are fussy.  they are demanding of your time and patience.  but when you taste them, they…are…divine.  mysterious.  unique.  and so more-ish.  make them now!!

spoon cookies (from gourmet, adapted from celia barbour)

2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

3/4 cup sugar

2 tsp vanilla (pure, of course)

2 cups all-purpose flour (unbleached preferred)

1 tsp baking soda

1/8 tsp salt, slightly rounded

1/3 cup fruit preserves (strawberry and raspberry are lovely, don’t worry about seeds as it’s strained later)

prepare dough:  fill your sink with about 2″ of cold water and get out a heat-proof bowl.  prepare brown butter by melting butter in a 2-3 quart heavy saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally.  the butter will foam, then dissipate and foam again just as it’s starting to brown nicely.  you want the butter to be golden with a nutty fragrance and the flecks on the bottom of the pan should be a rich caramel brown.  expect this to take about 10-12 minutes (and don’t turn your back).  place the pan in the sink of cold water to stop cooking, then cool, stirring frequently, until butter begins to look opaque, about 4 minutes (this is where i use a heat-proof bowl instead of putting my hot copper-bottomed pot into cold water).  remove bowl from sink and stir in sugar and vanilla.  whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl and stir into butter mixture until a dough forms (it will initially look really sandy, just keep stirring).  shape dough into a ball, wrap in cling-film and stand at room temp (or fridge) for  1-2 hours (i think they taste even better if you chill dough overnight – just let the dough come to room temperature before trying to work with it).

form and bake cookies:  put rack in middle position and preheat oven to 325.  press a piece of dough into the bowl of a shallowish teaspoon, flatten top, then gently slide out and place on cookie sheet (lined with parchment).  the dough will be crumbly, but becomes cohesive when pressed.  form a sheet’s worth and bake for 8-15 minutes (7-8 minutes for me, but my oven is bizarre).  cool on sheet on a rack for 5 minutes, then transfer cookies to rack to cool completely (at least 30 minutes).

assemble cookies:  heat preserves in small saucepan over low heat until just runny, then pour through a fine sieve into a small bowl, pressing hard on solids, and cool completely (also run the spoon along the underside of the sieve, i find a lot of it sticks there).  spread the flat side of a cookie (duh) with a thin layer of preserves and sandwich with another cookie to form a wee egg-shaped beauty.  let sandwiched cookies set for 45 minutes, then store airtight for up to 2 weeks.  recipe makes about 30 sandwich cookies.

**note**:  the flavour of these cookies evolves – try to wait at least 2 days before eating.

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