Sunday, August 26, 2012

Lemon lavender shortbread

The last time I saw my eldest niece, she made an assortment of shortbread cookies, ranging from sweet to savory.  Beautiful shortbread, with some very interesting combinations.  One that stood out, and was definitely my favorite, as well as my husband's, was her lemon lavender cookie.  Light, fragrant and beautiful to look at, it was the essence of summer, and her shortbread recipe was just a 'melt in your mouth' experience.

As I looked at the lavender in my garden, I thought of my niece's cookies, and decided it was time to give them a 'go'.

Mine turned out really well, though very different from my niece's...I owe my cookie to her.  Her beautiful cookies inspired my own version.

I did not have my niece's recipe, but I do have a favorite shortbread recipe, so I just needed to get an idea of quantities of both the lemon, as well as the lavender.  In my search, I found one lemon lavender shortbread cookie recipe after another...literally hundreds of them.  Okay, good, but the trouble was finding a quantity of lavender that would make it obvious they were cookies to be eaten vs. bars of soap to wash with.  Too much lavender would make one wonder.  Unfortunately, quantities were all over the map.

I decided to start small.  I figured a little less would be better than a little too much.  As it turned out, a "little less" was exactly right.  This is a beautiful, fragrant flower.  A little goes a long, long way.

I also chose to add my lemon in the form of a glaze of fresh lemon juice and powdered sugar.  It turned out to be the perfect way to add it, and it made for a truly beautiful, 'finished off' looking cookie.

It really matters not what shortbread recipe you use, and if you have a favorite, don't be afraid to use it, just add 1-2 teaspoons of dried lavender to the flour and sugar before you process in the butter.  In mine, the lavender was almost turned to powder in the food processor.  At first I was disappointed that I couldn't see the bigger flowers throughout the dough, but after tasting the cookies, I'm glad it turned out the way it did...I think it released the flavor a a little better.

I used a brownie pan I bought on sale at Walmart a number of years ago.  It was perfect for these cookies, and I didn't have to roll out and cut shapes.  Just press dough into the pan, press the 'cutter' into the dough, and bake.  Worked like a charm.

I prefer shortbread recipes that call for either powdered sugar or ultrafine sugar.  I'm not a fan of those that call for regular, granulated sugar, but to each his own.  This is why I say use the shortbread recipe of your choosing.  My only tip is use good butter.  Shortbread is flour, sugar and butter, with butter lending the most powerful taste and texture.  Cheap butter will work, but if you want a truly buttery, melt in your mouth shortbread cookie, use really good butter.

The cookies turned out perfectly baked, and the pan gave me the shapes without the mess.  This pan has a removable bottom, as well, just like a tart pan, so the entire tray of cookies lifts right out.

After the cookies cool completely, make your glaze  The glaze is simple.  About 2 cups of powdered sugar, and enough fresh lemon juice to smooth it out and be spreadable, without being too runny.  Start with 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, then add just a little at a time until it's smooth.  It's easy to go from not quite enough liquid, to way too much, so go in small additions.  Once the consistency is right, spread it on your cookies.  Right after spreading the glaze, top with some lemon zest.  Let it set for just a couple of minutes, then add the dried lavender buds.

I think I used a total of about 12 cents' worth of lavender I picked up in the bulk section of my local market.  The butter will be your biggest expense in these cookies, but for a really beautiful cookie, bursting with flavor, these were pretty cheap to make.

After trying these, my husband said, "you better eat what you want, because I won't be stopping to let you catch up!"

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