Bake: The summery scent of lavender in shortbread

Before you start snipping bunches, a little goes a long way – especially if it's dried

Photograph: Harry Weir

Photograph: Harry Weir

 

One of the joys of summer is seeing hosts of coloured roadside flowers in bloom. To a seasoned forager who may have already enjoyed the pleasures of wild garlic, gorse and elderflower over the past few months, the sight of new buds are a call to further culinary endeavours.

Delightfully fragrant blue-violet lavender is plentiful at this time of year in garden borders, so it may not be necessary or advisable to forage on dual carriageways, roundabouts and busy bus routes. Lavender is everywhere once you start looking for it. Native to the Mediterranean, it exudes ‘French’ charm. While pot-pourri springs to mind, it is also one of the most well-known essential oils in aromatherapy. Many are surprised that it is regarded as the “queen of herbs” and as such has a culinary use, imparting a sweet, fragrant flavour.

In stylish hotels, a sweet and crumbly shortbread biscuit, nuanced with lemon zest is a subtle message that every detail has been carefully considered. As a variant, lavender in shortbread is simply fabulous. Before you start snipping bunches of lavender, a little goes a long way, as little as a single stem for this recipe.

The lavender leaves a pleasant lingering taste, too much can become overpowering. If you dry homegrown lavender, the flavour will be intensified, so reduce the quantity to half that of fresh lavender.

Lavender complements ingredients such as blueberries, strawberries and lemon, especially when teamed with honey. Buttery shortbread biscuits are a wonderful thing to make. Store them raw in your freezer so you can bake these sophisticated and delicious biscuits at very little notice. The recipe makes a small quantity as these biscuits are best eaten freshly baked, so double the recipe if you would like to make enough for the freezer. Turn these biscuits into a dessert by sandwiching them together with fresh whipped cream, strawberries and a drizzle of honey.

Lavender shortbread biscuits

Makes 12

75g butter, softened butter

30g caster sugar

1 tsp fresh lavender buds

pinch salt

100g plain flour, sieved

Method

1. Preheat oven to 170°C fan. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Using an electric whisk, cream the butter and sugar together.

3. Coarsely chop half the lavender buds (leave the rest whole). Mix the lavender and a tiny pinch of salt into the sieved flour and incorporate the dry ingredients into the butter and sugar until it resembles breadcrumbs.

4. Lightly flour your hands and bring the dough together into a small patty, wrap in cling film and leave the dough to rest in the fridge for 20 minutes. 

5. After the dough has been chilled in the fridge, roll it out on a well floured surface to 3mm thickness and use a medium size cookie cutter to stamp out circles (if you find it hard to roll out, place the dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper).

6. Transfer the biscuits onto a baking sheet and return to the fridge to chill again for 15 mins (this will prevent the biscuits spreading or losing their shape if you are using a cutter with a frilled edge.

7. Bake in the preheated oven for 12-15 mins or until pale golden. Allow to cool for 5 mins before lifting shortbread biscuits onto a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Variation

In place of lavender, add in lemon zest or a finely chopped hazelnuts to the shortbread dough. For a more melt-in-the-mouth biscuit, substitute a quarter of the plain flour with cornflour.

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