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Lavender is a glorious herb rich in history and myth. Lavender’s mystical and medical attributes, known as the tranquility herb, date back to the ancient Egyptians.Lavender flowers are symbolic of purity, silence, devotion, serenity, grace, and calmness. In addition to the flower’s significance, lavender oil is used to treat anxiety, stress, and insomnia. It is also used for depression, dementia, pain after surgery, and many other conditions, although there is little scientific evidence to support many of these uses.
The scent of fresh lavender can transport us to a place of utter serenity and refreshing calm. However, just like the scent of roses, too much of a good thing makes us think of old lady soap! Every part of the lavender herb can be used in cooking, including the bud, stem, and leaf. As a rule, lavender can be used similarly to fresh rosemary in recipes like meat marinades and baked bread. Lavender flowers also make a beautiful garnish for salads, desserts, and more.
The dried buds are most commonly used in baking. As with all herbs, the flavor of lavender intensifies when it is dried. To avoid cookies that smell like soap, use sparingly. When cooking with this herb, only use culinary lavender specifically produced for consumption, NOT the stuff at the craft store! The label on the package should clearly state “culinary” or denote in some way that it can be used in cooking or baking. I buy mine online, although I hope to soon grow it in my herb garden.
When used correctly, lavender imparts a heavenly, subtle floral flavor to shortbread and butter cookies. For these cookies, a tablespoon is all you need for a delicious buttery lavender-infused treat. As a rule, shortbread cookies are slightly savory. They pair perfectly with a cup of coffee (or a spot of tea) for a relaxing break. The recipe is very simple and quick to mix, with just a handful of ingredients.
The dough is very soft, too soft to be used without chilling in the fridge for at least an hour. There are three ways to shape the dough for chilling, depending on the appearance and how much effort you want to invest in the final product. I made all three versions: A low-effort drop version that isn’t particularly “pretty” (but still tastes heavenly). A medium-effort cookie log and is sliced and looks like traditional shortbread. And a rolled-out dough (requires time and effort) using cookie cutters for a “picture perfect” look.
For drop cookies, form a dough ball and pop in the refrigerator. When the dough is chilled, use a spoon or cookie scoop to make rounded balls. If desired, roll the balls in a lavender sugar mixture (one tablespoon sugar mixed with one tablespoon lavender). Lightly flatten the balls with the palm of your hand. This is easy-peasy and can be done very quickly. However, the cookies will lack the “finished” appearance associated with shortbread.
The most common method for making these cookies is to divide the dough in half and roughly form two dough logs, about 8 inches long. Tightly roll the wax paper over the dough, using the paper to mold the dough into a smooth roll. Place the wrapped roll in the refrigerator for 1 hour or overnight. It’s crucial to form a smooth, evenly proportioned, and well-rounded log. The exact shape of the log determines the shape of the cookies. If the log has a flat side, so will the cookies. Easier said than done! I found this log thing very challenging, requiring much patience. However, patience pays off and results in beautiful found cookies. Once chilled, the cookie log is sliced into ½ inch rounds. I like using a ripple or wavy vegetable cutter. The cookies can be sprinkled with lavender sugar or not – it’s a personal preference. I chose to leave this batch plain. This method, if you can master making a perfectly rounded log, is very quick. I prefer it to the drop version.
The pretties cookies, however, are the ones that require the most effort. I hate rolling out dough, but I did it. And, I did it without a rolling pin, just to see if it was possible. It is. Although I have one (full disclosure: It’s my Mom’s), I realize that a rolling pin isn’t a standard kitchen tool, and I wanted to make sure that not having one wouldn’t be a deterrent. I used a full bottle of soda! Seriously, I washed it, and the weight was perfect. It was a little short, but it worked just fine.
When the dough is rolled out on a sheet of wax paper, use a cookie cutter and transferred them to a baking sheet. If desired, dust the cookies with a sprinkle of lavender sugar before baking. They are beautiful!
Regardless of which method you choose, be forewarned that the dough goes from hard (directly from the fridge) to sticky (very sticky), making it hard to handle. If you move quickly, it won’t be an issue. However, if the dough becomes too soft, just return it to the refrigerator for 20 minutes. The cookies bake in 12-13 minutes. Let them cool on the pan for a few minutes before transferring them to a wire rack. Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy!
Lavender Shortbread CookiesCourse: Coffee Break, Afternoon TeaCuisine: British/AmericanDifficulty: Easy
A buttery lavender-infused dough that can be made be made three ways: Cut into shapes using cookie cutters, rolled in logs, and sliced or dropped in small balls with a cookie scoop. For added sweetness and aroma, cookies are dusted with lavender sugar.
1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
1/2 cup confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon dried (culinary) lavender
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Optional: lavender sugar: 1 tablespoon sugar mixed with 1 tablespoon lavender
- In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to cream the butter, sugar, and extracts until light and fluffy. Gradually add the flour, salt, and lavender. Mix well.
- For cut-out cookies divide the dough into two balls. Flatten into a disc, wrap with plastic or wax paper, and chill in the refrigerator for about one hour. For rolled cookies, roughly shape dough 2 – 8 inch logs. Tightly roll wax paper over the dough, using the paper to mold the dough into a smooth roll, and chill in the refrigerator for about one hour. To make drop cookies, shape the dough in a large ball, cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
- Preheat oven to 350℉.l To roll-out cookies, place chilled discs between 2 sheets of wax paper a sheet of wax paper and roll out the dough to ¼- ½ thickness. Shape with a cookie cutter and place on a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper. If desired, sprinkle with lavender sugar. For rounds, unwrap logs and cut ½ slices with a knife or crinkle cutter and place on a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper. If desired, sprinkle with lavender sugar. For drop cookies, use a cookie scoop or spoon to make 1 inch balls, if desired, roll in lavender sugar and place on a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Using the palm of your hand, slightly flatten the balls.
- Bake 12-13 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Cool for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks. Store in an airtight container.
- Confectioners (powdered) sugar: Make your own by blending a ¼ cup granulated sugar in a high-speed blender or food processor for ½ cup powdered sugar
- Reduce chilling time by placing the dough into the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes
- Lavender: Use only lavender that is labeled “culinary” or denote in some way that it can be used in cooking or baking.
- Options: Add a tablespoon of chopped fresh mint or chopped fresh rosemary