So this summer, I’m going to Provence for three weeks of cycling, delicious local food, French wine, skinny-dipping aaand LAVENDER…! I know, it does sound rather as though I’m rubbing it in doesn’t it? But there is a reason behind revealing my enviable summer activities – the lavender part. I love the stuff, it’s so pretty, it smells gorgeous and it makes such a lovely present.
Recently I’ve even been making lots of hand embroidered bags as gifts and to sell -
If you love lavender as much as I do and if you saved some of your lavender last year like I did then you should have some fragrant almost spiced smelling sugar. I keep looking at mine sitting there in its jar and promising myself that I’ll make some lavender shortbread soon. And then I wander off and read, or bake something to post off to friends, or write a letter or turn my hand to something more seasonal in the cooking department and leave it for another day.
But at last, as you may well have suspected by this point, I got round to making some lavender shortbread the other day. I needed the push of outside influence to get myself moving, in this case I needed to take some promotional photos (not going to say too much here, but the words National Trust come up…) and I wanted some delicious shortbread in the photo so it seemed like the perfect moment.
I normally go for fairly healthy food, mostly because it’s tastier, but with shortbread you either commit yourself to the fact that its 50% fat and sugar, or you don’t bother because half-hearted shortbread is just a waste of time – my motto is generally that if you’re going to get fat, you may as well enjoy it!
The recipe below is for normal shortbread, but instead of using plain caster sugar use your lavender sugar, including the flowers. You can also use vanilla sugar for this which you make by storing a vanilla pod in with your sugar for a while.
So to make this indulgent Provence-tasting delight you will need -
150g/6 oz plain flour
100g/4 oz slightly salted butter (leave it out at of the fridge so it’s room temperature and soft, and then cut into pieces)
50g/2 oz Lavender sugar (plus extra for sprinkling)
Preheat your oven to 150C/Gas Mark 2/Fan 130C and get out a baking sheet, prefereably one without a raised outer edge so that you can slide your dough onto it easily.
In a mixing bowl place your flour and butter and then using your fingertips rub the two together gently. Don’t use the palms of your hands as they’re far hotter than your fingers and you’ll run the risk of making your mixture gooey by melting the butter. Just gently rub the butter and flour across your fingertips from little to index using your thumb and slowly you will be left with a mixture that looks similar to breadcrumbs.
Now you can stir in your lavender sugar, and then using your hand gently work the mixture together so that it forms a ball. Once you have a loose ball you can turn it out onto your work surface and gently using the heel of your hand knead and turn the dough until it’s smooth. Don’t overwork it as it will become claggy, gooey and tough.
Using a floured rolling pin (or if you’ve not got one, a wine bottle) roll out the dough to form a 7inch (18cm) circle. Smooth it out with your hands and tidy up the edges with your fingertips and then slide your round onto your ungreased baking sheet. Use your thumb and two fingers to form the fluted edges, and then use a knife to mark out the shortbread into eighths. Don’t cut through the dough, just score it. Then use a fork to prick the dough all over. This allows air to escape as the dough cooks so that it remains flat as it bakes.
Bake for around half an hour, although mine took closer to 45 minutes so timing depends on your oven. Take it out of the oven and whilst it’s still warm cut along the score marks you made and sprinkle with your gorgeous lavender sugar.
If you need it to firm up a little still, cut up the shortbread as above and place it onto a cooling rack and then with the oven off, return it to the oven with the door ajar so that the heat will dry the shortbread but not cook it. Don’t forget it’s in there though!
As exciting as your lovely shortbread looks, wait ’til it’s cool to eat it as it needs to be nice and crispy.