I Heart Lavender and so do the bees.
Lavender looks like an allotment version of dreaming spires to me. It gives me and the bees repeated and delightful scented moments. The grey-green foliage is fine and tender with the flowers ranging in tones from light-blue to deep-blue and purple-blue. I have no idea as to their provenance, the plant labels well and truly lost to the rough and tumble of the allotment, except some vague memory of Hidcote Blue. The plants falling and tumbling over grass paths, I brush past them on my way to the greenhouse or down the path to survey the beans and salads. Crowded with summer activity of pollinators, I sit nearby, alternating between staring up at the sky or watching the bees and buzzies drinking their fill.
And every year I say I will pick a few flowers to make Lavender Sugar and every year I plan to make Lavender Shortbread. And every year I forget. I remember too late when the lavender is well past it’s best date. It seems that in previous years all I wanted was to enjoy the lavender where it is and for what it is. So maybe the earth has stopped spinning on its axis? Or maybe I’ve just got my act together? Or maybe it’s because I now blog? But now I’ve made Lavender Shortbread, I know I will remember in time for next year.
I kept seeing recipes where lavender featured but most of them used dried lavender and I wasn’t about to go out and spend my hard-earned when I have so much of it freely available. Most recipes feature making lavender infused sugar. How hard can that be? Take a small clean dry jar, add sugar and add a teaspoon or so of dried lavender, put the lid on tightly and leave it to, well, infuse. At this point I keep wanting to write enthuse instead of infuse And now I have done so I’m sticking to it.
But some people around here are a bit impatient, don’t read instructions and think, ah a week or so will be MORE than enough. And I was definitely impatient, I’d been checking on the drying lavender and finally capitulated, it was now or never – either that or the brown paper bag where the lavender was drying would get forgotten about and found some time in the next millennia, a scented but crumbling dust.
I’d made a batch of shortbread a month or so ago with a favourite recipe. I wanted shortbread to go with the fresh red currants. It didn’t turn out well, too thick, too bleurgh, somehow not right. The red currants were perfect though! You have to think light and airy with shortbread and this one wasn’t. Remedies were needed and the prescription was turning to an institution, to Delia Smith. I’m not sure she would appreciate being called an institution but to anyone growing up in the UK, that’s what she is.
I leafed through an old Delia book, a present from my mum when I left home to go to college. The delight of this book is not just that it covers all the basics, it does that amply, but that it originally came from a Manchester Library in fact it still has the Library label in the front page. My mum used to like going to the Library sales to see what she could pick up on the cheap. Sensible girl my old mum.
Delia reminded me to not overwork the butter, that only butter can be used, let it get to room temperature and use a wooden spoon to soften it. And continue to use a wooden spoon, no need for fancy mixers here – just a bowl, a wooden spoon and some arm work.
So here is Delia’s recipe - tried and tested. It has reminded me that I need to tread lightly, metaphorically speaking when making shortbread and not trample it in the rush to make it.
And as I was in one of those carefree and what the heck moods I didn’t bother looking up an exact recipe for Lavender Shortbread Biscuits, I just added the Lavender Enthused Sugar. I didn’t want to over power my shortbread on a first attempt. Reflections and much munching later tells me I should have Enthused my sugar for longer or added a little extra dried Lavender. Hindsight is marvellous isn’t it, that and a great excuse to make more !
A note on eating your shortbread ~
And when you have made the delightful Enthused Lavender Shortbread I suggest you consult with Sharyn and make yourself a proper cup of tea, not just any old cup of tea hastily made with a dry and dusty tea bag in a mug, no I mean PROPER TEA. Which reminds me of a great joke about Karl Marx saying ‘all proper-tea is theft’
Enthused Lavender Shortbread Biscuits – adapted from Delia Smith
- 110g butter (room temperature)
- 50g caster sugar enthused with lavender flowers (you can use ordinary sugar too)
- 175g plain flour
- Extra sugar for dusting
- Pre heat the oven to 150C / gas Mark 2 / 300F
- Beat the butter, with a wooden spoon to a soft consistency
- Once the butter is softened add the sugar and mix it in
- Now sift the flour into the bowl and start mixing it
- The mix should start to form a lumpy dough, there will be bits of the mixture still in the bowl that are distinctly unattached. So at this point use your hands to bring it together into one piece of dough. try not to over-handle it.
- Dust your work top with some sugar and place the dough on top. using a rolling pin quickly and lightly roll the dough out, sprinkling the rolling pin with more sugar if needed (generally it does need it) to about 3mm or 1/8 inch thick.
- Use a cutter to cut out the shapes, carefully pick them up (I use a palette knife for this part) and place them on a lightly greased baking tray.
- Bake on a high shelf for 30 minutes
- Remove the biscuits from the oven and slide them onto a cooling rack – you can sprinkle more Enthused Lavender Sugar on at this point if you like.