Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Summery Lavender Biscuits


Home made Lavender Biscuits
Lavender is a wonderful herb. Its etymology traces back to the Latin ‘lavare’ meaning ‘to wash’ as Roman soldiers used it when washing themselves to help the recovery of wounds.

It has a wide range of medicinal and culinary uses both savoury and sweet.  Queen Elizabeth I was fond of Lavender tea apparently.
From my garden

I have been growing Lavender in my garden for years, it looks beautiful, gives off a heavenly scent and the bees love it.  It also makes the most fantastic biscuits.

One of the things I love about these biscuits is the reminder of the importance of seasonality in our eating habits.  I use fresh lavender flowers and therefore bake them only in the summer.  So for me they are one of those recipes with strong seasonal associations

This recipe is one adapted slightly from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible.

There are a few critical points to be aware of…

Firstly, we are aiming for a ‘short’ type biscuit here.  This means it should crumble in your mouth as you bite it but not fall apart completely.  Imagine a nice buttery ‘shortbread’ type consistency.  Therefore…

  1. We use a good quality ‘plain’ flour which is low in gluten.
  2. We ‘work’ our dough as little as possible at the mixing stage. 

Secondly, oven temperatures vary from oven to oven.  So the cooking time is not exact, you need to experiment and be able to judge when they are ready.  You want some colour on the biscuits, they shouldn’t be too pale.  Remember when you take them out of the oven they will be soft as they are hot, they have butter in them and butter is soft when warm.  Don’t be tricked into thinking they aren’t done because of this.  As they cool, they become crisper and firmer.

Be ready to experiment a little here and get to know your own oven.  My experience is that it is better to be a couple of minutes under done as you can always return them to the oven later.  When a biscuit is over done there isn’t much you can do about it.

And finally, use good quality butter.  Do not even think of using margarine. 

Ingredients

175 g of really good quality unsalted butter
100 g of caster sugar
225 g of plain flour
2 tablespoons of very finely chopped lavender leaves.

Utensils

A large mixing bowl
A wooden spoon
4 sheets of greaseproof paper
A large baking tray
A wire cooling rack

Method
Put the well softened butter and the finely chopped lavender into your mixing bowl and beat with the wooden spoon until really well mixed.  This will help to extract as much of the flavour from the lavender as possible.

Add in the caster sugar and beat again until really well incorporated.

‘Stir’ in the flour.  Don’t beat it or overwork at this stage.  You can use your hands to bring it together but don’t ‘knead’ it like bread.  However, you do want the flour thoroughly incorporated.

Divide the dough in half.  I actually return to the scales to get an exact amount.  

Place each half of the dough onto a sheet of greaseproof paper and shape it into a sausage about 15 cm long.  Roll up the greaseproof paper around the dough and bring it together tightly to form a kind of Christmas Cracker shape.  Return this to the fridge until firm, about 30 minutes but it depends on the temperature of your fridge and how often you are opening and closing the door!

Pre – heat your oven to 180 °C.  If you are using a fan assisted oven then 160 °C.

N.B. If you want to put two trays in at the same time then you need a fan oven.  If using a conventional oven then use only one tray as the heat becomes blocked by the tops and bottoms of the trays and you won’t get an even bake.

Place a sheet of greaseproof paper onto your baking sheets.

Unwrap your dough sausage and cut into nice even biscuit rounds.  Get the same thickness here or they won’t cook evenly.

Place the biscuits onto the paper lined baking trays and straight into the oven.

Cook for about 15 minutes.  I would check after about 13 – 14 minutes.  Remember that you are looking for a nice golden brown colour to them.

When done, leave to cool for a few minutes and then transfer to your wire rack to cool completely.  They keep really well in an air tight container.
 
Gorgeous, buttery, summery lovliness!

Enjoy


  


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