Tuesday, March 23, 2010

recipe: lemon-almond-lavender cookies

My friend Melissa keeps bringing me things from Mountain Farm, a lavender, blueberry, and dairy goat farm (quite possibly the best combination of anything ever) up in North Carolina. I highly recommend their goat milk soaps. Unless you are hungry, in which case I recommend not their soaps, no matter how delicious the green tea & ginger one smells. 'Cause they also sell culinary-grade lavender (I've also found this hidden in with the tubs of looseleaf tea at Dekalb Farmer's Market if you're in the area), which is brilliant in (who knew) tea and baked goods. And supposedly in savory applications as well.

Inspired by a recipe in the little cook booklet Melissa brought me after her last trip to Mountain Farm, I decided that lavender cookies needed to happen. I based the dough on my snickerdoodle recipe 'cause I wanted something chewy, and decided to add a lot of almond meal and lemon zest because lavender is so powerfully herbal that I figured two other bitter flavors might help mellow it out. I adore the result -- these cookies are buttery & chewy, with a lovely hint of bitterness from the lemon & lavender and a sweet toastiness from the almond meal. Too delicate for coffee, I think they'd be perfect with a cup of black tea. Perhaps with a bit of lavender brewed in?

lemon lavender almond cookies, photo (and cookies) by Lauren Vogelbaum
The recipe works really well with rice flour instead of wheat flour, too! I made a batch for a friend who had recently discovered that she has a wheat allergy, and although they were a bit crumbly right out of the oven, they firmed up into perfect chewiness the following day. I think the extra fat content from the almond meal helped. (Gluten-free baking tip: Always sift your wheat-alternate flour before baking with it, especially if it's ricey. It'll help get any super-grainy bits out.)

Lemon-Almond-Lavender Cookies
Makes 2 to 3 dozen


1.5 tsp dried lavender buds, minced fine
1 lemon worth of zest (~1 tbsp), minced
1/3 cup almond meal (store-bought or home-ground from blanched [skinless] almonds -- grind first, then measure)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar (if you don't have this, omit the baking soda and use 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder to substitute for both)
1/8 tsp salt

8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp amaretto, if you happen to have some (a teensy dash of almond extract might not go awry as a substitution for this -- maybe 1/4 tsp?)

~1/4 cup granulated white sugar for rolling the cookies in
An extra few pinches of lavender buds for decoration


A half hour before you get started, set out your egg & butter so they'll start warming to room temperature. (Should you forget to do this like I usually do, ten seconds in the microwave will soften the butter, but there's no helping the egg. The tops of the cookies will be a little less crackly, is all.)

When you're ready to go, set your oven preheating to 400 degrees F. And butter & flour your baking sheet, if that's your thing. I sort of like buttering & flouring everything I bake on these days.

Combine your dry ingredients (lavender, zest, almond meal, flour, salt, and leavening agent/s) in a medium bowl and gently whisk until everything is thoroughly combined. As few lumps as possible!

In a larger bowl, add you butter and sugar. Using an electric beater on medium speed, cream them together for 2 minutes -- you're looking for a lighter color and increased volume. Add your egg, lemon juice, and any amaretto/almond extract you're using and hit the batter with the beater for another minute to incorporate them evenly.

Add your dry ingredients to your wet ingredients and mix manually with a spoon to combine. No dry pockets!

Place your extra ~1/4 cup of sugar in a small dish or on a small plate. Take a rounded teaspoon of dough from the bowl and roll it into a ball in your hands, then roll it around in the sugar to coat. I've found that these bake more evenly and awesomely when they're flattened a bit -- you can either press each ball into a sort of scallop-shaped disk with your fingers or just put a thumbprint in each as you place them on the baking sheet. A few inches apart, yes. Sprinkle two or three lavender buds on top of each cookie.

Bake for 8-10 minutes (I needed only 8.5). You can tell these are done when they're golden around the edge and look dry on top. Also, they'll be more springy than mushy if you poke the top with a finger.

Allow the cookies to cool for a couple minutes on the baking sheet, then remove them to a wire rack until they're cool enough to remove to your belly a decorative plate that you will obviously share with your friends.

These keep very well in a sealed container for two or three days. If you'd like to make the dough ahead, you could seal it up and refrigerate it for up to a week or freeze it for up to 3 months, sans sugar coating, and then coat & bake on demand.

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