A friend organized an evening out with a group of fabulous ladies, for a Holiday Boutique show. I was amused at the entry fee and the available bar, but shopping is definitely more fun with friends and a glass of chardonnay.
I discovered a booth that sold spices, and was immediately entranced. Following a fascinating conversation with the owners, about food and offering suggestions of local restaurants they should try, I purchased lavender and vanilla sugar, fabulous smoked paprika, and curry powder.
I was very excited to try the latest additions to my cooking arsenal, and baked loaves of French Lavender Pound Cake - one to keep and one to share with a friend.
I have also shared the Blue Cheese and Onion Dip with Lavender, Lemon Lavender Bars and the Lavender Shortbread, food is also definitely more fun with friends and a glass of chardonnay.
FRENCH LAVENDER POUND CAKE
1/2 cup lavender sugar
1 teaspoon lavender buds
1 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup sour cream
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon butter, melted
3 to 4 teaspoons of lemon juice
Heat oven to 325F.
Process the lavender sugar and lavender buds in a food processor (it will be like powdered sugar). Let the eggs, 1 cup of butter and sour cream stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Grease and flour 2 loaf tins, set aside.
In a medium bowl, stir flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, beat the lavender sugar mixture, sugar, 1 cup of butter and vanilla with mixer on high speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping sides frequently.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating on medium speed 20 to 30 seconds after each addition. Alternately add flour mixture and sour cream to butter mixture, beating on low speed after each addition until just combined. Stir in lemon peel. Spread in pans. Bake 45 minutes.
Mix powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon butter and lemon juice.
Spoon over cake.
Recipe adapted from The Spice Market
BLUE CHEESE AND ONION DIP WITH LAVENDER
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons of butter
2 leeks, chopped
1 onion, chopped
pinch of sugar
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 tablespoon lavender, chopped fine
Heat the olive oil and butter in a skillet, cook the leeks and onion for about 10 minutes, over medium-low heat. Add the sugar and continue to cook, stirring occasionally until browned, about 15 more minutes. Remove from the heat and cool.
In a bowl, blend together the mayonnaise and sour cream. Add blue cheese, lots of black pepper and lavender. Gently combine then stir in the onion mixture.
Recipe adapted from Fresh Approach to Cooking
LEMON LAVENDER BARS
1 cup flour
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar, plus more for dusting
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter, cold and cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon dried lavender
1 cup sugar
3 eggs, plus one egg yolk
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
Heat oven to 350F.
Line an 8 inch square baking pan with parchment, leaving a 2 inch overhang.
In a food processor, pulse 3/4 cup flour, confectioners' sugar, cornstarch and 1/2 teaspoon salt to combine. Add butter and lavender, and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Transfer the dough mixture to the prepared pan, press down to form the crust.
Bake dough until set and golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Reduce the oven temperature to 325F.
In a bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat sugar, eggs, and yolk until pale yellow. Beat in lemon juice and zest, and remaining flour and salt, until well combined. Pour filling over the still warm crust and bake until filling is set, about 20 minutes. Remove pan from oven and let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least an hour. (I seem to remember the lemon bars were still a bit gooey after cooking, so they may benefit from a longer oven time).
To serve, use the parchment overhang to lift the dessert from the pan. Dust the top with confectioners' sugar and cut into squares.
Recipe adapted from Country Living, October 2013
LAVENDER AND HONEY SHORTBREAD
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
1 1/3 cups confectioner's sugar, divided
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature, cut into chunks
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon dried lavender
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
2 tablespoons cream
Heat oven to 300F.
Mix flour, 1/3 cup of the confectioner's sugar and cornstarch in food processor. Add butter and pulse until coarse crumbs form. Add honey, lavender and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla. Cover and pulse until the dough pulls away from the bowl.
Place dough in a greased tart pan (I made half of the recipe and used two 4 1/2 inch tart pans). Press the top to form a smooth, even layer. Pierce the dough with a fork (I forgot to do this).
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes (I baked my smaller ones for 20 minutes). Place the pan on a wire rack to cool.
Mix the remaining confectioner's sugar, vanilla and cream in a small bowl, until well blended and smooth. Drizzle over the cooled shortbread.
Recipe adapted from Mc Cormick Gourmet Collection