Lavender: Harvesting, Drying, Baking

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Hey all. This is going to be my last post for a few weeks. Z, X and I are going on a much-needed vacation – back to the mother land! I’m so excited to get back to Canada. We’ve already discussed that we’ll be stopping for Timmy’s in the airport as soon as we land. Some things you just can’t really get out of your system. We’ll be out of range of the internets for awhile, which is going to be quite nice, but I’ll be back in October, with more of our travel adventures (with a Canadian edition, I’m sure!) and exciting news.

I adore lavender. I find it to be such a multipurpose, perfect flower. It smells wonderful, it helps you get to sleep, it has elegant blossoms and a lovely colour. And you can even cook with it. I have one tomato soup recipe that is to die for, and I’m pretty sure it has to do with the herbes de provence, including lavender, that’s in it.

So I was very excited to discover that lavender grows EVERYWHERE here. In fields. Along the sides of fences. In ditches. And, lucky for me, in a huge bush right outside my front door. The plant is massive, and clearly very mature. I produces so many flowers throughout the season. The whole area is usually cheerfully buzzing with bees as they let off wafts of delicate lavender scent while they work. It’s as bucolic as you can get. I was determined to do something about the massive amounts of lavender growing right outside.

The first step was to cut back the bush, keeping the flowers for drying. I spent an afternoon cutting back the plant, and I wasn’t even close to taking it all. It didn’t even really look touched after I was done. I had read somewhere that you should hang dry lavender in bunches of a hundred, which seemed like a ridiculous amount to me, but it turns out I had five bunches and then some. Enough to do whatever it was I wanted with them, anyway.

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The next step was to get them hung upside down in a warm, dry place. What better place than my furnace room in the basement, which already had lines stretched out for hanging laundry. (I am ashamed to admit that since getting a working dryer I’ve used the hanging lines almost zero, but this gave me an excuse – the lavender was there!) I took my bunches, tied up with string, and left them there for around two months. This definitely gave them the time to dry, no question, but the timing wasn’t by design. I just didn’t have time to get to them. Every time I went into the furnace room, I would enjoy the heavenly scent, then move on.

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Finally last week, harvesting my lavender got top priority. I spent the day bringing up the dried stems, and decided whether they would work best “for show” or “for work.” I had stripped about half of the bunches of leaves, which made them more desirable for putting in pretty vases around the house. And they still smell fantastic – whenever I walk by them I get a fresh whiff of lavender.

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The rest I spent a good long time stripping the dried blossoms from the stems. I had cut the lavender before the flowers had actually blossomed. This apparently keeps the essence of lavender or some such thing. It’s the ideal way to use lavender in oils, lotions or baking. I ended up with two jars of delicate flower blossoms. The scent is even more concentrated with these – open them up and it’s like walking into a perfume shop. Almost a little overwhelming.

Lavender3Now was the fun part (for me) – baking cookies! I’ve often wanted to make lavender cookies, but I never had the lavender to do so. No longer a problem. I followed this amazing recipe from Milk and Cookies – it was easy and the cookies turned out really good. I like how the shortbread is kind of thick. You can really sink your teeth into these cookies. I get that the taste isn’t for everyone. It is a little bit like eating flowers. But I find this works where the delicate lavender flavour is mixed in with the sweet and isn’t too overpowering. This is a perfect cookie to go with your tea.

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Lavender Shortbread

¾ cup icing sugar
1 tbsp dried lavender
140g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 tsp lemon zest
1¾ cup plain all-purpose flour
3 large egg yolks
1 cup granulated sugar (for coating)

Whisk the confectioner’s sugar and lavender together in a bowl.

Add the butter, lemon zest and lavender/sugar mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix until smooth and light in colour. Add the flour and mix until well combined.

Add the egg yolks and mix just until the eggs are fully incorporated and a mass forms.

Form the dough into a disk and chill in the refrigerator until firm (about 30 minutes).

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Roll the dough out to 1.5cm thickness. Cut the dough with a cookie cutter. Toss each cut cookie in a bowl of granulated sugar to coat.

Place the sugar-coated cookie on a parchment lined pan. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until slightly golden around the edges.

 

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