Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Afternoon Tea Lavender Cookies

In our country, every day, we practice what multitudes of workers call “coffee breaks,” where highly caffeinated drinks are often accompanied with sugary pastries such as doughnuts and croissants. Generally, these are short social breaks in between working hours, dressed up with a substantial amount of ritual. Being neither a coffee drinker nor a lover of fried dough, I've never been much for the idea of the coffee break.

What does appeal to me is the lesser-practiced Afternoon Tea. Although I wouldn't mind tiered stands of petit fours, cucumber sandwiches, and scones, along with delicate tea cups on saucers, I am not so attached to its formality (stuffiness, some may call it), but rather to its very existence. For me, tea time lasts from my wake-up cup of English Breakfast to my bedtime chamomile. Throughout the day, my tea is at times paired with a cookie or some other treat, and at times, it stands alone. As much as I like to appreciate the teas that I drink and truly take in their individual flavors, there is also can be a place for a delectable morsel of food alongside the tea cup; why else would tea houses and coffee shops also stock such a wonderful selection of baked goods? I have yet to designate an official “afternoon tea time” for myself, or even obtain a fancy cup and saucer. But I still like to try out an assortment of cookies and pastries that simply beg to be sampled alongside a cup of Earl Grey.

The following Lavender Tea Cookies are a perfect fit. Basically a shortbread, the cookies are buttery and rich, and the addition of lavender frosting adds another dimension to the already fragrant base.

Lavender Tea Cookies

1 tbsp. dried culinary lavender flowers
1 cup butter, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp.pure vanilla extract
¼ tsp. lemon extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp. salt
Lavender Frosting (see recipe below)

1. In a mortar, grind lavender flowers with the pestle.
2. In a medium bowl, cream together ground lavender flowers, butter, sugar, vanilla extract, and lemon extract. Add flour and salt; mix until combined (dough should be soft but not sticky.)
3. Refrigerate 1 to 2 hours or until dough is firm.
4. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Remove dough from refrigerator and shape into small discs, about ¼ inch thick. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned around the edges. Remove from oven and cool on wire racks. When cool, frost with Lavender Frosting.

Lavender Frosting

1 cup powdered (confectioners) sugar
2 tbsp. dried culinary lavender flowers
2 tbsp. milk

1. In a small plastic bag, combine powdered sugar and dried lavender flowers. Let stand at least 1 day before using. When ready to use, sift the mixture into a medium-size bowl; discarding lavender flowers. Add milk, mixing well. Spread on cooled cookies.

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