Tag Archives: lavender

Sunny-lemony ricotta cookies, because we cannot live on bread alone

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January came with an avalanche of green juice blogging. Even this wee blog, untrendy as it is, got with the zeitgeist and talked about bird seed bread, kale, Burmese salads, and accidental trendiness healthiness.

Then, I bought far too much ricotta. For the past week, our diet has been full of ricotta-laced pesto and ricotta mustard tarts (the tarts adapted from the great Dorie herself). And these ricotta cookies.

These cookies were light, cake-like and fluffy. I added as much lemon zest and lemon juice as I dared, with a fat pinch of crushed lavender buds. And the taste? Creamy and primly sweet from the ricotta and castor (granulated) sugar, but thanks to the lemon zest and lavender, each cookie was a sparkling, sunny mouthful.

Compared to the excesses of December – such as the darkly spiced Sri Lankan Christmas cake lurking in some of the photos – these lemony ricotta cookies seemed positively fresh and sober. Like calisthenics early morning yoga.

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Feeding our wanderlust: honey, lavender, pepper oatcakes; photos of Iona

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Sometimes, a phrase, an image, or an object triggers your memory and it’s as though you are transported back to another place. Last night, reading Laura’s blog, Laura’s Mess, I remembered standing under Western Australia’s big, open sky, with its sense of so much space, feeing the warm wind and warmer sun, and ouch-hot white sand under my feet.

Earlier that evening, we were planning a dinner party for 12 (!). Cheese and oatcakes got on the menu. And I remembered the oatcakes we had in Scotland. And that story on a packet of oatcakes, solemnly explaining that oatcakes began from the Scottish people’s frugal habits, when they would save their morning porridge by drying it into a cake for supper.

Dried leftover porridge. Yum.

So it was that I found myself making oatcakes that evening.

I used a recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who introduced it thus: “This recipe is Bill Cowie’s, island manager of Rona in the Inner Hebrides. He made a batch when we were filming and fishing with him in July. We devoured every last one, with cheese and homemade chutney.”

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I almost followed the recipe, the only changes I made were adding a bare half teaspoon of crushed lavender, and an overflowing teaspoon of honey, into the oatcake mix. I’ve been reading about lavender pepper spice mixes, and oats just love honey, and the whole thing just came together.

The oatcakes had a healthy back of the throat kick from a mixture of black and white pepper – I’d like to use the sweeter pink pepper next time – a bare hint of open grassland from the lavender, and the barest mellowness from the honey. Their flavours played off each other and made me want to use the lavender, honey and pepper combination in other things. 

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Ceci n’est pas une madeleine, here’s honey beer bread instead

In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines,
Lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.
They left the house at half past nine … the smallest one was Madeline.

Tuesday 16 April was our next assignment for the Tuesdays with Dorie group. In place of a real entry, here is a post-processing enhanced and slightly tongue-in-cheek image of madeleines baked in non-madeleine pans.

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Work got in the way of a more thoughtful post about how to make this classic French cake-cookie. A quick search on the internet, however, revealed a range of fail-proof recipes and one contentious debate – whether baking powder should ‘even be in the same room with madeleines’ (Lebovitz, 2007).

I went with the recipe in the book Baking with Julia, which was a genoise batter without baking powder and enriched with egg yolks. It made a light, but slightly drier cookie-cake, with the requisite crispy, lightly golden edges. They tasted a little richer than cupcakes, and the addition of lemon zest made them bright, cheerful little things.

They almost walked in two straight lines. And the smallest one was almost called Madeline.

The recipe from Baking with Julia can be found at the blog Counter Dog. To see what other TWD bakers have done, please visit Tuesdays with Dorie.

In lieu of proper madeleines, here’s a buttery honey beer bread instead. Although Madeline and her friends are more likely to have eaten baguettes in their old Paris house covered with vines, I like to think this bread is hearty and homely enough to have occasionally graced their table too.

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Honey, lavender, rosemary: surprise cookies

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I like to improvise in savoury cooking. A common dinner menu in our house is “[insert ingredient] surprise”. But in baking, I am a stickler for rules and always stay faithful to the recipes’ main ingredients and dry/wet ratio.

Until Friday night.

I started to make cookies for friends who were visiting on the weekend, only to realise we had run out of eggs.

On the spur of the moment, I improvised wildly. Into the mixing bowl went honey, polenta and quinoa flour, as well as plain flour and butter. Crushed lavender flowers were folded into half of the cookie dough (this post on Food and Forage Hebrides recently reminded me that I have wanted to bake with lavender for a while). Finely chopped rosemary leaves went into the other half.

Voila “honey surprise” cookies – or, the shortbread cookie re-imagined.

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The lush buttery butter now forms the backdrop to a more complex set of flavours. Quinoa and polenta added a full bodied whole grain taste. Honey left its lingering sweetness in the back of the mouth. For the lavender cookies, the flower buds also gave a clean, herbal-floral scent and taste. Each bite was like a spring morning on a country homestead.

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