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Sweet and Light: Cotton Candy

Sweet and Light: Cotton Candy

Pink, fluffy, sweet – cotton candy – takes me back to being a child at the Puyallup Fair I picture snow-cones, popcorn, amusement parks, roller coasters and big cones of spun sugar. I remember vendors with bunches of pink cotton candy cones. Back then, I begged my parents for this treat. When the sugar melted in my mouth, I was addicted.

During Valentine’s Day, this memory came flooded back. I was reading the Seattle Magazine’s February issue when an article on cotton candy grabbed my attention.

Spun, a new Seattle company, makes cotton candy in flavors such as lavender, Meyer lemon , rose and blood orange. I wanted to meet Cristie Schrader, the Seattle woman who created Spun and learn the story behind her inspiration.

In late February, I was in Ballard on a cold, blustery day, sipping a latte in a coffee shop, waiting for Cristie to arrive. I was gazing out at the wind and rain, when I saw a woman crossing the street, holding an umbrella in one hand, and a celophane-wrapped cone of cotton candy in the other.

I stood up and reached out my hand. “You must be Cristie,” I said

.Cristie handed me her cotton candy as if it was a new-born baby. The delicate color and the lightness of the cotton candy reminded me of something from  a sweet land of fairies.

“I made this cotton candy last evening. Its shelf-life is only 24 hours.” Cristie said.

Lavender Cotton Candy

Lavender Cotton Candy

After snapping a picture of Cristie holding her sweet creation, I asked how she came up with idea of flavoring cotton candy with my favorite herb, lavender.

Cristie Schrader Delivers Cotton Candy for the 21st Century

Cristie Schrader Delivers Cotton Candy for the 21st Century

Cristie  explained, “I have always loved cotton candy. And I also enjoy the taste of lavender. So I wanted to combine the two.”

She told me about buying cotton candy when she went to her favorite video shop. “They sold cotton candy in two varieties, blue and pink,” she said.

Cristie discovered lavender in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood when she treated  herself to lavender gelato at The Royal Grinders restaurant. That was the day when her idea of bringing these two concepts together came to her. Lavender cotton candy seems like a match made in heaven.

Cristie bought a cotton candy machine. She experimented with many concepts to infuse  lavender’s exotic flavor into the sugary treat. Although she tested various ways to fine-tune the flavor, she was not satisfied. She put the project on hold for several years.

Then Cristie became friends with Tilth chef David White. They started working together to perfect the lavender flavor. Anyone who has cooked with lavender knows the challenge of adding the floral flavor without overdoing it. When the delicate taste of the lavender met their high standards, they began to develop more flavors. Soon Spun was offering several new flavors such as rose, Meyer lemon and blood orange. 

This treat, although often thought of as carnival fare, offers a fat-free, gluten-free, organic, vegan treat with a minimum amount of sugar. When I probed about the sugar quantity, Cristie said, “I’ve never calculated the amount per serving; however I’d guess it’s less than a teaspoon.”

Cristie’s aim was to bring her cotton candy out of the carnival scene and into elegant events such as wedding showers, weddings, girls’ birthday parties, spas, beauty salons and wedding shows as well as other corporate events.

“Just last evening, I was at the W Hotel where I offered samples of Lavender Cotton Candy at their 2013 Wedding Show,” said Cristie. “Our cotton candy delights everyone and adds a unique and playful mood to the celebration.”

Lavender Cotton Candy Debuts at the 2013 Wedding Show in Seattle

Lavender Cotton Candy Debuts at the 2013 Wedding Show in Seattle

So what is cotton candy? When I was a kid, all I knew was it tasted heavenly. Now that I’m an adult, I am curious about it. Simply put, it is spun sugar and can be flavored in a zillion different ways. To make it, you need sugar, water, and flavoring.  And unless you want white cotton candy, you will need food coloring. When the sugar is combined with the other ingredients and reaches the hard crack stage, 300° – 310° F, the syrup separates into threads. The best way to replicate the cotton candy – that many of us first experienced at the circus or the zoo – is to use a cotton candy machine.

Macy’s, Home Depot or Bed, Bath and Beyond sell Cotton Candy Making- Machines. The price ranges from $69.99 for the Waring Professional model to as little as $39.99 for Nostalgia Electrics Cotton Candy Maker. This simple machine comes with a central container for heating the sugar mixture. It then rotates the sugar mixture. The centrifugal force propels the sugar through small holes so the sugar changes into fine strands. Then the spun sugar is gathered around a paper cone for easy eating. This delicate confection melts instantly in your mouth.

 

Cotton Candy Machine

Cotton Candy Machine

Home-made cotton candy invites you to tap into your artistic ability – use food coloring to get your favorite color, add flavoring to personalize the taste.

Cotton candy, originally known as Fairy Floss, was introduced at the St. Louis Fair in 1904. And now, thank you to Cristie Schrader, cotton candy has been updated for the 21st century.

As I considered making cotton candy, I realized that this is not something I would make repeatedly. I did not want to store a cotton candy maker in my kitchen only to use it once every several years. So when I want to offer this nostalgic treat at my summer parties, I will contact Spun to provide their cotton candy. And of course, my favorite flavor is the lavender cotton candy.

I can’t help thinking what an impression this confection would make at a lavender festival.

If you want Spun to provide cotton candy at your next birthday bash, or invite them to  on-site at your lavender festival, contact Cristie at 206.817.5935 or visit her website at Spun. If you want to keep up with the happenings at Spun, follow them on Facebook.

All Ready for the Party!

All Ready for the Party!

As for me,I’m grateful to have discovered lavender cotton candy in the nick of time. In early July, my granddaughter celebrates her 10th birthday. I can see girls dressed as fairies with pink and lavender gowns enjoying the sweetness of lavender cotton candy!

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Lida Lafferty, author of "Spike It with Lavender"

Lida Lafferty, Author of Spike it with Lavender: Recipes for Living

The charming book,  Spike It with Lavender: Recipes for Living by Lida Lafferty, offers many creative ways to use lavender. The book presents a collection of ideas and recipes for drinks, savories, sweets and even household items such as lavender dryer bags and lavender mist.

I find many reasons to praise this book and rejoice in its genesis. Lafferty, a speech pathologist living in western Colorado, never intended to grow lavender. She certainly couldn’t have guessed that she would ever create a lavender recipe book.

Honeybees sparked Lafferty’s interest in lavender. In 2008 she worried about her honeybees and wanted to give them a healthy and abundant food source. From Colorado State University’s Extension office, she learned that honeybees thrive on sage, yarrow and lavender. Lafferty was already growing sage and yarrow on her 2 ½ acres in Grand Junction. For the sake of her bees, she put in 75 lavender plants and added more the next season.

Honeybees Thrive on Sage

Honeybees Thrive on Sage

All summer Lafferty’s lavender filled her fields with fragrant purple blossoms. Her honeybees hovered over the flowers, foraging for pollen. One day Lafferty was harvesting lavender. Everywhere she looked, she saw honeybees enjoying the magnificent flowers. Lafferty felt guilty about taking away the bees’ food. She found herself talking to them, saying, “Okay ladies, half of this lavender belongs to you, I get the rest.” Lavender had become a character in her story.

Yarrow Attracts Bees

Yarrow Attracts Bees

Lafferty joined the Lavender Association of Western Colorado. Colorado’s arid climate, high altitude and alkaline soil gives the herb everything it desires. Farmers planted lavender as a cash crop. It adds to income from cherries, peaches and wine grapes.

Lavender: A Treat for Honeybees

Lavender: A Treat for Honeybees

When Lafferty met with other lavender growers, the conversation buzzed about their dream of a lavender celebration. Some had attended the Sequim Lavender Festival. They were excited and eager for a gathering in Colorado. Lafferty tossed out her idea. “I think it’d be great if we had our own association cookbook which would be an ideal ‘take-home’ item for festival attendees.”

The association published Lafferty’s book in 2011. Spike It with Lavender: Recipes for Living contains a collection of recipes. Well-known chefs, lavender growers and talented home cooks contributed recipes. This approach yielded diversity; each recipe reflects the creator’s experience and personality.

Professional chefs relied on their culinary training and skill in pairing flavors and textures, however some had not yet discovered lavender as a culinary ingredient. Lafferty sent them lavender honey and lavender buds. She asked them to experiment with it and contribute their recipes. Lafferty converted these chefs from skeptics to believers. Their recipes showcase tasty ways to use lavender.

Growers with years of experience using lavender generously gave many recipes to this book. From this group, special mention goes to Roxi Lane from Dayspring Farm for sharing her “top secret creations” such as Dayspring Farm Lavender Espresso Brownies. Also Paolo Legarre’s Sage Creations Lip Balm stands out for its simplicity.

From talented home cooks, the book gives us family favorites that have been perfected over generations. These range from Gram Jane Molasses Cake with Lavender contributed by Julie Zahniser (in honor of her mother) to Sheila’s Herb Chicken Stew contributed by Nancy Lofholm.

Amy Nuernberg created the book’s artistic cover and tabs. Artist Susan Metzger contributed her batik design along with original art and local photographs. These work well with Lafferty’s clever idea to use a ring-binder for easy reference while cooking and to enable expansion.  The 2012 recipe collection has recently become available. She’s now collecting recipes for the 2013 edition.  If you want to contribute one of your recipes, you can find her submittal guidelines on the Lavender Association’s website. March 31, 2013 is the last day for submittal.

Bound in a Three-ring Binder, the Book Expands with New Recipes Each Year.

Bound in a Three-ring Binder, the Book Expands with New Recipes Each Year.

Another helpful feature of this book informs readers of the wide range of lavender varieties, each with their own flavor and fragrance profile. Some are sweet, others spicy; some are subtle, others bold.

For culinary use, Lafferty recommends English Lavender which comes in hundreds of varieties. Because many recipes in the book specify certain varieties such as Miss Katherine, Folgate or Croxton’s Wild, readers discover many flavor choices.

Lavender Varieties Each with their Own Flavor

Lavender Varieties Each with their Own Flavor

Kathy Kimbrough, founder and past president of the Lavender Association of Western Colorado, said, “What I like best about this book is that it’s accessible and affordable.”

Kimbrough added, “The book has been great for our association. It educates people who are just discovering lavender as a culinary herb, increases the sales of culinary lavender, and provides us with an ongoing revenue stream.”

When the association held their first lavender festival in 2011, Lafferty’s suggestion came to fruition. Many festival attendees went home with a copy of Spike It with Lavender. The 2012 festival attracted about 2000 people. The 3rd festival is scheduled for July 12-14, 2013.

Spike It with Lavender: Recipes for Living

Spike It with Lavender: Recipes for Living

With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, why not give your favorite foodie a unique gift? Spike it with Lavender: Recipes for Living!  And if your Valentine likes sweet treats, but not cooking, give him or her CakeLove Chewy Cookies, one of Lafferty’s favorite recipes. Put them in a fancy package tied with a red bow and include your own love note. And when you pop the question, “Please be my Valentine?” the answer will be “yes.”

For Love & Romance, Bake CakeLove Cookies for your Sweetie!

For Love & Romance, Bake CakeLove Cookies for your Sweetie!

 

CakeLove Chewy Cookies

Re-printed here with permission from Lida Lafferty, author of “Spike It with Lavender: Recipes for Living

Bake these on parchment lined cookie sheet to the point where the dough won’t give when you poke them. Choose from a few choices of mix-ins to get your favorite flavor, or customize by mixing and matching. I love the warmth you get from the honey and the pretty bouquet that comes from the lavender. Enjoy!   ~Warren Brown, founder of CakeLove and Love Cafe

 

¼ cup Lavender infused Honey*

½ cup superfine or plain granulated sugar

½ cup lightly packed brown sugar

1 tsp. lemon zest

3 oz. unsalted butter, melted

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 egg

1 (optional) egg yolk

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

¾ tsp. sea salt

½ tsp. cinnamon

Flavor Mix-ins:

½ cup whole rolled oats

½ cup candied ginger pieces

Or

½ cup dried cranberries

½ cup pecan pieces or almond slices

Or

½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

½ cup almond slices

¼ cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 300 to 315 °F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a non-stick baking mat.

*Note: To make Lavender-Infused Honey, combine ¼ cup to 1/3 cup dried lavender buds and 1 cup honey in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Let stand, turning the jar upside down periodically. After a week, discard lavender buds by filtering through a sieve. It’s now ready to use.

Mix honey, sugars and zest in stand mixer fitted with flat paddle. Slowly add in melted butter and vanilla extract. Add in egg and yolk. Stir to combine flour, soda, salt and cinnamon, and then add to mixer. Add mix-in of your choosing and stir until combined. The dough should come off the side of the bowl and barely feel tacky. Add a touch more flour if it’s very sticky.

Scoop out the dough with a trigger ice-cream scooper. Lightly press to flatten to ¼” to ½”. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, remove from oven to cool and serve warm.

Store any leftover dough in an airtight container in fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Warren says there’s a fair amount of tolerance in the recipe to withstand variance in the art of mixing and atmospheric conditions (temperature and pressure).

So here’s what you need to know. It’s soft, not crispy, because of the honey. It’s chewy! No worries about altitude adjustments. It’s scrumptious, one of the best cookies I’ve ever tasted. 

Make them after school with your children, after work, or at midnight. Linger with good talk, a glass of milk, and this good cookie.

Thanks to Warren Brown of CakeLove, Washington, DC area.     ~Lida Lafferty


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Simple,Elegant & Sensational - Semifreddo

New Year’s Dessert – Simple & Elegant Semifreddo

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When New Year’s Day rolls around, I celebrate with a feast. I believe “beginning with the end in mind,” one of Stephen Covie’s seven habits for highly effective people, is essential when planning a celebration dinner. That’s why I give special attention to dessert. To ring in 2013, I will serve an Italian frozen dessert, called semifreddo. This is Italian for “half cold.”

You may wonder how I discovered this frozen treat. Martha Stewart’s December issue of Everyday Food arrived and on the very last page, I spotted a recipe for “Lemon-Raspberry Semifreddo.” I frequently study Martha’s recipes to find opportunities to use lavender to enhance the flavor. My mouth watered as I imagined combining lemon, raspberries and lavender.

I’d never made a semifreddo, but when I read the recipe, I loved the simplicity. Not only easy to make, this dessert requires only 15 minutes of preparation. I also like anything that can be ready ahead of time and that gives me more time to visit with my guests. This dessert must hang out in the freezer for 8 hours or more, waiting off stage for its big moment.

I was curious about how semifreddo fits into the world of ice cream, gelato, custards and mousse. After consulting Harold McGee’s comprehensive book, “On Food and Cooking – The Science and Lore of the Kitchen,” I realized ice cream comes in various “styles.”

  • Standard or Philadelphia-style ice creams made from cream and milk, sugar, and a few other minor ingredients.
  • French or custard ice cream contains an additional ingredient, egg yolks, as many as 12 per quart/liter.
  • Reduced-fat, low-fat, and non-fat ice creams contain progressively less than the 10% specified in the commercial definition of ice cream.
  • Kulfi, the Indian version of ice cream that goes back to the 16th century, is made without stirring from milk boiled down to a fraction of its original volume, and therefore concentrated in texture-smoothing milk proteins and sugar. It has a strong cooked-milk, butterscotch flavor.

Semifreddo belongs to the custard ice cream style. However in this recipe, we skip the extra task of making custard because we use lemon curd in its place. Lemon curd contains lemon juice, sugar and eggs. If you want to make your own lemon curd, I recommend this recipe. Add lavender sugar to introduce lavender into your lemon curd.

I’m excited to have discovered semifreddo just in time for 2013. During this coming year, I will continue to experiment with new flavor combinations. What about a chocolate semifreddo with layers of crushed hazelnut biscotti and lavender flavoring for Valentine’s Day!

Wishing you a Happy New Year!

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Semifreddo with lemon, lavender and raspberrues

Lemon, Lavender, Raspberry Semifreddo

 

 

Lavender-Lemon-Raspberry Semifreddo

A luscious and creamy dessert reminds me of ice cream. The Italian word “semifreddo” means “half cold” and refers to a partially frozen dessert. – Serves 8

Ingredients

6 ounces of raspberries

2 tablespoons lavender sugar

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup lemon curd

10 ladyfingers

½ cup fresh berries soaked in 2 tablespoons of black berry liqueur

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1.    Line a 4½ by 8½-inch loaf pan with 2 sheets of plastic wrap leaving a 3 inch overhang on long sides. In a blender, puree raspberries and lavender sugar scraping down sides to mix in sugar. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, pressing on solids: Discard solids.

2.    In a large bowl, whip cream until soft peaks form. With a rubber spatula, fold in lemon curd. (You can make your own lemon curd or to keep it simple, you can buy high quality lemon curd at your grocery store. I used MacKays 100% Natural Fruit Lemon Curd.) Spoon 2 cups cream mixture into pan and smooth top.

3.    Dip ladyfingers (I used Bouvard French Lady Fingers that I bought at my local grocery store.) in raspberry purée and arrange in pan, parallel to long edge. Pour remaining raspberry purée on ladyfingers. Top with remaining cream mixture and smooth top.

4.    Wrap pan with overhanging plastic and freeze 8 hours (or up to 2 weeks). To serve, invert onto a serving platter, remove plastic and slice.

5.    Garnish each slice with grated dark chocolate and fresh berries soaked in blackberry liqueur.

semifreddo-014

New Year’s Day Dessert – Lemon-Lavender-Raspberry Semifreddo

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The Kitchen Counter Cooking School

A "Must Read" for every home cook!

A blend of memoir, cookbook and reality show, Kathleen Flinn’s The Kitchen Counter Cooking School” reminded me how satisfying it can be to cook with nutritious and flavorful ingredients using easy techniques.

She modeled her book after a reality TV show. Flinn had been wondering how to best use her culinary degree. She wanted to motivate, teach and inspire people to cook. Then one evening she tuned into “What Not to Wear.” On the show, participants opened their closets to a fashion expert, who tutored them on how to dress, and transformed them from dowdy to dashing. Using this show as a starting point, Flinn’s idea was to recruit self-identified culinary novices, examine their pantries, refrigerators and freezers, teach them basic cooking techniques, and transform them into “fearless home cooks.”

At first I didn’t see the connection between the two topics. What does dressing have to do with cooking?  However as I thought about it, I realized they share many attributes. We must dress and eat day in and day out. Each requires a budget. And no one wants to waste money on buying the wrong thing. Who among us hasn’t found some garment in the back of a closet or some vegetable in the back of the refrigerator that we’ve forgotten?  I can’t count the times that with good intentions I bought cauliflower or cabbage, only to let it rot in my refrigerator.

Having the basics in your closet helps you put together a stylish look. And the same goes for the kitchen; a pantry and refrigerator stocked with basic ingredients is the first step to creating a flavorful and nutritious meal. 

Dressing attractively causes us to feel good about ourselves. Eating wholesome food does the same. So I see the connection between “What not to wear” and “What not to eat.”

Most of us don’t rely on recipes when it comes to clothes. Personal taste leads us to a particular color, certain accessories and a hip or classic style. We use an intuitive approach to matching colors and combining patterns. However In the kitchen, we seem to have less confidence in our ability. This is what I love about Flinn’s book. She shows us how to put a meal together without a recipe which encourages creativity and makes cooking fun.

If you are looking for ways to reduce your consumption of processed food, eat more nutritiously, cook more creatively and cut your food budget, this book is for you.

Five Take-Aways from “The Kitchen Counter Cooking School.”

  1. Maximize flavor with Flinn’s “flavor splashes,” a blend of a few ingredients from a particular cuisine. For example to make her “Asian Ginger Splash,” blend 2 teaspoons of sesame oil, I teaspoon fresh grated ginger or a couple of pinches of dried ginger, a few squeezes of lime juice and 1 teaspoon of soy sauce. Heat through for 3 minutes. Serve on steamed vegetables.
  2. Save money by making your own bread, soup, sauces and vinaigrette. Buy a whole chicken rather than a package of boneless skinless chicken breasts. One chicken can provide several meals. Use the bones to make chicken stock.
  3. Stop waste by planning meals. Use older foods first. Instead of throwing away that cauliflower that’s looking ‘tired’, add it to home-made soup.
  4. Use leftovers and you will save money and contribute to a better world. According to Flinn, people In the United States throw away about 40% of the food produced for consumption. When that food goes into landfills to rot, it emits methane gas, more toxic than carbon monoxide.
  5. Avoid processed food. Boxed food products, such as Hamburger Helper or Rice-a-Roni, are created “primarily to stimulate consumption.” Maximizing nutrition is an afterthought. Eating simpler foods that are more flavorful, with more fiber and nutrients, means we are satisfied with fewer calories and eat a healthier diet.

I recommend this book to anyone looking for strategies for creating healthy, flavorful, home-cooked meals while saving time and money.

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This is a recipe I created using Kathleen Flinn’s “Fish en Papillote, or Baked in Paper.” Rather than offering exact recipes, Flinn’s approach invites creativity by offering general instructions. Hope you enjoy.

Sole & Asparagus in Parchment

Serves 1

6 ounce Petrale sole fillet

2 asparagus spears, cut diagonally into ¼ inch pieces

1 carrot, julienned (cut in thin sticks)

1/8 cup onion, diced

¼ cup sugar snap peas

½ tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon oregano

Salt and pepper to taste

Juice from half a lemon

 

Preheat oven to 400F

On a 10 by 12 inch sheet of parchment paper, place sole fillet. Drizzle olive oil and lemon juice over fish, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place asparagus, carrots, onion and pea pods on top of fish. Season with salt, pepper and oregano.

Fold parchment paper vertically and make 2 folds, and then twist ends.

Put on baking sheet and place in oven for 20 minutes at 400 F.

Serve with ½ cup quinoa

Serves 1

 

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Cookies on plate for lunch

Coconut Caramel Thumbprint Cookies with Lavender & Sea Salt

The pressure was on. I’d invited a special friend to my home for lunch and wanted everything to be perfect.

Pranee Khruasanit Halvorson loves food and is a talented chef and culinary teacher. She shares her recipes and images on her blog, “Pranee’s Thai Kitchen.”

I tried to imagine what she might like for lunch. Looking for something light, I settled on my favorite Greek salad served with grilled chicken breast and crusty, rustic bread. It’s flavorful and special.

The dessert stumped me until I browsed through an issue of Martha Stewart Living and spotted a recipe for “Coconut Thumbprint Cookies with Salted Caramel.”

I studied this recipe, imagined the flavors and remembered my visit to Lilie Belle Farms in southern Oregon, where I tried a divine candy, Lavender Fleur du Sel Caramels. The combination hit all the right taste notes – sweet, salty with a hint of floral. My memory moved on to Fran’s Chocolates. This Seattle chocolatier puts sea salt on caramels. My favorite variety is Fran’s Gray Salt Caramels.

With my culinary memory working overtime, the cookies Pranee had given me at Christmas came to mind. She had added coconut to create her version of Russian Teacakes and called them “Coconut Teacakes.”  That reminded me how much Pranee loves coconut.

Coconut Caramel cookies won out and Martha Stewart’s recipe became my starting point. Lavender would give these cookies more flavor and personality. I added culinary lavender with the sugar plus lavender extract (from Lavender Wind Farm). After I finished baking the cookies and added the caramel, I sprinkled each cookie with a pinch of culinary lavender along with sea salt. For the culinary lavender, I selected Royal Velvet buds for its floral taste and vivid color. The culinary lavender came from Helvetia Lavender Farm in Oregon.

The doorbell rang as I placed a plate of cookies on the dining room table. Everything was ready. Pranee walked into the dining room and glanced at the cookies. “Mmm, what are those? Is that coconut?” she asked.

Eating with Pranee is fun because she appreciates good food and is curious about flavors. I told her how I’d found this recipe and modified it based on the chocolates I’d tasted. She told me that combining sea salt and caramel made the list of 2012 culinary trends. We chatted nonstop about cooking classes, websites and blogs.

Pranee had brought Mango Tea from Maui.  We sipped tea and praised the winning combination of caramel, coconut, lavender and sea salt. Cheers to cookies, tea and friendship!

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Cookies
Coconut Caramel Thumbpirint Cookies with Lavender & Sea Salt

Coconut Thumbprint Cookies with Lavender &  Fleur de Sel

3 cubes of unsalted butter (12 ounces)

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon dried culinary lavender buds, finely ground

1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon lavender extract

3 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon table salt

2 large eggs, slightly beaten

12 ounces sweetened flaked coconut

44 small soft caramel candies (12 ounces), such as Kraft

6 tablespoons heavy cream

Large flaky sea salt, such as Maldon or Sel Gris

  1. Preheat oven on 350º. Beat butter and lavender sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Then add vanilla and lavender extract.
  2. With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour and salt until combined.
  3. Press dough together in plastic wrap. Then roll into 1 ¼ inch balls, about 1 ounce each.
  4. Dip each ball in beaten egg, the roll in coconut. Place balls on parchment-lined baking sheets, and press an indentation into each with your thumb or with a wooden spoon handle. Bake for 10 minutes.
  5. Then remove baking sheets from oven, and repress indentations. Bake cookies until golden 8 to 10 minutes more. Let cool on wire racks. Repeat with remaining dough.
  6. Remove wrapping on caramels. Place the caramels along with heavy cream in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring constantly until the caramels are melted and mixture is smooth, about 4 to 6 minutes. Spoon into indentations in cookies, and sprinkle with sea salt and lavender buds. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Note: You can also freeze these cookies for up to 1 month.

Makes approximately 4 dozen cookies

 

Variations: Instead of coconut, coat cookies with finely chopped walnuts, pecans or almonds. In place of caramel, fill thumbprints with raspberrry or mango jam.

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Festive, flavorful and fast! You will love this new twist on traditional Linzer Torte.

 

Raspberry Lavender Squares - A New Twist on Traditional Linzer Torte

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup powdered sugar

½ teaspoon culinary lavender, finely ground

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut in small pieces

 

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup red raspberry preserves

1 cup unsweetened frozen raspberries

¼ teaspoon culinary lavender, finely ground

1 tablespoon powdered sugar (for garnishing)

*    *   *   *   *  *  *   *    *    *   *   *   *   *

Preheat oven to 350F

Place flour and 1/3 cup powdered sugar, butter, lavender and vanilla extract in a food processor. Pulse to combine and break up butter into pea-size pieces.

Pour flour mixture into an 8 x 8 – inch ungreased baking dish, smooth into an even layer and tap with the back of a spatula to form a crust. Bake until crust begins to turn golden, about 20 minutes.

While crust is baking, combine preserves and frozen raspberries in a small sauce pan. Cook over medium heat until preserves turn to liquid berries are thawed about 3 to 5 minutes.

When crust is ready, remove from oven and pour raspberry mixture over top of hot crust and smooth into an even layer. Return the pan to the oven and cook for another 20 to 25 minutes until set. Remove from the oven and cool in pan until just warm. Cut into 25 squares, remove from pan and cool completely. When raspberry bars are completely cool, dust with remaining tablespoon of powdered sugar.

 Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! 

 

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Lavash and Lavender Seasoning Together at Last

“Have you ever made lavash?” asked my friend, Mike Neustrom, lavender grower from Kansas.

“Lavash?” I said, “What is it?”

 Then like a game-show contestant trying to respond before the buzzer, I burst out, “Wait. Is it a type of cracker or flatbread?”

Mike said he’d been wondering how it would taste with lavender seasoning. I could not resist this culinary challenge and pledged to find out.

My first surprise came when I looked through my 1970’s “Joy of Cooking.” The index didn’t list “lavash”, however when I searched for “flatbread”, I found a description (“Armenian, Greek, Arab, Syrian, Euphrates Bread”) along with a recipe. More questions entered my mind, such as where and when this bread originated, how it was first made and what role did it serve in the country’s cuisine.

Further research revealed the answers to these questions. Flatbreads date back nearly 10,000 years. Grain mashed and mixed with water or milk created dough that became the earliest form of bread. The dough was rolled thin and cooked over high heat.  The quick cooking time preserved scarce fuel. This method of converting grain into bread provided a durable and portable source of nourishment throughout the winter.

Many countries developed their own version of flatbread. Lavash originated in Armenia in the Caucasus.

Seattle Public Library - Books about Armenian Cuisine

Other flatbreads are: Matzo in Israel, Lefse in Norway and Naan in India. In the United States, Americans eat English muffins, soda crackers and pretzels, descendants of ancient flatbreads. For a complete list, check out Harold McGee’s book, “On Food and Cooking.

Where did lavash get its name? It’s an Armenian name with two parts. The first part “lav” means “good”. And “ash”, the second part, means “food, meal”. When joined, the meaning is “good food”.

In pursuit of a lavash recipe, I turned to the internet. Googling “lavash recipe” returned more than 600,000 hits including a recipe on All Recipes and a link to a “Lavash-Making Challenge”. 

After browsing for a bit, I settled on the lavash recipe posted in the All Recipes website. I selected this one for two reasons: 1.It met my criteria for an unleavened version (no yeast and on baking powder) and 2. Readers gave it rave reviews and offered tips for baking and serving.

Lavash recipe in hand, I was ready to bake. First I took a quick trip to the grocery store to see whether they sold lavash. The day before Thanksgiving, the store was buzzing. Extra employees were helping shoppers. I found one and asked, “Do you sell lavash?” My second surprise that day was when the woman responded, “Yes, follow me.” She led me to the artisan breads and handed me a box of crackers.

Lavash from the Grocery Store - $6.29

I was shocked at the price of $6.29 – for a box of crackers, really? Yes, I bought them, but only because I wanted to compare “store-bought” to “home-made”.

 The ingredients in lavash couldn’t be more basic: Flour, water, sugar, salt, egg white and butter. I mixed the ingredients together into a sticky dough, and then turned it out onto a floured surface, where I kneaded it for 5 minutes. The dough was smooth, soft and stretchy. I inhaled  the bread-like aroma. I cut the dough into 10 portions, and covered them with a damp paper towel. I picked up one of the balls and patted it into a disc, and then began rolling it. I tossed it around and rolled it until it was as thin as a tissue. I carefully lifted the dough onto the baking sheet, brushed it with egg white and sprinkled seasoning on top. I used Tuscan Seasoning, a recipe from my book, “Discover Cooking with Lavender.” Other seasoning options include: Herbes de Provence, basil, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, caraway seeds, cayenne pepper, garlic salt, cumin or sea salt. I slid the baking sheet into the hot oven and felt a connection with ancient times.

Soon the aroma wafting from the oven and filling my kitchen awakened my appetite. I peeked into the oven; the lavash was golden with tiny dimples and puffy bubbles looking like a sun-drenched moonscape. I removed the lavash from the oven, letting  it  cool on a rack. I broke off a piece and put it in my mouth. It tasted warm, rustic and comforting; I tasted the fresh herbal flavor of the lavender and pungent tones of onion and garlic. In my refrigerator, I found sun-dried tomato goat cheese to spread on the lavash.

Lavash - Hot out of the Oven

 I was savoring every moment of this private tasting experience, when I glance over to the kitchen counter and saw that I still had lots of lavash to bake. The recipe makes enough for a crowd, and it was not surprising to discover home-baked lavash surpasses the store-bought version in every way – better flavor, less cost, healthier and more seasoning choice.

 Lavash, not only simple, cheap and filling, gives the creative cook a blank canvas  to showcase aromatic herbs, nuts, seeds, spice and artisan salts to create a flavor masterpiece. I’d recommend serving it with humus, olives, feta and other soft cheeses or salsa. Extremely versatile, lavash can be served as a pizza crust, wrap, dessert cookie or cracker or even an eating utensil to scoop up stew, kabobs or as a plate for rice, beans or vegetables.

So to my friend Mike, I can now report, “Yes and yes: I’ve made lavash, seasoned it with lavender and the entire experience was sensational. Thanks for asking!”    

Lots of Lavash!

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Tuscan Seasoning                                    

Mix this seasoning with butter or olive oil and spread on a fresh baguette

for delicious lavender garlic bread.

 ½ cup roasted lavender (place culinary lavender buds in hot, dry skillet for about 1 minute, stir until buds are slightly toasted)

¼ cup dried onion flakes

¼ cup dried minced garlic

1 tablespoon salt

 Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Process for 10 seconds or until all ingredients are well blended.

  1.  Store seasoning in an airtight container.

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p.s. As I was completing this post, I discovered two other lavash products on the market:

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