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Cooking with Myra: Lavender adds flavor to shortbread

July 26, 2010 at 2:26 a.m.
Updated July 27, 2010 at 2:27 a.m.

Lavender Shortbread

Lavender Shortbread8 oz. unsalted butter, 2 sticks set out at room temperature for at least 15 minutes

5 tsp. fresh lavender buds or 3 tsp. dried

1/2 cup sugar, plus 4 Tbsp.

2 cups all purpose flour

Lavender sugar:Place lavender buds in the food processor with sugar and process until fine. Set aside.

Shortbread:Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place butter and 1/2 cup of sugar in a mixing bowl and beat on low speed until the mixture is smooth and there are no lumps. Do not beat until fluffy. Add all flour and mix until the dough comes together.

Remove the dough and knead for a few minutes until smooth. Turn dough out onto a lightly-floured surface. Form into a smooth rectangle with no cracks. Using a rolling pin dusted with flour, roll into a 9x12-inch rectangle, about 1/4-inch thick.* Using a knife, cut into bars of about 2x3 inches. Using a metal spatula, place gently on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.

Be sure to leave at least 1/2 inch between cookies. Bake for about 25-30 minutes. Watch closely after about 25 minutes. The color on the bottom of the cookie should be slightly tan or just darker than the top.

Resist the urge to increase the temperature of the oven. The cookies will still be soft when removed and have very little color change except on the bottom. Gently lift the cookie with a spatula to check. When the cookies are ready, remove from the oven and dust the tops with more of the lavender sugar. Allow them to cool completely, as they will harden after they cool. Stack in an airtight container for up to one week.

The lavender sugar can be used in tea or other recipes.

Enjoy.

*If you have trouble with the dough sticking, you can roll between two sheets of parchment or lightly dust with flour again.

LAVENDER LEMONADE 5 cups water

11/2 cups sugar

12 stems of fresh lavender

21/4 cups lemon juice

Boil 21/2 cups of water with the sugar.

Add lavender stems and remove from heat.

Cover with lid and let cool.

When cool, add 21/2 cups of water and lemon juice.

Strain out the lavender.

Serve with crushed ice and garnish with lavender blossoms.

Serves 8.

By Myra Starkey

I walked with friends along a beach on Puget Sound near Seattle. It was early July and the daytime temperatures were still in the 70s.

There is an interesting sound that waves make as they travel across smooth stones on a rocky seashore.

The waves rush in and then return to the sea. This force stirs the rocks up the incline then they fall back toward the sea, all the while making a clacking noise like thousands of pool balls moving in harmony amidst the sound of rushing water.

These stones of speckled granite have been tumbled round or oblong over time. I walked along the shore and tried to look beyond the fog, which rested above the water.

In the distance, a lighthouse could be seen. Higher up on the beach, large trees lay on their sides, giant driftwood of a forest long ago. The trees probably fell into the water and then washed ashore during a storm.

I began to fill my pockets with these stones that had the appearance of speckled eggs. I wore cargo shorts with several pockets on each side. I began to clack as I walked. I had amassed quite a collection before Laura caught up with me.

Laura is a friend of mine who also likes to collect things. She and I have been on several "shelling" trips, and she always seems to find better shells than me, but she had not found as many quality stones as I had.

I spied her three treasures and then showed her mine. "We will have to throw them back," she said.

Apparently she had noticed an official sign at the entrance to this national seashore that stated that none of the gazillion rocks on the shore should be removed. I closed my eyes and enjoyed the sound and then emptied my pockets, well. almost emptied my pockets.

I was visiting Janet's sister, Cheryl, in Seattle. We had driven to the quaint seaside town of Port Gamble for the morning to look at the seashell museum and then were proceeding on to Port Angeles, which is another quaint seaside town.

Our friends, Doug and Laura, from Shiner were with Taylor and me on that day's journey. The guys were to be with us for a couple of days and then would leave for home, while four women friends would stay in the Seattle area for a gal's-only time.

Laura and I were trying to do some "guy" things while they were here. Guys like to hike and look at nature stuff. Girls like to eat ice cream and other sweet snacks.

Guys like to eat, but sometimes hate to see their wives eat lots of junk food and that is why the girls were looking forward to their departure.

Ahead of time, I had scouted out all the places we could eat and several farms to visit. I noticed an ad in the paper for a farm where you could pick raspberries and strawberries.

I had never even seen raspberries growing before, so I put that stop on my agenda and directed Doug to the farm. We drove up to the place and parked alongside several other cars. We bought a bucket and quickly proceeded out to the fields.

The raspberries grew in clusters of vines that were about 6-feet high. They were so delicious and maximally ripe that I began to pop several into my mouth and then drop a few in the bucket.

When a berry has achieved that ultimate time of ripened sweetness, it just calls out to be eaten at that very moment. Laura and I quickly filled the bucket and then started down the strawberry rows.

I have picked a lot of strawberries in my life, but these were probably the most delicious, since they had ripened on the vine. When the bucket was overflowing, we called out to the guys, and I made my way back to the shed to have my bounty weighed.

Our next stop was Sequim, where in just a week they would have their annual lavender festival.

The fields were dotted with rows of deep purple. We visited Jardin du Soleil Lavender farm and walked along the rows of fragrant lavender.

I bought a bouquet of dried lavender, since we were not able to pick from the fields until the next week.

Our last activity of the day was a long drive up into the nearby mountains of the Olympic National Forest. We found a great place to hike along a mountain trail, through grassy meadows with spectacular, distant views.

It was great summer day for us because we started out walking along the beach and finished our day in the mountains surrounded by meadows and patches of snow.

I came home with a bundle of lavender and have prepared several recipes of shortbread. I think the following one is delicious.

Lavender is usually appreciated for its aromatic scent, but can also be used as an ingredient in cooking. I am still working on the lavender ice cream, I may have to return to the region just to get another serving to be sure I can repeat the frozen dessert.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or e-mail myra@vicad.com.

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