Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Cookie Testing: Using Naturally Occurring Sprinkles

Come May, my schedule lightens up, so I like to try different recipes that I've been hoarding all year, or maybe a couple of years. This one, for Lavender Shortbread with Flowers, Fruits, and Herbs from Bon Appetit, had been tempting me since 2014 in fact, but since it called for "edible flowers" as one of the ingredients, I didn't think I'd be making it any time soon.

But the other week, I was wandering through World Market and I stumbled upon edible rose petals, lavender, and dried orange peel. It was time to act.

The dough is a standard buttery shortbread, but with a couple of differences: the addition of rice flour and a bit of lavender as a spice. I'm not sure what the rice flour does, but the lavender gives a nice background note without being overpowering.

You make the dough ahead of time, flatten it, and then chill, at least two hours, but you could also freeze and save for a while. When you're ready, roll it out and cut into wreath shapes. The recipe said this makes 20 cookies, but I got about 30 and used a fairly large cutter. In fact, next time, I'm going to cut them smaller.

I should have read the recipe carefully, because you have to make the glaze BEFORE making the cookies, 24 hours ahead in fact. However, I didn't bother, just made mine and used it immediately and it was fine. The cookies also froze well, once decorated.

I went to town, doing different color and flavor combos. For green decorations, I went with pumpkin seeds and chopped pistachios. For yellow, candied ginger plus dried crumbled orange peel. For blue/purple, I did lavender, plus freeze dried blueberries, which when crumbled make the loveliest reddish-purple powder. And for red, I went with the rose petals, chopped raisins, and a few dots of candy-coated fennel.

They were all delicious. I suspect rose and lavender might not appeal to everyone, but I love the unexpected floral note added to the sweet glaze and buttery cookie. I'd like to do these with other combos, including candied lemon peel and maybe candied rosemary too.

Lavender Shortbread Wreaths with Flowers, Fruits, and Herbs
Adapted from Bon Appetit
MAKES 20 SERVINGS (or more depending on your cutter)

Glaze
3 large egg whites*
4 cups powdered sugar
½ teaspoon cream of tartar

Shortbread And Assembly
⅓ cup rice flour
1½ teaspoon kosher salt
2½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more
1 cup (2 sticks) plus 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon coarsely ground dried lavender
Freeze-dried and/or dried fruits, dried edible flowers, fresh and/or dried herbs (for decorating)

*Raw egg is not recommended for the elderly, pregnant women, children under 4, and people with weakened immune systems. You could also use pasteurized egg whites, 3 ounces.

Special Equipment
One 3⅛”-diameter and one 1¼”-diameter fluted cutter


Preparation

1. Make Glaze. Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, stir egg whites, powdered sugar, and cream of tartar in a medium bowl until a thick paste forms with no dry spots. Ideally, glaze should sit at least 12 hours for sugar to fully hydrate, but it can be used as soon as cookies have cooled. Or, you can cover and chill up to 1 week. Bring to room temperature before using.

2. Make Shortbread. Whisk rice flour, salt, and 2½ cups all-purpose flour in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer on medium-high, beat butter, sugar, and lavender in a medium bowl until very pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Mix in dry ingredients on low until fully combined. Wrap in plastic and chill at least 2 hours and up to 2 days.

3. Preheat oven to 350°. Roll out dough between 2 sheets of lightly floured parchment to ⅛” thick. Using large cutter, cut out 16 rounds, rerolling scraps. Using small cutter, punch out centers. Bake on parchment-lined baking sheets until edges are golden, 12–14 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack.

4. Working quickly, dip tops of cookies into glaze, letting excess drip off. Transfer to wire rack and decorate.

DO AHEAD: Store shortbread airtight at room temperature up to 1 week. Decorated cookies can also be frozen, probably up to a month.