Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmas goodies: Lavender Shortbread

Mmm, it's the time of year when the baking begins. My grandmother used to begin her Christmas baking sometime around Thanksgiving, and on Christmas Eve, here came Grandma with a mountain of tins, jars, and boxes of cookies, fudge, divinity, candied nuts, kolace (Czech sweet buns with fruit topping -- Grandma's parents immigrated from Bohemia), pumpkin pie, mince pie, hard sauce, Christmas bread, and all the glories of holiday goodness. My brothers and I ate our way through Christmas vacation with Tom and Jerrys (sweet batter, hot water, rum and brandy -- only a dab of the booze for flavor for us kids) to wash it down. Sometimes leftovers went in the freezer -- if there were any leftovers with three kids in the house and relatives coming to visit.

I can't say I've kept up with Grandma's output, but I do make at least three or four different cookies, some Christmas bread, and pumpkin pie. Some of the cookies are traditional, some I've added over the years, and while I don't strive to do all the traditional cookies ever years, I do make sure I do one or two.

The pie plate in the picture above holds traditional Scottish shortbread -- my father's father's family came from Scotland -- with my own touch from the garden: a hint of lavender. It's easy, delicious, and really truly, the calories don't count when it's a holiday. Or so I tell myself. Be sure to use real butter, or at least one of those butter-margarine blends, because it really does make a difference in flavor. So does the real vanilla.

Lavender shortbread
1/2 cup butter (room temperature)
1 cup unbleached flour
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon dried lavender blossoms

Grind the lavender blossoms in a mini food processor or in a mortar and pestle. Mix with the flour. Add the sugar and mix well. Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour until it forms fine crumbs. Sprinkle on the vanilla and blend in with the pastry cutter. Press into the bottom of a 9 inch pie plate or cake pan (or a shortbread mold if you have one). Bake at 325 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Cut into 16 equal wedges while still warm. Leave in the pan to cool, and remove when it is completely cool.

Now doesn't that look delicious?

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