Something New – A Cuppa and some Biscuits for Easter/Ostara/Eostre/Vernal Equinox

Posted: 30/03/2013 in Cooking Break!
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So I missed the Vernal Equinox.  My birthday is on the 19th, so it always comes right before or right on the equinox, which generally leaves me too busy celebrating myself to remember to celebrate the longer days and the (hopefully) approaching germination of my seedlings.  But this recipe is good for Easter, or indeed for any excuse you might find to enjoy tasty, delicately-flavoured shortbread!

Mmmm shortbread...

On a teeny, tiny plate

The recipe is simple, so simple you could easily make it with kids, and versatile enough that you can vary the ingredients considerably for a whole variety of different flavours.  There are a couple of areas where it can go wrong however, and I’ll try to cover those as I go.

Equinox Shortbread Trio

Makes 24-30 portions

Shortbread is a fairly universal biscuit.  It’s rich, tasty and there are infinite variations of it.  I’ve seen so many recipes, including some incredibly complex ones involving rice flour and cornflour and eggs, but I always say the simplest is the best, and at its core a shortbread only requires four very common ingredient.  Sugar, butter, flour and a little milk.  These shortbread biscuits are a particularly nice way to celebrate the arrival of Spring, with their delicate floral lavender, lemon and earl grey flavours.  The recipe makes three batches using a 6″ cake tin or shortbread mould, with a little left over.  The great thing about these three flavours is they compliment each other beautifully, which means you can create fantastic flavour combinations out of any of them, or even all three at once.

Ingredients – Lavender Shortbread

100g plain flour

65g salted butter

40g lavender sugar sugar

splash of milk

1/2tsp vanilla extract

extra lavender sugar, for dusting

Ingredients – Earl Grey Shortbread

100g plain flour

65g salted butter

40g granulated sugar

splash of milk

1/2tsp vanilla extract

2 earl grey teabags

Ingredients – Lemon Shortbread

100g plain flour

65g salted butter

40g granulated sugar

juice of a lemon

zest of one lemon

1/2tsp vanilla extract

Recipe

Preheat oven to 160 C.

To make the lavender shortbread, blend the butter and lavender sugar together.  Add the flour and blend until crumbs form.  Add the vanilla.  Beat the mixture continuously while adding milk, no more than 1tsp at a time, until the crumbs are just barely moist enough to come together.  If the crumb is too moist, the resulting biscuits will be soft, whereas we want them to have a pleasing, crisp texture.  To test, take a small handful of the crumbs and pinch them together.  If they just stick together to form a dough, the mixture is ready.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface, dust with a little more flour and roll out to about 1/4″ thick.  Grease and line your 6″ cake tin, or just grease your shortbread tin.  Cut a 6″ round out of the dough and place into the tin.  Pierce all over with a fork, and bake until just barely starting to turn golden at the edges.

Remove the tin from the oven and, using a sharp non-serrated knife, score the shortbread round into eight segments by scoring in half, then in quarters, then into eighths.  Slide the round out of the tin and turn right-side-up onto a rack, and sprinkle the top with lavender sugar.  Allow to cool.  If the biscuits are turned out onto a flat surface, the underside may turn soggy as the biscuit cools.  Turning it out onto a rack ensures the underside stays dry and crisp.

To make the earl grey shortbread, do as above, but use granulated sugar, and add the contents of two earl grey teabags at the same time that you add the vanilla.  For the lemon shortbread, omit the milk.  Add the lemon zest with the vanilla, and gradually add the lemon juice a tsp at a time instead of using milk, until the crumb reaches the correct consistency.

Allow biscuits to cool fully before serving, as they tend to still be quite soft straight out of the oven, but will harden as they cool.  Serve with a lovely cup of tea – earl grey if you like, but any good tea will do.  I quite like a cup of something herbal and refreshing with a slice of lemon with mine.

Variations

If you want to combine flavours, note that you can make lavender earl grey shortbread by simply adding the earl grey tea to the lavender recipe.  You can make lavender lemon shortbread by adding lemon zest to the lavender recipe and replacing the milk with lemon juice, and you can make earl grey lemon shortbread by omiting the milk from the earl grey recipe and replacing it with the lemon zest and juice.  You could also make a lemony earl grey shortbread by using the standard earl grey recipe, but adding some dried bergamot flowers to the mixture.  Some earl grey tea blends come with earl grey and bergamot already blended together.

For a particularly pretty presentation, candy some fine slivers of lemon peel and the heads of a few lavender flowers and press these gently into the baked biscuits while they are still cooling, or ice the shortbread with a thin, simple icing and use this to make the candied peel and lavender adhere.  If doing this, do not dust the biscuits with sugar.

You’ll notice that the three flavours each come out of the oven looking a little different, with the earl grey in particular being noticeably darker.  An attractive way to present the shortbread for an Equinox feast would be to cut a crescent-shaped segment out of the uncooked rounds and swap these, leaving the lavender with a crescent of lemon, the earl grey with a crescent of lavender and the lemon with a crescent of earl grey, pressing the edges gently together so that, when cooked, they appear as a single thing.  This could then be lightly scored, or just left whole with pieces snapped off at desired when served.

The recipes used here involve pressing the dough into a mould, but the dough is consistent enough that you could cut festive, seasonal shapes from it using cookie cutters.  Try cutting butterfly, hare, flower and egg shapes and letting kids decorate the cool biscuits with icing and candied edible flowers.

Lavender Sugar

Blueberry Lavender Sugar

Lavender sugar is ridiculously easy to make.  Simply take the heads of a healthy bunch of lavender – make sure the lavender has not been sprayed with pesticides or other chemicals – and a bag of granulated sugar.  For every 100g of sugar, take about a teaspoon of lavender flowers and crumble them up, then mix into the sugar.  Store in glass jars for at least a month before using.

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Comments
  1. […] Something New – A Cuppa and some Biscuits for Easter/Ostara/Eostre/Vernal Equinox (whippedstitches.wordpress.com) […]

  2. […] Something New – A Cuppa and some Biscuits for Easter/Ostara/Eostre/Vernal Equinox (whippedstitches.wordpress.com) […]

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