Scottish castle ruins by the sea, English tea, Russian empresses…given these topics as inspiration, I didn’t have to reach far to decide that tea cakes would be the subject of my recipe creation for June. The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley begs for readers to sit in a comfy chair sipping a hot brew, nibbling a plateful of something fresh from the oven. Add blooming English lavender to the mix and you get Lavender Lemon Tea Biscuits.
They were a cinch to make. I used fresh lavender from my gardens in the recipe, but dried culinary lavender would work just as well. A little egg wash with lavender and lemon sugar sprinkled over each cookie gives them extra sweetness, flavor, and crunch.
Lavender Lemon Tea Biscuits
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. Himalayan pink salt
1 tsp. lemon zest
2 T lavender flowers
10 T butter
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 large eggs
Additional flour for rolling dough
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 T lavender flowers
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine all the dough ingredients in the bowl of a mixer.
Mix at medium speed until they come together to form a dough. Transfer to a floured board. Roll to 1/4 inch thick.
Using a cookie cutter of your choice, cut into shapes.
Place the shapes on ungreased cookie sheets.
Combine sugar, lemon zest, and lavender for topping. Brush each tea biscuit with beaten egg. Sprinkle on a bit of the lavender lemon sugar.
Bake for 10 minutes. Immediately remove to cool on racks.
During my experimentation with this dough, I also made a gluten-free version and it worked well. I used Bob’s Red Mill All-purpose Gluten Free flour to substitute for the regular a.p. flour and reduced the volume of the butter to half.
Yield: app. 4 dozen
I’m as big a fan as anyone of the vague, often times, dark ending to a good novel, but being the old-fashioned girl that I am, who still believes in fairy tale endings, I was so relieved to reach the end of The Precious One and find that it had a neatly wrapped-up, sunny ending. I am just feminist enough to appreciate the fact that it’s popular for heroines in modern women’s fiction stories to save themselves from their own conflicts, and the beautiful characters in this novel do, but with the help of some pretty shiny knights standing beside them. So refreshing.
I had planned to make my own version of the ubiquitous curried chicken salad that De los Santos included in the book, to go along with it, because it made me laugh that everyone in the neighborhood seemed to shop at the same corner specialty food store, and some tried to pass the dishes off as their own, not realizing that the people they served them to would know they hadn’t because they were commonly served on their own dining room tables. I loved that. I just really did. But then lemon ricotta cookies were mentioned at a key point in Taisy and Willow’s story and I decided I just had to have them…in my post and in my belly. When I reached the end, I was so glad that I did because I found it more poignant to turn those cookies into cakes, sweetly shaped and decorated, perfect for a bridal shower.
I used a heart-shaped silicone muffin pan to make my cakes, but a regular cupcake pan or mini bundt pan would also work well. Layered into little petit-four cakes with buttercream in between the stacked cakes would make ideal “eat me” cakes for a tea party. The buttercream decorations just gave them a little more color and interest. Pre-made royal icing flowers that are sold with cake decorating supplies would be a simple, fun substitute to piped accents. It should be noted that the poured fondant takes several hours to harden over the moist cakes, so they should be made a day or two in advance.
Lemon Ricotta Cakes
1/2 cup salted butter
2 c. raw sugar
12 oz. ricotta cheese
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
The juice and zest of 2 medium lemons
2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. pink Himalayan salt
Lemon Poured Fondant:
1/2 c. corn syrup
8 T melted butter
2 tsp. pure lemon extract
8 c. confectioner’s sugar
4 drops yellow food color
4 T water
1/4 c. butter
2 c. confectioner’s sugar
Pinch of salt
2 T whole milk or water, more or less as needed
Heat oven to 325 degrees F.
Grease and flour pans, unless using silicone.
Make the cakes by first creaming the butter with a mixer. Add the sugar and cream together. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, the vanilla, lemon zest and juice. Whip in the ricotta. Sift together the dry ingredients. Fold into the wet ingredients until just moistened.
Spoon into pan to fill sections 2/3 full.
Bake approximately 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool ten minutes in pan resting on a cooling rack. Invert to rack and cool completely.
To make the poured fondant, combine the melted butter with the corn syrup. Stir in the color, flavor, and confectioner’s sugar. Beat in the water until the mixture is smooth.
When the cakes are cool, place them on a wire rack and puddle the fondant over each and gently coax it to run down the sides to coat the.
Allow the cakes to dry overnight before adding buttercream decorations.
Yield: 24 cupcake sized cakes
No, this isn’t a political post, it’s a FOOD post, of course…because I’m stress-eating this afternoon, wondering where our country will be tomorrow morning when the votes are in.
I saw Kerrygold Skellig in an ad the other day and thought now why haven’t I seen that in my grocery store?! Then last night, when I ran in to my favorite local shop to grab a couple of things, there it was, perfect for a mid-afternoon Election Day cheese snack. I grabbed a cranberry cheddar and a bag of crackers to go with it. After watching too many hours of election coverage today, I really needed a break and a tasty treat to take my mind off it for a bit.
Skellig was just the thing. It made me think. It made me weigh the differences between it and its sister cheese, Dubliner, which happens to be one of my favorite cheeses. It made me wonder if it was just plain better than Dubliner, or just another option…um…kind of like my choices for the presidency. So much for getting my mind off the voting, but…yum!
Skellig isn’t sweet like my cranberry cheddar, it’s still on the sharp side, but has a pleasant sweet creaminess that makes it just slightly different than Dubliner. The crystallized enzymes that are present throughout a block of Dubliner are also present in Skellig, I was happy to find.
So vote on, America, while I sit nibbling my red and white and blue (packaged) cheeses. See you on the other side!!