Sunday, 22 April 2012

Lavender Welsh Cakes

We are at it again.  Not entirely dessert this time but definitely a snack item.  Welsh cakes are a scone/cake cross, cooked on a griddle.  This recipe was first given to me by a friend from Wales.  We had kids the same ages and whenever we got together we shared stories, played with the kids, and snacked on Welsh cakes.  Perhaps it was the friendship, perhaps it was the ambiance, or perhaps it was just the comfort of tea and cakes; but I will always remember these tasty crumpets with great fondness.  Our version adds lavender.  I have changed the amounts of some ingredients over the years and adopted some things from various recipes I have found.  These kids are third generation Welsh-cakers.

The kids are ready to go.  Everything is laid out.  2 cups AP flour, 1/3 c white sugar, 2 1/4 tsp baking powder, pinch salt, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp mace, 1/2 c butter, 1/3 c fruit (currants is the classic fruit of Welsh cakes but we used raisins because I couldn't find any currants), 1 egg, enough milk to get the pastry to stick together (about 8 Tbsp).

In this recipe we added the lavender in the sugar.  Cam poured the sugar and lavender buds in the chopper.  He also pulsed the chopper while Chloe held the lid on.  Revving up a chopper generates the same kind of enthusiasm as revving up a motorbike.

Chloe added the spices while Cam whisked them into the flour.

Adding the butter was fun.  We grated the butter and let it sit in the freezer so it was very cold, then we added it to the dry ingredients.  Cam washed up thoroughly and proceeded to enjoy the feel of frozen butter.  Chloe mixed it in .

Next came the raisins.

Then the egg and milk.

 One ball for each of them.  Another fun part.  Small boys, however, can find many uses for a ball of dough.  After picking out the raisins, a ball of Welsh cake dough is excellent sculpting material.

Pat it down and roll it out to about 1/4 inch thickness.  At this point I rendered my lecture on how too much handling makes dough tough and then it won't rise.  So Cam proceeded to roll out the scraps to paper thin discs whence they cooked up and rose nicely.  So much for stories your mother tells you.

Time to cut out the Welsh cakes.  You can use any favourite cookie cutter.  Size will not affect cooking time - only thickness.  I used a complimentary wine glass from the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Convention in Niagara Falls in February.  It worked quite nicely.

On to the griddle they go!  I used a griddle where I could control the temperature - 300 degrees F.  I have not had exemplary results on the stove-top.  Burnt Welsh cakes only appeal to Hershey, our chocolate lab.  4 minutes each side gives a nice golden brown.

Dip the warm cakes in sugar on a plate and eat them warm or cold.  This was a definite 2 thumbs up.  1 Tbsp lavender buds will provide a gentle, but noticeable, lavender flavour.  You may want to change this to suite your taste.  Auntie M prefers less lavender.  I found that 1 tsp was not quite enough to taste.  You don't have to dip them in sugar, although I was not able to convince the kids that this was an option.  These would go well with clotted cream and currant preserves.  This recipe  - using the complimentary wine glass as a cutter - made 3 dozen Welsh cakes.  I hope you enjoy them as much as we did.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Lavender Berry Trifle

We're at it again.  This time we were after a special dessert befitting an excellent Easter dinner.  What could be better than Lavender Berry Trifle.  Thanks to Pat from Lavenders of Norfolk who shared this recipe with us.  Pat brought this yummy dessert to a gathering of lavender growers at Bonnnieheath Lavender Farm a few weeks ago.  Thanks Anita for hosting the get-together!  Everyone raved about Pat's trifle.

To fit the requirements for 'everyday cooking with lavender' it has to be simple enough for my grandchildren to put together.  So we're back in grandma's kitchen whipping up (literally) another lavender dish.  This is a layered dessert so there really wasn't much mixing involved - just placing and pouring and spreading.

The kids are ready.  All hands washed food-safety-style ... singing the happy birthday song twice.  The ingredients are laid out:  1 angel food cake from the store;  1 package of frozen blueberries/diced strawberries;  1 package vanilla pudding mix and 2 cups of milk;  2 Tbsp lavender buds chopped;  the juice from draining the berries;  1 cup of whipping cream - whipped;  a little sugar for the whipping cream and the left over candied lavender buds from the last recipe.

The first job was breaking up the cake into (relatively) bite sized pieces.

Next, Owen poured the berry juice over the cake.

Chloe mixed the pudding mix with the milk and we poured it over the cake and berry juice while it was still quite runny.

Then we sprinkled the chopped lavender buds over the pudding layer.

Then the drained berries were spread over the pudding/lavender layer. 

It looked pretty good at this stage but we decided to carry on and add the whipped cream.  It was spread over the berry layer and the kids enjoyed making 'peaks'.

Then they drizzled the candied lavender buds on top.

It went into the fridge until dinner - minus the samples for tasting.

Another 2 thumbs up adventure in everyday cooking with lavender.

Chloe had to take a picture to show her friends at school.  Thanks Pat for making this possible!!!
 Next time we'll move away from dessert and try my absolute favourite - lavender Welsh cakes!  Not cakes at all ---

Friday, 6 April 2012

Chocolate Lavender Tarts

I am excited and cautious at the same time when it comes to cooking with lavender.  I grow this wonderful plant but I have never cooked with it.  So it occurred to me that there must be more people out there who would hesitate to cook with this plant.  There are lots of lavender cookbooks out there - and many lavender recipes on the internet.  So there will be no shortage of ideas.  Where to start?  How do I know this will be a successful culinary adventure?  And then it dawned on me - it is just that - an adventure.  So join me in my bi-weekly blog on cooking with lavender.

We are going to start with lavender chocolate tarts.  This is from a recipe for lavender chocolate pie from this website.

My grandchildren are helping.  We have decided to go with tarts, not pie, because we are making recipes easy enough for the kids to prepare (not to mention easy for grandma).  To make it especially easy, we used frozen tart shells, cooked and cooled.  We ended up with 24 tarts and 2 martini glasses of 'pudding'. 

Here we go!  We set everything out:  2 cups of cream,  2 Tbsp dried lavender buds (Lavendula angustifolia), 8 oz. semisweet chocolate pieces, 1/3 cup sugar.  Extra lavender buds and extra sugar to "candy" buds for decoration.  Everyone is ready.

There are 478 pieces of chocolate in an 8 oz bag.  Fortunately there were more in the bag than we needed, as not all of them made it into the cream.

The lavender in this recipe is added by infusion.  We warmed the cream in the microwave (not letting it boil) and let the lavender buds steep in this for 5 minutes.  Then we strained the buds out of the cream and put the infused cream in a 'bain marie' (water bath) to melt the chocolate. 

We added the chocolate pieces to the warm, lavender-infused cream.

Cam stirred the mixture until the chocolate was thoroughly melted.  Then we let the mixture cool a bit.

After the tart shells were baked and cooled we poured in the lavender chocolate cream.  The tarts went into the fridge for about 4 hours until they thickened enough not to run.

We blanched another 2 Tblsp of lavender buds in boiling water for 30 seconds.  Then we patted them in a paper towel and mixed them into some sugar on a plate.  These wonderful little candied buds were sprinkled on top of the cooled tarts.  There were lots left over and I am keeping them for decoration.

It was a 2 thumbs up adventure all around.

Licking out the bowl was a favorite part of the exercise.

If you try these, I hope you enjoy them as much as we did.  I would definitely make them again!