Monday, February 13, 2012

Lavender Tea Cakes {{and a giveaway}}

First- If you aren't a fan of lavender, don't let the title of this post turn you away! This recipe has a non-lavender option! And? This recipe is beyond easy to make!

Second- thanks everyone who filled out the survey and let me know what sort of recipes you are looking for! The results were all across the board, so I think I'll be trying to rotate between basic-but-delicious standards and some more unique stuff. And, the cupcakes are coming, I promise! I have an event coming up where I'll be making some unique flavors, but I promise my standard recipes are on there way, as well!

Now.....onto the Tea Cakes.........

Last year, I discovered the addicting craft of making my own extracts. I made a number of different kinds, including two kinds of vanilla and lavender. It become kind of an obsession for about six months. Conveniently, six months is about how long it takes to make a good Vanilla, so, it all worked out. If you are interested in this process at all, leave a comment and let me know! I can do an extract post!

I got the idea for the lavender extract from the fantastic pastry chef / milliner, Amanda (AKA Chef Bizzaro). She has a good post on making lavender extract, which also happens to contain a delicious recipe. She also has a fun etsy shop, for the record!

Making extracts was awesome, but then I suddenly had to decide what to DO with all of them; lavender extract isn't exactly an every day item. My favorite thing I've come up with so far are lavender tea cakes. I used my grandmother's Russian Tea Cake recipe and replaced the vanilla with lavender. TA-DA! Magic! Delicious lavender magic!! I've been making these for baby showers and girly events ever since. (That being said-- men love them, too, they just don't like to admit if lavender is somehow not macho? Dunno. But, you'll totally catch your son/boyfriend/husband/best friend/man in your life with powdered sugar on his face if you make these.)

If you are not excited by the lavender, you can just use vanilla and these are a delicious, classic Russian Tea Cake. This recipe makes a lot of cookies, so it's a great one for parties, holidays, or for stocking your freezer.

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here)
Lavender Tea Cakes (Yield - 5 dozen) (Both dough and cookies are freezable)
2 cups soft butter
1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar (plus extra for rolling)
2 teaspoons lavender extract OR vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups finely chopped nuts (I use walnuts)

Step #1 - Preheat the over to 400* F.

Step #2 -In a large bowl, mix together the butter, confectioners' sugar and lavender exact OR vanilla extract. You can do this with or without a mixer. I usually do it by hand. Just make sure you mix it thoroughly. Also, don't cheat on the sifting of the sugar; trying to work out lumps while mixing is a pain. The sifting makes blending the sugar way easier. Once mixed together, it will look like a big glob of soft butter.

 Note: If you are using lavender, don't over pour your teaspoons; too much lavender makes things taste soapy.If you are using vanilla, over pour all you want, it will be delicious! If you want lavender but don't have extract, you can add a tablespoon of finely chopped lavender flowers. Make sure you chop them as finely as possible- the flavor in lavender comes from the oils in the flowers, which are only released if you shop or squish them. I recommend squishing them with the back of a spoon and then chopping. I will admit I'm not as big a fan of this method, as I don't love eating the lavender flowers (even though they are totally edible).

Step #3 - In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and salt. Also, make sure nuts are chopped in to very small pieces. Either run them through a nut chopper or chop them with a knife.

Step #4 - Slowly add the flour mixture and the nuts into the butter/sugar mixture until well incorporated. If you feel like living dangerously, you can sift the flour and the salt right into the bowl with the butter/sugar mixture. If you do this, make very very certain that you mix the salt in with the flour as you sift it in. This will prevent clumps of salt from forming in the cookies. It takes several minutes of sturdy mixing to get the flour incorporated into the butter mixture; make sure you work it together evenly and do not leave any lumps of butter. The dough will be thick, almost the consistency of soft play dough, by the time you are done.

Step #4 - Chill dough for at least 1 hour. You want to chill the dough so that you can easily roll it into balls without it sticking to your hands. If you chill the dough for more than a few hours, you may need to let it sit out to soften before you use it.

Step #5 - Roll dough into balls and bake for 10-12 minutes. Roll the dough into one inch balls and place them on a baking sheet that is either greased or lined with parchment. You'll want to place the balls an inch or so apart on the baking sheet. These don't expand too much, so you don't have to worry about giving them a vast amount of space. You want to bake these until they are just set/firm, not brown. If they brown in the over, they will be hard as rocks when they cool. Set = they hold their shape, they don't appear doughy, and they start to get tiny cracks in the surface.

Here is how a 'set' cookie looks when it come out of the oven. Firm, not brown, and with tiny little cracks.

Step #6 - Cool cookies and roll them in powdered sugar. Once the cookies cool completely, roll them in powdered sugar.

Step #7 - EAT!!!!! (or freeze)These cookies freeze really well. You can freeze them either before or after you roll them in sugar. If I'm making these ahead of time for an event, I usually freeze them without sugar and then thaw them and roll them right before I go so they look nice and fresh. My grandma has always frozen them after they were already rolled and they come out great that way, too! For instructions on to freeze the cookies and/or the dough, check out the instructions on the bottom of this post.

I like mine with a cup of Harney & Son's Paris tea. But you can eat yours however you like!

But wait....there's a giveaway!!

To help one of your make some fantastic tea cakes, I'm giving away one 4oz. bottle of my very own, homemade lavender extract to one lucky reader.


You can enter three ways. Leave a separate comment for each entry. (Don't forget to leave an email where I can contact you!)

1) Follow this blog and leave a comment saying you follow. Feel free to also entertain me in your comment, and/or let me know what sort of recipes interest you. (Mandatory)

2) Tweet about this giveaway and leave a link to your tweet.

3) Pin this on pinterest and leave a link to your pin. You can use the 'pin it' button at the bottom of this post to make things nice and easy!

Entries open until midnight Chicago time on Saturday, February 18. I will choose a winner at random on Sunday, February 19.

Open to USA addresses only. (Sorry, there are all kinds of rules about liquids over borders.)
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  1. Of course I follow! Any recipes with chocolate interest me, or really easy ones because I'm not the greatest cook. :-)

  2. I pinned it. . .but I have no idea how to show I did.

    It's on this board

    Totally got repinned the second I posted it too. :-)

  3. I was excited to see the cookies, but the homemade extract?! OMFG! Please post about that! Pretty please!

    I totally pinned you and I follow you my reader. :)

    Tweeting now...

  4. Oh my! I love lavender anything...and for the first time in months, I'm sad that I live in Canada. Can you do a post about making extracts because that would be awesome. I think I figured out what sweet treat I'll be making for Valentine's Day!!!

    As far as what kind of recipes I love to read about, unique ones like this that blow the socks off of normal run of the mill recipes. :)

  5. I follow your blog.
    I am interested in recipes which involve booze.

  6. these look amazing, Julie!! I have always been a little afraid of lavender, but maybe it's time I broaden my horizons! I love baking and I LOVE your new blog!

  7. OMG these sound amazing. I had no idea lavender flowers were edible. Hmmm - am to lazy to make my own extract and to far away to enter your giveaway... wonder if Tesco's would have any!

  8. Oh man, I want that extract! Yum! I quite happily follow your blog :)

  9. Those sound great! I must try baking with lavender. :)

  10. I just signed up to follow your blog via email!! I'd love to win this!