Friday, July 23, 2010

Lavender Manifesto

If you haven't already checked out the blog Sociologists Eat Chocolate, written by the mysterious and thoughtful Blackcurrent Productions, please go now. I'll wait ...

Isn't it great? I love all the different types of chocolate that are showcased and all the quirky and sometimes random comments from the tasters. I especially like the "Manifesto" -- the most interesting, funny or thought-provoking comment. It's brilliant and I wish that I were one of the tasters -- especially when the theme of Chocolate and Lavender came about. Lavender? I've never cooked with lavender before, though I know it's sometimes added as one of the herbs in the popular herbes de Provence mix. The thought intrigued me; I could almost taste it. Dare I try? When my little, non-nonchalant comment about making cookies with lavender got a response that suggested shortbread, my mind was made up. But I wasn't just going to make lavender shortbread. I was going to make different kinds, and have tasters judge each one, in a little tribute to my elusive inspiration.

I began with a little research -- a study on shortbread. Others have done it. And I found out that people put all sorts of things into shortbread -- not just lavender. Rosemary and honey were among the ones that definitely intrigued me. And of course, there's chocolate. And lemon mixed with lavender.. how can I resist my favourite citrus? In the end, I came up with four combinations:

1) honey and lavender
2) honey, lavender and lemon
3) chocolate/cocoa and lavender
4) chocolate/cocoa,rosemary and orange orange -- to mimick Organicfair's Provence chocolate featured her in the the Lavender Chocolate tasting.

I used a combination of fresh lavender (sneakily snipped from my parents' neighbour's garden .. thanks Jacquie!) and dried, a summer blossom honey, and high quality fair trade Camino cocoa powder. Here's what the tasters had to say:

Honey and Lavender

1. It’s delicious (turns away shyly). I can very much taste the lavender, but it’s not to say that’s too much lavender.
2. There is it ..nice and floral, but something is missing ...
3. I think I can taste honey more than lavender – it’s a good cookie, but .. (has sinus problems) I don’t know if this is affecting my taste buds or not.

Honey, Lavender and Lemon

1. My body feels tingly when I eat it. Very light lavender – good balance with the lemon.
2. I get the lavender hit first .. and then comes the lemon, barely sour tang. Crisp, not a tender shortbread texture, but still buttery and rich.
3. Ok I’m getting little hints of citrusy but again, I don’t taste the lavender.

Chocolate and Lavender

1. Wow, it’s really like pooof! Lavender! The first thing I taste is lavender, right in my cheeks and then the chocolate starts melting in my mouth.
2. Rich chocolate and delicate flowers ... I get a real lavender hit on this one.
3. Ok I get some now (lavender!).

Chocolate, Lavender, Orange, Rosemary

1. First it’s the rosemary, and then it instantly blends with the chocolate, and then when I swallow it, I get the orange. The lavender.. it’s not lost, but the first thing I taste is the rosemary.
2. It’s orange and chocolate first and foremost – and then little hints of rosemary here and little hints of lavender there.
3. Ohhh.. crumblier, softer, melting in my mouth. I like the cocoa chocolate taste – to me it just tastes like chocolate shortbread. The only time I taste the citrus is when I get little bits of the peel, little sparkles of citrus that surprise the tongue amidst the sea of cocoa. I didn’t even taste the rosemary.

So I learned a few things. First, the lavender taste and scent is much stronger when you taste the cookie right from the oven (taster 3 tasted the cookies after they had cooled for a few hours .. she also had sinus issues but we won't go there). Confectioners sugar results in a crisper, tighter cookie -- the crumblier, tender texture was preferred. The lavender almost needs something to go along with it -- chocolate, lemon .. --it's the floral hit that needs something to balance it out. And ... I love playing with lavender! There will be more to come -- I'm going to going to modify the lemon and lavender one (which seemed to be the favourite) and see what the tasters think of that. In the mean time, I'll leave you with the recipe sources and ...

Today's manifesto:
I can tell there’s something different but I don’t know that it’s necessarily lavender which is a good thing because I think then it would just taste like potpourri and I’m not into tasting potpourri. (gigglejuice is not only a critical criminology sociologist --I hope I got that one right! -- but is also known to keep large bars of chocolate by her desk during exam time AND likes to cook and bake!)

Honey and Lavender Shortbread Honey, Lavender and Lemon Shortbread

I was nudged in the right direction by this post from tara at Sevenspoons, who made a honeyed-rosemary shortbread based on this original recipe from Epicurious. I just substituted the lavender for the rosemary and followed the recipe exactly. The idea to add lemon came from this post at Jules Food. I did exactly what was suggested: added the zest of one lemon and a little squeeze of the juice.

Chocolate and Lavender Shortbread Chocolate, Rosemary, Lavender and Orange Shortbread

The original recipe for chocolate shortbread came from this post at Epicurious. I just added a tablespoon of lavender. The flavour combination of chocolate, rosemary, lavender and orange was, as mentioned, inspired by one of Blackcurrent's chocolates: Organicfair's Provence. For this, in addition to the tablespoon of lavender, I added a teaspoon of finely chopped rosemary, and 2 teaspoons of orange zest.


  1. I remember trying lavendar shortbread at this bakery I used to work at; it tasted so interesting! I can't quite work out if I loved it, but I was so in love with the idea of it.

    And it looks like you baked those shortbreads to perfection; I am a chronic over-baker myself so I'm envious!

    Hey, did you have a favourite flavour?

  2. thanks Monika! Yup, I think my favourite was the lemon-lavender. You should totally try it -- it's a taste that's fragrant, floral and very delicate