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~ Pucker-Up Lemon & Lavender Shortbread Hearts ~

PICT3001If you've been following Kitchen Encounters for the past week and a half, you've been reading my favorite "the sun is setting on Summer" seafood recipes.  I just couldn't end this series without posting what I happen to believe to be the PERFECT DESSERT for each and every one of these delicious meals, my:  Pucker-Up Lemon & Lavender Shortbread Hearts!

PICT3040 I am a lover of citrus in general, but I'm downright passionate about lemons.  I like to add fresh lemon juice and zest to all sorts of sweet and savory dishes, condiments, and sauces.  My own lemon-lovin' recipes for sweet treats like, lemon Danish, lemon-almond torte (with warm lemon sauce), lemon-meringue pie, lemon mousse, lemon pound cake and lemon squares can compete with almost anyones.  That being said, I also love a tall glass of fresh-squeezed lemonade after three sets of tennis, I put double lemon in my just-brewed iced tea every morning to start my day, and, I consider sipping on a small glass of ice-cold limoncello one of life's simple pleasures.  These four lemons, posing in front of our tennis court for this picture, insisted upon being featured and used in today's shortbread recipe!

About 16-18 years ago an elderly gentleman and tennis acquaintance's wife shared her family's recipe for Scottish shortbread with me.  Basic shortbread recipes all contain, flour, sugar, salt and butter. Her recipe differed in that a bit of cornstarch was/is added to that mix.  I am not quite sure what the cornstarch scientifically does, but having tried a couple of shortbread recipes that do not contain it, the best I can say is:  shortbread that contains cornstarch is (for lack of better words) more delicate and crumbly!

Over the years, I've used this shortbread recipe as the base for all sorts of wonderful shortbread cookies, adding many tasty ingredients to it like:  dried or candied fruits (dates, ginger, mango, papaya), toasted nuts (almonds, coconut, macadamias, pistachios) as well as various seeds, spices, extracts and oils.  About seven years ago, my wedding-cake baking friend Kim introduced me to citrus oils (lemon, lime and orange).  I was astonished at the concentration of really true citrus flavor they delivered.  These days, high-quality citrus oils are easy to find on the internet, but my favorite source is:  The Baker's Catalogue (The King Arthur Flour Company)!

PICT3023 A bit about culinary lavender: Unless you grow your own (which my husband Joe does), know your source, meaning: don't eat lavender unless it is labeled "food safe" because it might have been treated with harmful pesticides!  

The old adage "a little goes a long way" applies "big time" to lavender. I recommend using one-third the quantity of dried to fresh and in either case, error on the side of less rather than more.  My general rule is:   1 tablespoon of fresh lavender flowers = 1 teaspoon of dried lavender flowers.  Too much lavender in either form is perfumy tasting and downright overpowering.  By tasting just one tiny dried flower you will get my point.  I liken using lavender to another bold herb which is also best used judiciously:  rosemary.   Surprisingly, fresh or dried lavender flowers can be used interchangeably with fresh or dried rosemary leaves in many sweet and savory culinary applications!












2 1/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1/4  cup cornstarch

1/2  teaspoon fine sea salt

8  ounces unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature

1/2  cup sugar

the zest from 4 large lemons 

1  tablespoon dried lavender flowers

2  teaspoons pure lemon oil

1/2  teaspoon pure almond extract

PICT2853 ~ Step 1.  In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch and sea salt.

PICT0937 ~ Step 2. Using a microplane grater, zest the lemons.  

Note:  I take a moment here to squeeze the lemons and refrigerate the juice to have on hand.  It keeps nicely for about a week!

PICT2855 ~ Step 3.  Place the butter in a large mixing bowl.  Using a hand-held electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat until light and fluffy (while constantly scraping the sides of the bowl down with a rubber spatula), about 1-2 minutes.

PICT2919 ~ Step 4. Add the sugar, zest, lavender, oil and extract.

PICT2926~ Step 5.  With mixer on medium speed, beat above mixture until ingredients are thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds.

~ Step 6.  Add the flour/cornstarch mixture.  WIth mixer on low speed, beat until ingredients are just blended and resembling coarse, pea-sized crumbs.  During this process, use the rubber spatula just enough to keep incorporating the flour mixture into the butter mixture.

PICT2927 ~ Step 7.  Using your hand, gather up the crumbs and knead, just until the mixture comes together, about 30 seconds.

~ Step 8.  Position oven rack to the center and preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Line a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan with parchment paper and arrange 18, 2 1/2" heart-shaped cookie cutters over the parchment, or use any shape of 2 1/2"-sized cookie cutters you want to!

PICT2931 ~ Step 9.  Using a 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop as a measure, place a ball of shortbread dough in the center of each heart-shaped mold.

PICT2938 ~ Step 10. Using your index finger, press dough evenly into each mold, to a thickness of about 1/2"... also the ideal thickness for any type of shortbread being baked!

PICT2968 ~ Step 11.  Bake on center rack of preheated oven for 23-25 minutes, or until very lightly brown. Shortbread will have puffed up but will still be slightly soft to the touch. Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan for 4-6 minutes.

~ Step 12.  Gently lift and remove the cookie cutters. If the cutters are still a bit hot, a paper towel works well to protect your fingertips from the heat.  Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely:

PICT2985 Pucker-Up Lemon & Lavender Shortbread Hearts:  Recipe yields 18, 2 1/2" heart-shaped cookies.

Special Equipment List:  whisk; microplane grater; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; 18, 2 1/2" heart-shaped cookie cutters; 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop; cooling rack

PICT2900 Cook's Note:  If you don't have fresh or dried lavender flowers, or if lavender isn't your "cup of tea", PLEASE don't let that stop you from making this shortbread.  Omit the lavender and make Pucker-Up Lemon Shortbread Hearts instead!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)


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Maria! You're compliments are MOST appreciated! My taste-tester husband Joe and assistant Jeanne each had one with coffee/tea this morning... and I must humbly state: they report the cookies to be even better today! You, my friend, are a joy... not to mention an inspiration!!!

Melanie.........your little hearts are beautiful.......they look like they just crumble in your mouth with the very first bite......The aroma and flavors of lemon and lavender is so satisfying and refreshing......a real treat! I will have to make them very soon!!! You are such an imaginative baker and cook......all your recipes sound absolutely wonderful.........
Hugs to you.........

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