Have a Heart: Lavender Shortbread Valentines

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Whether you’re celebrating with a valentine, galentine, or your pretty self on this most illustrious of Hallmark occasions, everybody deserves a heart today! I realized that I didn’t make anything ultra-chocolaty this year, which frankly is an egregious oversight on my part, as a person who would frolic in a river of chocolate if it were socially acceptable. However, I’ve had my eye on this recipe from Craftsman and Wolves for a couple of years, so I’ll just have to double up on chocolate in March. 😉 These Lavender Shortbread Valentines are my first foray into the world of lavender, at which I would usually recoil in horror. But wait… this is different. Craftsman and Wolves is one of San Francisco’s most outstanding and innovative bakeries, known for Chef William Werner‘s creativity with ingredients and his stunning works of pastry art. They make lavender shortbread wreaths at Christmastime, topped with house-dried flowers, herbs, and fruits, and I thought these would be beautiful as hearts for Valentine’s Day!

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I was overjoyed with these cookies. They are perfectly crisp, buttery, and delicately flavored, and the dough is super easy to make. I decided to top them with chopped pistachios, crushed freeze-dried raspberries and blueberries, and various sugars. I was amazed at how the topping flavors affected the potency of the lavender. Tasting the shortbread plain, the lavender is present, but pleasingly subtle; the cookies topped with crushed fruit were dominated by the fruit flavor, whereas those that I sprinkled with lemon sugar were quite strong in lavender flavor! My favorite was honestly the most benign topping, raspberry sugar. It allowed the natural lavender flavor to shine without being too strong. Feel free to experiment with the toppings of your choice, and really, you can make these in any shape for any celebratory occasion.

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A few recipe notes:

  • The lavender gets added to the wet ingredients, not the dry, because lavender infuses better in fat and perfumes the butter. The dough had the perfect amount of lavender– you can taste it, but it doesn’t taste like soap!
  • I crushed the lavender buds with a mortar and pestle, though I suppose you can use a small food processor if you want to grind a larger amount and store it.
  • The dough is very sticky when rolling out; the recipe instructions say to roll it out between sheets of parchment, but I just made sure my board and rolling pin were floured well enough to prevent sticking. It’s also helpful to move the piece of dough around a few times while you’re rolling it out.
  • When making the icing, it’s helpful to sift the confectioners’ sugar, but not necessary. I first whisked together the sugar and cream of tartar to mix them and break up lumps.

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Lavender Shortbread Valentines
Adapted from Craftsman and Wolves & Bon Appétit Magazine
Yields about 30-35 cookies

For the glaze:

  • 4 cups (1 pound) powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 3 large egg whites

For the shortbread dough:

  • 2½ cups (300g) all-purpose flour, plus more
  • ⅓ cup (53g) rice flour
  • 1½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 22 tablespoons (2¾ sticks/310g/11 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground dried lavender

For decoration:

  • As desired: Chopped or crushed freeze-dried and/or dried fruits, dried edible flowers, fresh and/or dried herbs, flavored sugars

To make the glaze:
Whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and cream of tartar in a medium bowl. Add the egg whites and whisk until a thick paste forms with no dry spots; cover the bowl with plastic wrap. The glaze can be used right away if needed, but it’s best to allow it to sit for at least 12 hours so that the sugar can fully hydrate. It can also be covered and chilled for up to 1 week in the fridge. Bring the glaze to room temperature before using.

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To make the shortbread dough:
Whisk the all-purpose and rice flours with the salt in a medium bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or using an electric mixer) on medium-high speed, beat the butter, sugar, and crushed lavender until the mixture is very pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Add the flour mixture and beat on the lowest speed just until the dry ingredients are fully blended. Make sure to scrape down the bowl and incorporate all the flour crumbs at the bottom of the bowl; mix for a few extra seconds if needed. Divide the dough into 4 pieces, shape them into disks, wrap each in plastic, and chill at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.

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When ready to cut and bake the cookies, preheat an oven to 350°F. Line 2 rimless cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Retrieve 1 piece of dough from the fridge and roll it out to a thickness of ⅛” on a lightly floured work surface. (Alternatively, roll out the dough between 2 sheets of lightly floured parchment.) Move the dough around as needed in order to keep it from sticking. Use a 2- to 3-inch heart-shaped cookie cutter (or whatever your desired size is) to cut out as many hearts as possible, cutting them close together, and then re-roll the scraps. Transfer the hearts to one of the prepared baking sheets and put it in the freezer for 10 minutes to firm up the dough. (I have to use a quarter-sheet pan for this step because my freezer is too skinny to fit a cookie sheet– it’s okay to space them closely here, but spread them out more for baking.) Bake the cookies until the edges are golden, 12–14 minutes. Set the pan on a wire cooling rack for 5-10 minutes, then cool the cookies completely directly on the rack.

Repeat the rolling, cutting, and baking with the other 3 pieces of dough in the fridge.

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To decorate the cookies:
Place a wire rack over a sheet of parchment paper. Whisk the room temperature glaze to loosen it.

Holding a cookie by the edges, dip the flat top into the glaze, letting the excess drip off. Coax the glaze to cover the top of the cookie evenly without dripping over the sides. Alternatively, drizzle the glaze onto the cookie with a spoon. Transfer the cookie to a wire rack and sprinkle on the desired toppings before the glaze starts to dry. Repeat with all the cookies and allow them to dry in a single layer overnight, or until the glaze has solidified.

Store the shortbread in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

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© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2017.

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