We’ve just arrived to the South of France, where Petit Copain is from. I’ve never been here in the month of August and the place is bursting with life. His parents’ gardens are full of beautiful fruits and vegetables. Petit Copain and I are especially lucky as it is also blackberry season and we have been stalking the neighborhood in Cassis searching for wild patches. Another important characteristic of the South of France in summer is the intense mating cries of the cigales, or cicadas. The noise is as thick as the heat.
Next week, we’ll be traveling to the lavender fields near the south of the Alps as well as to Arles and Avignon. I’m very excited that we may catch one of the lavender festivals happening in the area of Sault.
Lavender isn’t usually used in French cooking. Traditionally, it’s more of a medicinal/aromatic plant. You do have lavender honey, though, which is very a very fine prize to have in the summer. It’s all about timing, as French lavender fields are in full bloom around mid-July to late August. This gives bees a short time to exclusively harvest their nectar from the lavender fields. The honey from these fields is quite magical.
Lavender is also a great calming scent for troubled sleepers. I bought a small batch of organic lavender oil from one of the vendors in the Cassis farmer’s market that has helped calm me on frantic nights of restlessness. A drop or two around your pillowcase is very soothing to the senses. Taking a visit to Calm.com won’t hurt either.
Cooking with lavender has been my experiment for the past two years. I’ve perfected my lavender shortbread cake just for you, my dear readers. I hope you enjoy it!
Lavender Shortbread Cake
For the cake:
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup lavender sugar (learn how to make lavender sugar here)
- 1 lemon, zested
- 1/3 of a stick of room temperature, unsalted butter (not melted)
- pinch of salt
- 1 tbsp almond extract
For the icing:
- 2/4 cups powdered sugar
- 2 tsp fresh lavender
- 1 lemon, half zested, half juiced
1. Preheat the oven to 375F / 190C.
2. In a large mixing bowl, put in the flour, lavender sugar (with the bits of lavender), lemon zest, almond extract, salt, and butter. Massage ingredients with your hands until thoroughly combined. Your dough should be slightly crumbly. If the dough is too dry, add a little more butter. Make sure there are no chunks of butter left.
3. Place the dough directly into a medium sized tart pan. Gently flatten the dough to fill the pan evenly. Sprinkle a little more lavender sugar on top without the flowers (pour the sugar through a sieve).
4. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until the cake has reached a pale golden brown. Let cool.
5. In another mixing bowl, add the powdered sugar, lavender, zest, and one to two tbsps of the lemon juice. Mix together until you reach the consistency you desire. Icing should be a semi-opaque white and not too thick. Add more lemon juice a tbsp at a time if the icing is too thick.
6. With a pastry brush, cover the cooled shortbread cake with the icing. Let the cake rest for 20 minutes or until icing has hardened.
And there you have it :) More on lavender and lavender fields in provence later…
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