I first learned to bake at the elbow of my mother, hovering while she crafted high, smooth loaves of bread for our family. She gave me little gobs of yeasty dough to knead and shape with my fumble fingered three-year old hands. I slapped and threw and beat my dough with gusto, determined to get out the undesirable large bubbles, so my little loaves would not have any offensively empty pockets when sliced open, hot from the oven. Once all the loaves were lined up in the oven – hers in traditional large metal pans, stained dark from use, and mine in opaque yellow glass mini pans – she’d send me to the living room to nap on the couch. Later I’d awake to the magical smell of baking bread just in time for the timer to ring. I’d race into the kitchen to watch her thump each loaf with a wooden spoon, listening for the hallow sound of baked perfection. Oh I loved how the sharp earthy tang of yeast mixed with warm water and freshly ground flour became the sweet golden aroma of fresh homemade bread. Although my abused loaves always turned out tougher than hers it didn’t matter. We’d slather on butter and honey and giggle together, me sitting on the counter top, her leaning close, our mouths full of delicious baked goodness.
I enjoy baking to this day, and still find sharing my handiwork a way to express affection. Mixing flour and whatever else while the oven warms give me a homey little boost of what can only be called domesticity. I was raised on the belief that cooking and baking were skills integral to being a woman and that excellence in the kitchen was a good way to snag a desirable mate. Although I no longer agree with the first sentiment, I’ve found the second to have a grain of truth.
This morning I found myself craving something I couldn’t find a recipe for, so I made one up and it turned out pretty good! This is a large round shortbread that is cut into wedges after baking, not formed into individual cookies. So here it is, my recipe for buttery, flaky shortbread flavored with lemon, lavender blossoms, and chamomile.
1 c. flour
¼ c. powdered sugar
½ t. salt
½ c. real butter, softened
1 T. lemon juice
1 ½ T. dried lavender blossoms
3 bags chamomile tea
Granulated sugar (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350° F.
- In a bowl, mix flour, powdered sugar, and salt with a fork until well mixed.
- Cut open the chamomile tea bags. If the tea is of a rough texture grind it with a mortar and pestle until fine. Add to the flour mixture
- Add lavender blossoms to the flour mixture and stir well.
- Add the softened butter all at once and mix with a fork until well incorporated.
- Butter the bottom of an 8″ spring form cake pan, or 8″ pie tin, or 8″ round cake pan.
- Press the dough into the pan, spreading it with your fingers.
- Use a fork to prick the dough in a pleasing pattern. I like to prick it into 8 wedge shapes to make cutting easier after baking.
- Sprinkle the top with granulated sugar, if desired.
- Bake 10-15 minutes, or until the edges begin to turn golden.
- Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 3 minutes, then cut into wedges while still warm.
- Serve warm, or allow to cool, you decide!