Sunday, February 12, 2012

Lavender Hearts for Your Valentine

When I was fifteen years old, I made these cookies for my high school sweetheart. They weren't vegan then, and neither was I, but clearly I was willing to experiment a lot with my food. I mean, how many fifteen year-olds are willing to try making a cookie with dried lavender in it? 

Lavender just seems like such a bizarre ingredient, don't you think? Well, these are some very unique cookies, to be sure. But they are so sweet and flaky and are perfect for February, because the smell and taste of the flowers really touches that little part of your soul that is retaining hope that spring is just around the corner. I would say these cookies begin the transition from the heavy and dark baked goods of winter, you know, pumpkin bread and ginger cookies, the type of foods that remind you of golden leaves and heaps of snow on the ground and that make you feel warm inside. These cookies make me think of little green buds on the tips of tree branches and daffodils and tulips peeking up through cracks in the concrete. Just like a big orange slab of spiced pumpkin bread can send you into hibernation under a mountain of blankets next to a big fireplace, these cookies wake you up out of your hibernation so that you can sit in that warm pocket of air just behind every sunny window and watch the water drip off of the icicles on the other side of the pane.

Ok. Enough imagery. I made these cookies for my sweetheart, every year, until we graduated highschool, and I remember making them several years in college too. I don't remember where I found the original recipe, but I used to keep a little notebook where I wrote down all of my favorite recipes. These cookies are in that notebook next to my other old favorites, such as the Guadalajara Burger, Beef Bulgogi (Korean BBQ), Om Rice with pork, my veggie chile recipe, too many recipes with shrimp, and one loner recipe for marinated tofu with bok choy. I clearly was willing to try anything at that time in my life- not only things with the name Bulgogi, but anything vegan or vegetarian (despite the fact that at this point in my life I scorned vegetarians and especially vegans). So, yes, I was eating tofu long before becoming a vegetarian, albeit alone, because my sweetheart used to have a soy allergy. Its actually really good stuff if you are just willing to have an open mind about it! But anyways...

I was looking through this notebook a few weeks ago, and came across this recipe again. Now that I've married my high school sweetheart, I figure, what better time to bring back these sentimental cookies than our tenth Valentine's Day together? There was only one thing standing in my way. This recipe isn't vegan. Luckily though, since it's a shortbread cookie with no egg, veganizing these cookies was a piece of cake! They came out exactly the way I remember them. All I had to do was sub in some Earth Balance Vegan Buttery sticks, which by the way, taste more like butter than butter itself. 

As far as the lavender goes, you need to try and find culinary lavender. I'm not positive, but if it doesn't say culinary on it, it might have things added to it that are not really intended for humans to eat. It can be difficult to find. After thoroughly searching the herbs and spices at Whole Foods, I couldn't find it. I asked someone for help and after he was gone for about 10 minutes, returned with a bottle of culinary lavender, but I have no idea where in the store it came from! If you can't find it right away just ask for help. 
Lavender Hearts
1/2 cup Earth Balance Vegan Buttery sticks
1/4 cup sugar + extra for dusting
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon dried lavender
1/4 cup water

Cream the margarine and sugar together until fluffy (this is what will make the finished cookies have lots of flaky layers so don't skip!).

Stir in flour, salt, and lavender and mix until thoroughly combined. If you cannot form a coherent ball of dough, add water one tablespoon at a time, and combine (I only needed 2 tablespoons of water before mine formed a dough ball). 

Form dough into a disc and refrigerate for 15 minutes

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Roll dough until about 3/8 inch thick and use a little heart shaped cookie cutter to cut out as many hearts as you can.  Place on a greased cookie sheet and sprinkle with extra sugar, pressing the sugar gently into each cookie. 

Bake for 8 minutes, or until the edges turn a golden brown. 


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