Baking with Botanicals

Creamy Lemon Tart with Lavender “Sprinkles”

Creamy Lemon Tart with Lavender “Sprinkles”

I’m always looking for new ways to incorporate lavender in cooking which is what compelled me in September to attend a class on botanicals at Old World Levain (OWL) Bakery in Asheville, NC. By definition, a botanical is anything derived from plants. This includes spices and grains. You can add botanical elements to most any recipe and explore seasons, cuisines, and nature. I learned how to make crystallized herbs, a technique that I could not resist adapting to lavender. Check out the recipe, below, for lavender “sprinkles:” I used dried culinary lavender in place of the chopped herbs.

Creamy Lemon Tart with Lavender “Sprinkles”

Creamy Lemon Tart with Lavender “Sprinkles”

Crystallized Herbs

2 tablespoons finely chopped herbs

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 tablespoon water

In a skillet, bring water and sugar to a boil and stir gently until sugar is completely dissolved. Keeping syrup in center of pan, allow to boil until you see very large, glassy bubbles, and white crystals on the side of the pan. When ready, throw in your herbs (or dried lavender buds) and stir vigorously continuously without stopping until your herbs stop generating foam and start to separate. Remove from heat immediately and pour onto a sheet of parchment. Allow to cool, and break up clusters with a rolling pin if necessary.

Lavender Sprinkles

Lavender Sprinkles

Use the lavender sprinkles as a garnish on cakes, pies, and tarts. The flavor of lavender works well with anything lemon such as the tart in the first two photos.. I made using Tartine Bakery’s Lemon Cream recipe with a basic tart pastry. Lavender also works beautifully with chocolate. Last blog of the year and wishing you peace, love, and happiness! Thankfully yours, Alethea

June: Lavender, Cherries, and Summertime

Lavender and Larkspur Bridal Bouquet, June 2018

Lavender and Larkspur Bridal Bouquet, June 2018

Hello, June! Thank you to everyone who came out to the farm to purchase peonies last month. I appreciate all of you! We had a ton of rain in May and it was a chilly spring in general which put a lot of spring blooms behind schedule but the peonies were perfectly timed this year for Mother's Day. The farm received a lovely mention in this month's issue of Winston Salem Monthly magazine. You can read the article here.

Peonies at Hauser Creek Farm, May 2018

Peonies at Hauser Creek Farm, May 2018

Cherries are in! I have not been lucky enough to have my own tree full of cherries (yet!) so I made a trip to Levering Orchard this week and discovered a bumper crop. If you've never been there it's definitely a pleasant adventure - located in Cana, Virginia. The following recipe for Bourbon Infused Sweet Cherry Galette is one of my favorites, and once you get the cherries pitted it's quite easy to throw together. Its especially wonderful served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Make the pastry: Stir together 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon brown sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Add 1 stick butter (cut into cubes) and work together with your fingers until mostly combined. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons cold water, stirring with a fork or rubber spatula, until the dough comes together. Form into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, make the cherry filling: In a saucepan combine 2 cups pitted fresh cherries, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons bourbon, 1 teaspoon lemon zest, 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, and a pinch of salt. Place over medium-high heat and bring just to a simmer, stirring constantly until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and stir in 1 tablespoon butter.

To assemble: Place parchment paper on a baking sheet. Roll out dough on top of parchment paper into a circle about 1/8 inch thick. Spoon cherry filling in the center of dough leaving about 1 inch around edges. Gently fold the edges of dough up. At this point, I like to brush the edges of the pastry with an egg wash but this step is optional. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 and bake until the crust is golden, about 45 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

Bourbon-Infused Sweet Cherry Galette

Bourbon-Infused Sweet Cherry Galette

October: Here's to Fall at Hauser Creek Farm

Field flowers at Hauser Creek Farm

Field flowers at Hauser Creek Farm

Hello, October. Fall is definitely in the air around here and the farm is blooming! If you have a minute, take a look back at my post from May which included a photo similar to the scene above. These flowers were sown in early spring and they peaked around the middle of May. By late July this whole area was invaded with weeds and the flowers spent. I haven't kept good notes this year but I think it was the last week in July when I bush hogged it down, thinking at the time that maybe I might get a second bloom. Sure enough! Only this time around there's sulfur (aka orange) cosmos in the mix which is perfect for autumn. Many of the perky blooms have gone into mason jar centerpieces that I've put together for various functions off-farm. I enjoy simply resting my eyes on this scene when I'm working, and it's been a haven for busy bees and butterflies.

Bucket of fresh-picked flowers at Hauser Creek Farm

Bucket of fresh-picked flowers at Hauser Creek Farm

In keeping with the spirit of autumn, I recently bought a bushel of wine sap apples and have been plowing through them baking all sorts of pies, and this French-themed apple lavender frangipane, which I love! Frangipane is a type of rich pastry cream typically containing ground almonds except in this case I used almond flour. Check out the recipe, below, which I adapted from relishmag.com. If you do not have lavender sugar, no worries. Simply use regular granulated sugar, and vanilla extract can be used in place of lavender extract.

Lavender-infused apple frangipane with fresh borage flowers for garnish

Lavender-infused apple frangipane with fresh borage flowers for garnish

Prepare the crust: Combine 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium-size bowl; cut in 6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter (cut into pieces) with a pastry blender. Add 2 tablespoons ice cold water or just enough to make mixture come together to form a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour. 

Roll out the dough placing the plastic wrap underneath the dough as you roll. Roll dough to fit a 9-inch tart pan. Lift dough using the edges of the plastic wrap as a guide and flip it into the pan. Remove and discard the plastic wrap. Press the pastry into the pan, folding edges over if necessary to fit even with the rim. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.

While pastry is baking prepare the frangipane: Combine 6 tablespoons butter and 2/3 cup lavender sugar in the bowl of a food processor; top with cover and process until combined. Add 3/4 cup almond flour, 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon cornstarch, 1 egg, 1 egg white, 1 teaspoon lavender extract, and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract; process for 30 seconds or until smooth. Spread mixture in the pastry shell. Peel, core, and thinly slice 2 large apples; arrange apple slices in a pretty pattern on top of the frangipane. Place the tart on a baking sheet and bake about 40 minutes or until puffy and golden. Let cool completely before serving. Serves 8.  

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