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Herbal Remedy

August 8, 2010

Back in April I began my very first horticultural endeavor, an herb garden.  Yeah, I know that raising an herb garden is about as basic as it gets but I was ecstatic at the prospects of being able to add delicious flavor to my food from the little plants I nurtured and watched grow.  I had about 10 varieties: various basils, thyme, rosemary, parsley, plus some of the other basics.  I cared for them obsessively and within a few weeks I finally saw baby green sprouts.  And then, they began to take off.  In no time at all, I became overwhelmingly ambushed with herbs.  I try to incorporate them into as many dishes as I can but production is enormously exceeding consumption.  If you listen hard enough, you can almost hear little plant voices squeaking “pick me! pick me!”  And not to mention they hate this heat wave.  Every time I look at them, they break my heart with their wilty and browning leaves. I give them water, which perks them up for about an hour until they start getting droopy again.  Yet, there is one that always seems to be pretty content and that’s the lavender.  It just sits there happily basking in the sun, and in the last few weeks, it began to sprout its gorgeous perfumed, purple buds.  So you know what, I decided to reward this lavender with some fun in the kitchen.

I had never cooked anything with lavender before and honestly I kept imagining that food items with lavender would end up tasting like a perfume bottle.  But I forged ahead and took risks with some delicious results in the form of lavender scones.  The amount of lavender was just right, enough to infuse a clean, floral freshness that you can only just detect and is complemented by a tad of honey, a pinch of lemon rind, and a speck of vanilla.  These scones are just barely sweet so a dab of apricot jam is a perfect addition.  They are very sophisticated and unique and the perfect little breakfast or afternoon tea treat.

But first, a word of notice that I like my scones the way that the English do: barely sweetened with a fluffy, biscuit-like texture.  Nothing turns me off more than those brick-like “scones” displayed in various coffee shops that are really more like dried out, overly sweet, failed attempts at shortbread cookies.  My scone recipe is definitely more biscuit-y and soft, with little interior air bubbles good for soaking up whatever condiment you may choose (butter, jam, clotted cream) and melting in your mouth in a divine way.  They’ve got a good crust too.  And most importantly, I think a scone should really only be eaten directly out of the oven, while hot steam still pours out.  And the best part is, it’s so easy to have your scones freshly baked anytime you want.  Scone dough, once it’s shaped, freezes incredibly well and can be cooked straight from the freezer.  You only need a few extra minutes cooking time.  So on any morning you would like to treat yourself, it’s as simple as turning on the oven and plopping a frozen scone on a baking sheet.  Voila!

Lavender Buttermilk Scones

Scones can be adapted to suit you every liking so I’m first going to list the ingredients for a plain, unsweetened scone and then include the way I jazzed them up.  If you don’t care for my rendition feel free to replace it with any nut, fresh or dried fruit, spice, chocolate, herb, cheese, or sweetener that you enjoy.

Basic Scone

2 cups flour
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
4 Tbs. cold butter, cubed
1 cup cold buttermilk
1 egg (for brushing on top)

My additions

1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh lavender flowers
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 Tbs. honey
a pinch of lemon zest

For serving

Any jam you like (apricot complements these really well), butter, clotted cream, or whipped cream

Pulse the flour, salt, baking soda, cream of tartar, and lavender in a food processor a couple of times to blend it well.  Add the butter cubes and pulse until the butter resembles coarse crumbs.  (You can do all of this by hand with a whisk and pastry cutter if you don’t have a food processor.)  Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl and set aside.  Combine the vanilla with the buttermilk and slowly add it to the flour mixture while stirring everything with a spoon.  When everything has almost come together, add the lemon zest and honey and mix until everything is incorporated and you have a soft dough ball.  Liberally flour your hands and work surface before transferring the dough to the work surface.  Quickly knead it in with the flour until it’s no longer so sticky and shape it into a rough circle or square.  Use a knife to cut out 8 triangles or use a biscuit cutter to make circles.

Place the dough on a baking stone or a cookie sheet lined with parchment.  At this point you can either bake them in a 375 degree oven for 18- 20 minutes or put the whole tray in the freezer.  Once frozen, you can transfer the scones into a plastic bag.  The frozen ones should be cooked at 375 degrees for 20-22 minutes.  Either way, before you cook the scones, brush them with egg wash and, if desired, sprinkle them with coarse sugar. Serve hot with your desired condiments and a mug of tea or coffee.

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