Lavender Shortbread Recipe
2 c Flour
1 c unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
1/2 c honey
pinch of salt
2 tsp herb (lavender in this case).
Oven at 325 F. Combine ingredients in a bowl, mix by hand or with mixer until dough comes together. Press or roll dough flat. You can cut the dough into whatever shape you prefer. I plan to use a pastry knife to cut into small enough shapes to fit into petit fours papers.
A word on ingredients and my process:
I picked shortbread because it is a simple vehicle for other flavors. I use whole wheat pastry flour. This adds a nutty, complex flavor but does not cloy the way whole wheat flour can. The studies I read indicated that soft red wheat was preferable to other flours because of the gluten content, as opposed to bread flour. I got this idea from a roommate years ago who is a baker, and makes the best pancakes and chocolate chip cookies, made with whole wheat pastry flour.
Butter is key to a great cookie. I read some olive oil cookie recipes that sounded tasty (olive oil, orange and saffron?), but a classic cookie needs butter. Also, never microwave or heat butter before making cookies, because cooked/heated butter loses its emulsion: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/17/dining/17bake.html. Good butter is important. I used Hope Grade A unsalted butter and gave it 10 or so minutes to soften out of the fridge, while the oven was pre-heating.
I decided to substitute honey for sugar. This summer I made a great lavender honey simple syrup for sodas, and I still had lavender and Ames Grade A honey, which my coffee shop has recommended. I found both at my coop. Putting the lavender in the honey before mixing also allowed the lavender to reconstitute, and distribute more easily into the dough.
I followed the ratio of 3 flour-2 fat-1 sweet, suggested in the Ratio article. I think most recipes in cooking or baking, need some balance in salty and sweet flavors. Mark Bittman gets at this in his analysis of cocktails, where he discovers the balance of a great cocktail is a balance between sour/bitter/sweet.
The outcome was too plain for a cookie. It was edible, but wasn't sweet enough to contrast with the fruit curd. I decided to turn the shortbread into a sugar cookie.