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Friday, December 9, 2016

Lavender Sugar Cookies

Tis the season, tis the season! Snow falling, pine trees filling our homes, warm apple cider filling our bellies...ah, yes, the holidays, right around the corner. Do you know what else is right around the corner? Mercury Retrograde.

Yep. Mercury Retrograde is right around the corner, a short 10 days away and it spans over the holiday season from December 19th, 2016 to January 8th, 2017. Yay. I can't imagine a better way to send off the absolute garbage year that 2016 has been. What can we do about it? Globally, nothing. In our own personal lives, we can spray the bejeezus of our homes and lives with positive energy and hope for the best.

I chose to become a chef because chefs make everybody happy; they provide good food, they give you an experience, and they do their best, every day, to make sure that the best part of your day is eating their food. Cooking at home using family recipes is also the closest thing you can do to time travel; cook your famed grandmother's dish, and the smell will send you back to her home when you were a child. What's more powerful than that?

Enter the lavender bud, a powerful and well-recognized flower in magical and mundane lives. Everybody knows how relaxing lavender's aroma is, and who doesn't love a good lavender pear vinaigrette? It has a delicate flavor, a gentle aroma, and many magickal qualities(love, communication, sharpening the mind). It is this Kitchen Witch's opinion that there isn't a better counter to Mercury Retrograde than lavender, a plant that's associated with Mercury!

Here's the problem: You can't just take lavender sachets and pop them all over your office at work, or burn lavender buds in the car, or plant them in the dead of winter. As silly as it might sound, you could get in trouble with HR for that. You know what you can do? Bake with them.

These were the designs I used for Samhain/Halloween!
Lavender sugar cookies are almost always at my shop, and they're often featured at the farmer's market when it's in season. They're my absolute favorite way to show off some fun holiday flair, and the recipe for the dough itself can carry you through the year! You can decorate them just about any which way from Sunday, and boy do they look great when they're done...

I was feeling elegant, so I thought I'd try black and white!
Though they have fragrant lavender buds in them, they're still just sugar cookies, so they can be decorated in any way one chooses. Cookies are a big part of the holidays, and I am a fan of working smart, not hard. In other words, I don't see the point in making two separate things when you can combine a big of magick into your mundane life.

These were done for the 4th of July!

Lavender Sugar Cookies
  • 8 oz flour
  • 6 oz butter, room temperature
  • 2 oz powdered sugar
  • 4 oz granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried lavender buds
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
Royal Icing
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
If you'd like a truly magickal cookie, combine your sugars with your lavender the night before and put them in an east-facing window to let the first sunlight hit it when it first rises in the winter sky. The lavender's aroma will also perfume the sugar, which is a good thing for a lovely enhanced flavor.

Another way to make this magickal is by the infusion method. Simply take your lavender buds with the butter and pop into a heavy-bottomed pan. Melt the butter gently and allow to sit and infuse for about 10 minutes before pouring into your mixing bowl, which you should cleanse. Pop your butter in the fridge for about 10 more minutes, just to let the butter set into a solid shape again, and then continue with the recipe.

Beat the butter in your standing mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, then add the sugars. Beat this together for about 2 minutes, then scrape down the bowl with a spatula. Add your egg and beat for 1 minute to fully combine. Add the vanilla and beat until combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk together your flour with the salt and baking powder and spoon in the dry ingredients, in three separate additions, until everything is combined. Remove your dough from your bowl and wrap it in plastic wrap, forming a nice disc, and chill in the fridge for at least an hour, at most overnight.

When you're ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and prepare your work surface. I've got a lovely marble slab that I like to roll out cookie doughs and pie doughs on, but any cool countertop surface works fine. Take a sheet of parchment paper, cut to about the size of your cookie sheet, and liberally lubricate with panspray. I like using coconut oil as my nonstick lubricant of choice, but what you have in the cabinet is just fine, so long as it's a generally neutral flavor. 

Remove your dough from the plastic wrap and pop on your lubricated parchment. Spray the top your dough and lay that same plastic (waste not, want not) on top, nice and flat. Use your rolling pin to beat your dough slightly, just to soften it, then gently roll out from the middle. Rotate the parchment sheet on your work surface to roll it evenly, then remove the plastic wrap, spray your dough again, and cover it again. This time, flip it over so that the plastic is down on your work surface, and peel back the parchment. Spray it again, cover, and roll.  Repeat this process until your dough is about a quarter inch thick.

Why are you doing this? Well...

  1. No messy flour to clean up
  2. Less risk of overworking the dough
  3. You've measured your flour so perfectly...why add more unnecessarily?
  4. No mess to clean up
  5. You can move the dough around more easily when it's on parchment already
  6. No mess to clean up
I hope that clears up everything! Now then... You can cut your shapes now, it's true, and place them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, or you can do what I do:

I bake my cookie dough in one big sheet and cut after they've baked, while they're still warm from the oven. Why? So my cookie shapes don't spread out, of course! I'll get perfect lines every time, and I get to eat the scraps. I can also pulse the scraps in my food processor and store them in an airtight jar in the cabinet, and then use them to sprinkle on cupcakes or use to make struesel toppings for pies and muffins. 

To make the royal icing, simply whip the egg whites with the powdered sugar until it hits the right consistency. There are about a million different video tutorials online on how to do it properly, but look for the consistency found in this video below for the best results:

I love SweetAmbs cookies, and get a lot of my decorating ideas from her channel, found here!

You can use all sorts of decorating techniques with corresponding colors to get funky. This can be a great project for kids, or grown-ups, to make their own magickal cookies. You can also just make these cookies for yourself and stuff your face while you watch the world freeze over with the winter snow. They make a great addition to gingerbread cookies, as well as peppermint spritz cookies, for your holiday assortment. (Just make sure to take a photo before everyone gets a chance at them...)

Seriously, I set them down for half a second and these were all that was left when I came back

Happy holidays, everyone! I hope you enjoyed my Lavender Sugar Cookie tutorial for Yule/Mercury Retrograde! Remember to be the change you wish to see in the world, and kill your enemies with kindness. If there's some jerk spouting hate, bake them cookies. It won't be long before everyone around you both sees that you're being nice, that they're being the asshole, and the asshole is soon ostracized by the group for their horrible behavior. See? It's slower to take the high road, but it's much more effective in the end.

Enjoy these cookies and may the Gods be ever in your favor. Happy cooking and happy eating!

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