This is what started the quest — a huge bag of freshly picked lavender flowers from a friend. I had been fine-tuning a Cook’s Illustrated recipe for chewy sugar cookies by adding lemon zest and lemon extract, in an effort to reproduce cookies my husband and I bought (and fought over the last one, which he tried to sneak while I was sleeping) on a recent trip to Colorado. Another friend had given me lavender, along with a recipe for lavender shortbread cookies, which turned out pretty good, just not OMG good. Daughter Anna, who shares my infatuation with lavender, suggested putting the lavender and lemon together. That’s my girl!
— Joan, 15 May 2015
Let’s start with the recipe. In the bakery we always use weights, but here we’ll give both the measure and weight:
2¼ cups (11¼ ounces) all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1½ cups (10½ ounces) sugar, plus some for coating
2 ounces cream cheese, cut into small pieces
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, melted but still warm
1/3 cup vegetable oil (we use canola)
1 large egg
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract
zest of 1 lemon
2-4 tablespoons culinary lavender flowers, to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350º F. Mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and lavender flowers. Set aside.
2. Place pieces of cream cheese on the sugar in a bowl. Pour the warm butter over it and stir to combine. It’s OK if there are pea-sized pieces of cream cheese that don’t melt. Stir in the oil, egg, milk, extracts, and lemon zest, then add the mixture to the dry ingredients and stir till combined. This is a soft dough, so you can do it all by hand. A stand mixer will crush the flowers.
3. Divide the dough. I used a #20 scoop and got 19 cookies out of this recipe. However you do it, make balls of the dough and then flatten them slightly. Dip the pieces into sugar to coat completely. You can also add a bit of coarse decorating sugar to the tops. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. I put six on a sheet to give them plenty of room to spread.
4. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, just till edges are light golden brown. Now inhale. Doesn’t your kitchen smell fantastic!