Posted on March 9th, 2013
I was away from my parents for the first time. All by myself in a big city. I missed them like any other child who has always been protected by his or her parents and today is out to face the world. Mobile phones were expensive to use then and I as a student had no means to afford it. I would wait for my mom’s call every evening at my landlord’s house. That clearly wasn’t working out that well so we decided to write letters in the old fashioned way. To be honest, I loved each and every letter and after a decade, I still have them in my safe! There is something about letters.. sometimes it is easy to communicate your thoughts and feelings in written words than spoken. I use to tell my mom that her letters made me smile and she told me that my letters made her cry! Anyway, what I want to say is that today in this world of e-mails, skype, online chat, bbm, whatsapp, I still prefer those hand written letters which have so many memories attached and will treasure them for rest of my life.
My mom is very fond of biscuits. She doesn’t have a massive sweet tooth but loves to indulge in these buttery, crumbly tea time treats with her cup of tea. As I was thinking about her and missing her hugely, I thought of making these homemade biscuits for her which I know she would love. Though she is away, I know she would be very proud to know that I actually made these myself from scratch in my little kitchen. Freshness at its best and super easy to make. Was amazing to see that when butter, sugar, flour and eggs are combined together, something magical comes out every time!
Shortbread is a classic Scottish dessert that consists of the three basic ingredients which are still commonly used today: flour, sugar, and butter. Sometimes, ground rice or cornflour is also added to give them some texture. I particularly love the addition of ground rice as it gives the shortbread an alluring sandiness.
A very fragrant and healthy twist is to add lavender to these goodies. It is rich in vitamins and minerals and also has anti-nausea properties so very popular during pregnancy. No wonder, Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge is craving for these lately. Lavender also takes me back to Provence in France where the lavender harvest during summers is a sight to watch! These indigo blossoms are then used to make lavender oil, lavender soap, lavender lotion, lavender herbs and lovely dried bouquets for your home.
The next batch was of the french lunettes or as my friend calls them as glorified version of our very own jammy dodgers. They definitely have a gallic charm! They are traditionally oval 7-8 cm long with two eyes fluted sides. They are not dissimilar to shortbread and have egg as an additional ingredient. These butter biscuits actually date back to the Middle Age in Italy where they were called “Milanais” (biscuits from Milan) and over time they were renamed “lunettes” (spectacles) because of the two holes in the biscuit.
The biscuits are flavored with lemon zest to cut the sweetness of the sugar and the jam. Traditionally, they are filled with seedless strawberry jam, but you could use any of your favorite jams what you find in your cupboard. I actually like raspberry jam with seeds a lot. So, I make an assortment of flavors usually.
However much I resisted, I ended up eating two of these while these were still warm and oh my! I was in heaven. The freshness, crumbliness, lightness and softness of the pastry is out of the world. Each bite made me go for more.
The other day, I was requested by a friend to do favors for her tea party. I had some ideas but nothing was fitting in place. When these goodies came out of the oven, I knew what I was going to do. I made cute little favor bags and hoped that the girls would like them. And alas! they absolutely loved them. I had also made personalized hand written thank you notes for the girls which actually made all the difference. I told you, they have their own charm!
So, if you want to make your mom happy, or make her feel special on Mother’s Day or just to tell her how much she means to you, try these. They will definitely bring a smile on your mom’s face. Especially the lunettes..they simply are awesome! And do let me know if they did the trick!
Makes 14-16 Fingers
150 gm lightly salted butter, softened
75 gm golden caster sugar
15 drops of lavender essence
150 gm plain flour
70 gm ground rice
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
pinch of dried or fresh lavender flowers
Caster Sugar for dusting
For Berry Lunettes
220 gm unsalted butter, diced
120 gm icing sugar
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 medium egg yolks
300 gm plain flour
Approx 100 gm strawberry/raspberry jam, worked until smooth
Icing sugar for dusting
1. For making Lavender Shortbread Fingers: Preheat the oven to 170 degree centigrade and line a 27×18 cm baking tray with baking paper, taking it up the sides. Cream the butter, sugar and lavender essence in a large bowl using an electric whisk, then add the flour, ground rice, lemon zest and lavender flowers. Continue to whisk until crumb like consistency. Press into the tray, without compressing it too hard and leave it little crumbly. Chill in the refrigerator for an hour to set. Tip: 1. In case you can’t find ground rice in the supermarket, just ground white rice as finely as possible or use rice flour. 2. Lavender is quite a potent ingredient and if you want to add a little more of dried flowers, reduce the essence a bit. I also added a 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract to give some extra depth.
2. Bake for 30 -35 min until a pale gold, then remove and dust with caster sugar. Leave to cool and then cut into fingers. Scatter with few more flowers.
3. For making Berry Lunettes: Cream the butter and sugar together in a food processor with lemon zest. Add the egg yolk and finally the flour. The dough will be soft and sticky at this point. Wrap in a cling film and pat into 2 separate flattened disc. Chill for several hours or overnight.
4. Preheat the oven to 180 degree centigrade. Roll out one disc at a time on a lightly floured work surface to a thickness of about 5mm and cut into biscuits using an 8cm fluted cutter. Cut out 2 small circles from half of the biscuits using a 2-3 cm plain cutter.
5. Arrange the biscuits separately on a couple of non stick baking trays, spacing them slightly apart. Bake them for 10-12 min until they just start to color. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Dust the biscuits with holes with icing sugar until they are white. Spoon 1 tsp of jam in the centre of the other biscuits and thickly spread to within a couple of cm of the rim. Sandwich with the dusted halves.