One thing that is growing well in my garden this summer is lavender. I have several recommended culinary varieties that I collected last season and this year they have sprung into small bushes filled with blossoms in purple, pink and white. They are pretty and fragrant and attracts the industry of honeybees like a playground attracts children. Between the bunnies the bees and an amazing variety of birds I have an extremely active garden.
I am always looking for new ways to use my culinary lavender. I have used it to make a gorgeous Lemonade, in a marinade for chicken and to craft Lavender Wands. These recipes take advantage of the lavender’s boldness, in color, flavor or fragrance.
A Delicate Balance
This week the profusion of lavender in my garden coincided with my employment of a new rotary egg beater and I turned to the category of desserts in my exploration. Lavender’s beautiful color and delicately scaled blossoms make it naturally appealing for the creation of desserts. When I had a leftover egg white after making Sable Cookies I thought what a beautiful addition lavender flowers would make to the meringue I could whip up with my new egg beater.
In desserts, however, the boldness of lavender can be challenging. I found it difficult to adjust the amount of dried lavender required to get a pleasing hint of color and spice without drowning the flavor in floral tones. The balance is a delicate one and each lavender seems to vary significantly in impact making the amount of dried lavender needed something that changes on a case by case basis. That makes it hard to write into a recipe.
Then I tried something new. Instead of crushing dried lavender to add to the recipe I plucked fresh lavender blossoms (the corolla) from the stem and calyx and stirred only that part into the batter. I didn’t go to a lot of fuss about it but simply plucked the flowers from the stem with that general intention. The lavender petals offer color and a more subtle flavor note than the calyx allowing me to be more casual about the measurement and more confidant about the result.
The outcome was a pretty, fresh and subtly flavored meringue that enfolded almonds and white chocolate in a crisp yet delicate embrace. These small lavender laced cookies add a delightful and intriguing taste of light summer sweetness to an afternoon break with tea or lemonade.
Lavender Meringues with White Chocolate and Almonds
a variation of my mother's recipe for Chocolate Chip Meringue Cookies
2 egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup plus 2 Tablespoons sugar
1 heaping Tablespoon fresh lavender blossoms (petals only)
¼ cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
¼ - ½ cup white chocolate morsels
Beat together egg whites, salt, cream of tartar and vanilla until soft peaks form. Add sugar gradually beating until peaks are stiff. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts.
Cover cookie sheet with parchment paper. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto the parchment paper. Bake at 300 degrees for about 20 – 25 minutes or until set and beginning to brown slightly.
Note: I made these cookies using my new rotary egg beater. I learned a few things in the process.
The bowl you use with a rotary egg beater is important. As both hands are occupied using the egg beater (One to hold and one to turn the handle) a kitchen helper comes in handy. Second best is a bowl with a no slip base (like this one made by OXO Good Grips) or a combination of regular bowl and no slip mat.
A bowl that is just wide enough to accomodate the beater is best for efficient results.
It can also be helpful to use a lower than normal counter surface if available. The kitchen table is often a good height for such a work surface.
Beating the meringue with my rotary egg beater was not as easy as I had hoped but it was definitely do-able. It's not important though. Feel free to beat your egg whites in any way that is comfortable and familiar for you. They are not really as fussy as you may have heard and they make quick and delicious treats especially when you have leftover egg whites.