I met Alyssa when I put out a call for interns (fancy, right?) to help me run AltDaily Food, a subset of AltDaily.com. Alyssa wrote in her application that her dream job was to travel, eat, and write about it. I let out an amen, interviewed her, and took her on. She always brought cupcakes or cookies to our meetings, and this pleased me exceedingly. These days, she writes (not as often as she should, ahem) the blog tastelyss, which features her yummy recipes and lovely photos.
Even more than I like Alyssa’s writing and work ethic, I like her kindness, her adventurous cooking (Chocolate Beet Cake, anyone?), and her willingness to guest blog for the 12 Days of Cookies.
Holidays: The Long and Shortbread of It
Post by Alyssa Odango
I always measure the start of a season by the subtle cues nature provides. Early yesterday morning, a square of school grounds contained a frosty fog, and during my drive to work, I caught a glimpse of the whitened ground and air, an eerie resemblance of a century-old folklore setting. The air starts chilling my lungs and my breath falls out of my mouth like little tumbleweeds fading upon impact of crisp daybreak or nightfall. I feel the necessity of warmth in my bones, usually relieved by made-from-scratch hot chocolate, or the familiar tangle of elbows and knees during a stolen moment of cuddling. The maple tree in the front yard phased through its apple reds to wickedly bright oranges to amber yellows, a final showcase before dropping from the branches with a spiraling wave goodbye to Autumn.
Even though Winter isn’t officially here, it’s here. Moreover, the holiday season has already started without giving Thanksgiving a fair amount of fanfare. Lights, decorations, and trees are up, and my habit for singing along to classic Christmas songs with incorrect lyrics is almost in full-swing. My senses are filled to the brim: the coarse lightness of tinsel, the scratchy wool sweaters against my arms, fireplaces alight, and warm cookies in the oven.
Of all senses, I think my sense of taste is most merry this time of year. Invites to parties are lining up, which means an invitation to eat, something I’m always inviting myself to do. There’s always a time to eat, and I feel that parties give you more of a reason to eat more fashionable foods. Foods that are dressed up always feel snazzy to eat, always make me feel snazzy. Like an adult. Ganache on anything puts on the panache. And the holidays is always a good time to feel like an adult and eat ganache.
These lavender shortbread cookies look and taste like a million bucks, yet they’re so simple and probably only cost you about $3 or less to make. Shortbread cookies are fantastic in the nude, but spruce them up and you’ve got a completely different cookie. For these, just a bit of crushed lavender and you have a wintry cookie eligible for even the most fanciful tea party. Baking these cookies even calms you and makes your kitchen smell and feel like a lit aromatherapy candle.
Lavender Shortbread Cookies
Adapted from the ever lovely Joy the Baker
Makes about 50 cookies
1 tablespoon dried lavender blossoms (I got mine from Amazon — a lb for only $14!)
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon raw turbinado sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg beaten for egg wash
With a coffee or spice grinder, grind up the 1 tablespoon of lavender and 1 tablespoon of raw sugar until powder form.
In a large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or just a large bowl with a handheld mixer, beat together butter, lavender mixture, and remaining sugar until creamy, about 3 minutes. Stop and scrape the sides of the bowl. Add flour and salt, and mix on low speed until just incorporated and the dough starts coming together. Dump batter onto a clean saran wrap and form dough into a ball, covering with wrap. Refrigerate dough for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with either baking mats or parchment paper.
When dough is firm, remove from wrap and divide into quarters. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each quarter until dough is about 1/4 inch tall. With a 1 1/2 inch round cookie cutter, cut out rounds and lay them on the cookie sheet. It’s okay for them to be close — the cookies will not rise.
When all cookies have been cut out, prick them twice with a fork. Take the beaten egg and brush the tops of each cookie, then sprinkle each with more sugar.
Bake cookies for about 10 minutes, or until the edges have browned. Remove from oven and let cool on sheets before moving cookies onto a cooling rack. For extra fanciness, dip half of each cookie in chocolate ganache. Or, just dip into your tea.