I have two very fond travel memories of lavender. In early June 2004, Will and I were driving around Provence—staying in Avignon, to be precise—and got a glimpse of lavender fields. The lavender wasn’t in full bloom yet, but there was enough of a promise there to enable me to imagine lush rows of lavender later in the season. We haven’t made it back to see the lavender as our subsequent trips to France have brought us only to Paris, but we dream of spending more time in the French countryside, hopefully sometime in the not-too-distant future.
We did more recently (in late June 2010) get to see lavender in full bloom when we visited Ali’i Kula Lavender farm in Maui (click here for their website: http://www.aklmaui.com/default.aspx). I don’t know what was more heavenly—the scent of lavender or the beauty of the purple rows. It also helped that the higher elevation of the farm allowed us a brief respite from the heat of Hawaii in late June. Between the cool breeze, the scents, the views, and the gift shop's unique lavender items (a jar of strawberry-lavender-pepper jam full of sweet-herby-spicy goodness came back with us), the visit to the lavender farm was almost surreal-ly beautiful.
One of the items at Ali’i Kula Lavender farm gift shop was something I have been seeing a lot more of lately: lavender scones. In fact, culinary possibilities of lavender have exploded such that I see lavender in tea, honey, ice cream, truffle, cake, chutney, etc. At home, I sometimes add a ½ teaspoon of dried lavender flowers to a pot when I brew Earl Grey. Alternatively, I stir into my already brewed tea a teaspoon of lavender honey that my sister-in-law gave me.
Of course, a perfect accompaniment to afternoon tea is lavender scones, and I would like to share a recipe here. I modified this recipe from Bon Appetit’s May 2012 issue for a slightly smaller yield with a bit more intense flavor of lavender. I also prefer to use a food processor for preparing scone dough since handling the cold butter as little as possible yields the most flaky scones. If you want to make 16 with a milder lavender flavor (or don't possess a food processor), here is a link to the original BA recipe: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2012/05/sweet-lavender-scones.
Lavender Tea Scones
2 cups flour
½ cup sugar
2 t baking powder
½ t salt
½ t baking soda
1 ½ t dried lavender flowers
½ c (1 stick) cold butter
2/3 cup buttermilk (and some more for brushing)
1 t grated lemon zest
1 t vanilla extract
1 T turbinado sugar
Lavender honey and/or Lemon curd
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.
2. Sift together into the bowl of a food processor the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Pulse briefly to combine, and then add the lavender and pulse again. Cut up the cold butter into smaller pieces (about ½ T each) and then pulse a few more times until the mixture is still loose and crumbly, with most of the butter incorporated but with some visible larger bits of butter. Put flour-butter mixture in a large bowl.
3. Combine buttermilk, lemon zest and vanilla extract. Pour liquid mixture into the bowl with the flour-butter mixture, and then stir with a large fork or spoon just until the wet dough comes together a bit. (See picture below to see how wet the dough should look.)
4. On floured parchment paper or a cutting board, knead the scone dough a few turns just until it comes together and is relatively smooth, and then—just with your hands, not a rolling pin—form a rectangle about 9x6. Cut horizontally once and then length-wise twice so that you are left with 6 squares of 3x3. Cut each square diagonally. You should have 12 scones.
5. Place all scones on baking sheet, evenly spread apart. Then brush with extra buttermilk, and then sprinkle turbinado sugar.
6. Bake for about 12-13 minutes, until the scones are lightly browned. Remove from oven, and then let cool another few minutes before removing the scones from the cookie sheet.
(Note: Refrigerate scones that you will not be eating within 2 days. Scones are best served slightly warm—with little bits of crusty ends—so reheat in a 325 degree oven for 5-7 minutes to warm and to re-crisp.)
Serve with lavender honey or lemon curd. Tea is always a nice accompaniment too. Take in the fragrance of the warm lavender scones, and then wait to be transported to Provence or Maui!