30 luglio 2013

Lavender, what a gluttonous sin!

"When I use vanilla, I get crème caramel. When Jacques uses vanilla, he gets Shalimar" Ernest Beaux

People who know me also know I hardly like lavenders and specially the kind of lavender that immediately takes me back to severe aunties in blue gabardine, relatives in loden overcoats dug up from the wardrobe for the festivities and old country barbershops.
Fortunately big perfumery classics happened to change my mind about this aromatic plant blooming in the summer, specially my beloved Jicky eau de toilette letting lavender shine drenched in a golden light. The magic of lavender lays in the great percentage of linalool (and its acetates), highly volatile compounds that makes it fresh, floral yet aromatic and suitable even if doused in tiny amounts to add sparkle and diffusivity in fragrances. Lavender is a kind of all-in-one essence but not everybody knows it's even edible.

Pour un homme de Caron (1950s)
A few weeks ago, I saw a supermarket was selling bio lavender pots, thus suitable for cooking. How could I resist the weird temptation to give lavender another chance, this time with food? As soon as I got back home I put it on a window-sill waiting for the blooming. Meanwhile I had a blast thinking how to use it, maybe in a cake with vanillin and tonka bean, why not?! So I went for lavender muffins.
As the muffins were baking in the oven, their scent flooded my small apartment like if I liberally sprayed lavender, buttery benzoin, vanilla and tonka. Can you think of Pour un homme de Caron with its sweetness spread on a slice of warm buttered bread? The result was so tasty it had great success at home, so I allowed myself to jokingly paraphrase Ernest Beaux: "When I use lavender I get muffins. When Ernest Daltroff uses lavender, he gets Pour un Homme". Here's the recipe if you like to try it!

  • 180g soft butter
  • 2 eggs + 1 yolk
  • 200g sugar
  • 250ml whole milk
  • 380g soft wheat flour
  • 2 spoons of fresh bio lavender flowers (or 1 spoon of dried flowers)
  • 1 vanillin sachet (0.5g)
  • 1 tonka bean
  • 1/2 coffee spoon bicarbonate
  • 1 baking powder sachet (2 teaspoons)
  • 1 pinch of salt
Pour the milk into a pan and warm it almost to the boiling point. Take it off the fire, put in the lavender flowers and put on the lid. Let it cool down.
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Sieve together the flour, salt, baking powder and bicarb. In a separate bowl mix together the butter, salt, sugar, and vanilla. Mix quickly and lightly. Add the eggs, the milk and the finely grated tonka bean. Stir in the flour mixture. Mix quickly and lightly.
Pour the batter into the muffin tray - don't over-fill - and bake for 20-25 minutes, until well-risen and springy. Cool on a wire rack.

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