[At Omnivore, August 2014.]
What I learned yesterday: book release parties are fun. Even when you, oops, don’t realize you have to share a few words about your project until about 10 minutes before doing so. My California community came out to support me and it was sweet. S weathered all the socializing like a champ, I met John and Jeff, the photographer and food stylist who helped make the images in flourless. so stunning, and if we sold out of books within minutes well, that’s just an excuse for going back right?
(But seriously: it was just such a lovely afternoon. Old friends and new friends and family and a bit of bubbly and homemade naturally gluten-free treats make for a pretty stellar few hours.)
We got a couple of pizzas from my beloved Little Star to take home and I can’t deny I still get a physical pain going through my old neighborhood. San Francisco is not a city without its problems but for all that it’s a one-in-a-million town and I truly loved living there (and wasn’t ready to leave). Life is life, I guess. Meanwhile we go back to Morocco next week and I am successfully trying not to think about it too much. After all there are apples to chew on (S) and make into crumble (me) and miles to run outside on the back roads of Sebastopol and parks to visit and vegan donuts to eat from the Whole Foods in town. One thing you learn when you live in a developing country is to never take what seems to be basic American stuff – parks, trees, green space – for granted. And so we will plan trips back ever more frequently to remind ourselves of the goodness that is here.
Anyway — there are have been some very nice things said about flourless. in the past week, along with a few recipes:
… and the San Jose Mercury News did a nice little piece on the book with three (!) recipes included. I highly recommend the maple cornmeal cake.
For my part, today I want to share one of my favorite recipes from flourless. — or rather, a recipe I adapted a bit because clearly I can’t stop myself from fiddling around with recipes even when they’re my own. Saturday night when I was baking off some recipes to bring with me to the book party (angel food ‘cake bites’ with blueberries, oatmeal peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, lemon-honey macaroons, and shortbread) I slipped out into my parents’ yard and grabbed some lavender growing by the side of the house. I felt like it would fit into the cookie just right – and it did (in the cookbook I call for dried rosemary, which is lovely, and come to think of it dried thyme might be nice too). Cooking with lavender has long been a penchant of mine and when in California with access to it I can’t help myself (same goes for organic cheddar cheese, corn tortillas, half and half, CHARD, asparagus, etc.). The lavender flavor here is more of a ‘hint o’ lavender’; it’s certainly not at all soapy but imparts a slightly floral fragrance that’s uniquely its own.
I will note that these shortbread cookies are not the white flour Walkers shortbread you may be accustomed to – and that’s a good thing. They’re dense and nutty from the ground oats and hazelnuts and rich with butter, as all good shortbread should be. And they’re not too sweet – one of the points I touched on yesterday was that while the recipes in flourless. definitely aren’t sugar-free (although a few do call for alternate sweeteners) nor is it a ‘health food’ cookbook, my own taste run toward the not overly sweet and I think the recipes in the book reflect that. These cookies, for example, call for a 1/2 cup of sugar and you might even be able to get away with less if you’d like to experiment.
My great friend and recipe tester Lesli said these were her favorites of the ones she tried from flourless.; I so hope you enjoy them too.
Try to grind the oats and nuts very fine; if can manage it, you’ll have a more familiar-tasting shortbread cookie. But I like the texture in these that you won’t find in store bought cookies and after all shortbread was traditionally made in Scotland from oat or brown rice flour. Omit the salt on top if you like a more sweet cookie.
3 cups rolled oats
1 scant cup toasted hazelnuts
1 tbsp dried or fresh cooking lavender
1 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup cane sugar, plus 1/2 tsp
Heat the oven to 325 F. Butter a 9-in tart pan with a removable bottom or an 8×8 square pan.
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, process the rolled oats, hazelnuts, and lavender until finely ground. Add 1/4 of the salt.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream the butter and 1/2 cup sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy. Add the oat mixture to the butter mixture and, using a spatular, gently fold them together until a lumpy, dry dough forms. Press the dough into the prepared pan.
Bake until the dough is set and light browned, 55 to 60 minutes. Remove grin the oven, sprinkle with the remaining 3/4 tsp salt plus the remaining 1/2 tsp sugar, and cool in the for about 10 minutes. Using a butter knife, cut the cookies into 12 wedges (or squares) in the pan. Put the pan on a wire rack and allow it to cool completely before removing the pieces of shortbread.