Lemon Lavender Berry Cake

Culinary Lavender is an incredibly versatile herb for cooking.  In today’s  home kitchens, fresh edible flowers are making a comeback as enhancements to both the flavor and appearance of food. As a member of the  mint family  it  is also  closely related to rosemary, sage, and thyme.   It is best used with fennel, oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage, and savory.

Lavender has been a favorite herb for centuries. The historic use and recognition of lavender is almost as old the history of man.  As an herb, lavender has been in documented use for over 2,500 years. In ancient times lavender was used for mummification and perfume by the Egyptian’s, Phoenicians, and peoples of Arabia.  The Greeks and the Romans bathed in lavender scented water and it was from the Latin word “lavo” meaning “to wash” that the herb took it’s name.  Perhaps first domesticated by the Arabians, lavender spread across Europe from Greece.  Around 600 BC lavender may have come from the Greek Hyeres Islands into France and is now common in France, Spain, Italy and England.

The ‘English’ lavender varieties were not locally developed in England but rather introduced in the 1600s right around the time the first lavender plants were making their way to the Americas. English Lavender (l. angustifolia and munstead) has the sweetest fragrance of all the lavenders and is the one most commonly used in cooking.  The uses of lavender are limited only by your imagination.  Culinary Lavender has a sweet, floral flavor, with lemon and citrus notes.  The potency of the lavender flowers increases with drying.

Queen Elizabeth I of England valued lavender as a conserve and a perfume.  It has been said that she commanded that the royal table should never be without conserve of lavender and she issued orders to her gardeners that fresh lavender flowers should be available all year round!  She also drank an abundance of Lavender tea to help ease her migraines and used it as a body perfume. Queen Victoria of England is most notable for making Lavender popular across England and it could be found, in one form or another, in every one of her rooms, as she used it to wash floors and furniture, freshen the air, and had it strewn among the linens. During the First World War, nurses bathed soldiers’ wounds with lavender washes.  To this day, the French continue to send baby lamb to graze in fields of lavender, so their meat will be tender and fragrant.

But I digress……the subject at hand was desserts.

This lemon lavender berry cake is soooooo good. It is not too sweet, but just sweet and savory  enough to satisfy your sweet tooth. Sometimes, Bundt cakes can end up heavy, dry and tasteless. This one, I promise you, is neither of those things. Buttermilk, lemon juice, lemon zest, and plenty of butter make sure the cake remains light and airy and moist and full of flavor. The cake is perfect for tea time or even served for brunch on a Sunday morning.

 

Serves 8 to 10

Ingredients:
3 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 egg whites, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lavender extract (See Cook’s Notes)
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, plus extra for garnish
1/2 cup fresh raspberries, optional

Confectioner’s sugar, for  dusting

 

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Using vegetable cooking spray, coat a 10 cup capacity Bundt cake pan.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together. Whisk until completely mixed.
In a standing mixer or with a hand held mixer and a large bowl, cream butter, sugar, and lemon zest until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Whisk in eggs, egg whites, vanilla extract, and lavender extract on a high speed until combined, about 2 minutes, scraping down sides as needed.

On a low speed, whisk the flour mixture to the egg mixture until just combined.

Still on a low speed, pour in the buttermilk and lemon juice, mixing until just combined. Gently fold in blueberries and raspberries until just combined.

Pour batter evenly into the prepared. Gently tap the pan on the counter top to release any air bubbles. Place the cake in the oven. Bake for 30 -45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of each cake. Set on a wire rack to cool, at least one hour and remove from the cake pan

Dust the cake with confectioner’s sugar. Garnish with berries, if desired and serve.

 

Cook’s Notes:
If you are having trouble finding lavender extract in your area, do not fret. There is a relatively new product by Taylor & Colledge Lavender that manufactures lavender a paste, made from the finest Lavender (Lavandula angustifoila) grown in southern Australia. In January, flowers are harvested and distilled to capture the true essence at its source. Our naturally flavored paste delivers a fresh new taste to try in your recipes. Just recently, the product is being carried in most major supermarkets in the United States and can be bought on line for a fairly reasonable price. The paste comes in a 1.4 oz (40 g) tube, and the beauty of it all is that you only need to use 1/2 teaspoon for most recipes, making it very economical.

 

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Persian Saffron Ice Cream (Bastani)

 
 
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Persian cuisine is one of the world’s great gastronomies, flourishing for centuries across an area that, at the height of the ancient Persian Empire (circa 550 to 330 B.C.), included modern-day Iran, along with parts of Iraq, Macedonia, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia.

The repertoire of dishes is fragrant, diverse and highly refined, based on complex culinary techniques. They are imbued with fresh flowers and herbs like rose petals, fenugreek and mint; spices like saffron, sumac and cardamom; fruits like pomegranate and barberry; all kinds of citrus; and nuts, including pistachios and almonds.

If this roster of ingredients sounds familiar, it’s because Persian cooking influenced Middle Eastern, Moroccan, Northern Indian and Turkish cuisines yet itself remains somewhat below the radar.

 

It should be noted that Persia (Iran) has made many lasting contributions to the world of frozen desserts.

The Arabs, who had already conquered the Persian Empire, took the age-old Persian summertime refreshment known as sharbat (sherbet) where a mix of fruit syrup, saffron,  and honey was incorporated with snow and chilled in a  yakhchal, an ancient type of ice house. Alexander the Great, who battled the Persians for ten years, was known to  enjoyed “fruit ices” sweetened with honey and chilled with snow.

 

And had the brilliant addition of  milk and sugar gave rise to the invention of ice cream around 500 B.C. in the Achaemenid Empire of Persia and more than likely gave rise to  Bastani.

Bastani sonnati, or simply bastani  is made from milk, eggs, sugar, rose water, saffron, vanilla, and pistachios.  Modern day bastani often contains flakes of frozen clotted cream. Sometimes, salep or salaab is included as an ingredient.  Salaab is an extract from a wild orchid that thickens like cornstarch. Salaab gives bastani it’s texture and gives the ice cream bend and pull, almost like gluten, and it has a faint floral taste. Persian ice cream gets an extra dose of richness and texture from frozen chunks of heavy cream that are swirled into the base.

In 400 B.C., the Persians also invented an ice cream-like dessert made with rose water and vermicelli called faloodeh. Persians introduced ice cream and faloodeh to Arabs after the Arab invasion of Iran and the fall of Persian Sasanian. 

By the time of the Arab Conquest took place in across Sicily and Southern Italy in the 8th Century,  there was the development of  granita and gelato, two frozen treats that are now synonymous with modern day Italian desserts. 

Comparatively, the Persian ice cream sandwich made with faloodeh or faludeh, which  is a far more modern treat that was invented around the 13th Century. And shortly there after, Bastani-e nooni was created where the yellow hue of the saffron ice cream and the aroma of rose water are married to make a cool,  smooth textured creamy treat countering the crispy wafers and crunchy sprinkling of pistachios. 

And did you know that a  Syrian immigrant named Ernest Hamwi is credited with crafting the cone on the fly at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, when he rolled his Middle Eastern zalabia pastries into cones to hold that year’s wildly popular confection, ice cream. And even in these modern times, on a warm evening, everyone from grandparents to young couples can be seen strolling and sitting in parks enjoying their cones and cups. Ice cream parlors abound, from the hole-in-the-wall take-out joint to the elegant café.

Over millennia, Iranians have made frozen treats into an art form, the upside of necessity in a country where summer brings extreme heat. In Bandar Abbas, the tropical Persian Gulf, where the temperature was in the nineties before it reached noon, the  still enjoy the ever refreshing faloodeh , the rice noodle and rosewater sorbet that Iranians like to brighten with a spritz of lemon juice. In the shomal, the wet, green, and fertile north that cradles the Caspian Sea, you will find the juicy, red popsicles made of whole fruits with their pits still inside.

And so, America’s favorite frozen treats had it origins in the  Middle East. But, it turns out, that ice cream came to Europe, and then America,  by way of the Arab invasion of Sicily , and thus, modern-day granita and gelato icy sharbat (sherbet) and velvety ice cream are still universally loved in Iran, in the U.S. and the rest of the world for that matter.

You can find Persian ice cream in the U.S, especially in Los Angeles, home to the world’s largest Iranian expat community. The two best known places are Mashti Malone’s, and at the Saffron and Rose

Mashti Malone’s is  an iconic ice cream parlor that makes the best Persian ice cream where you can get either faloodeh or bastani  served as an ice cream sandwich, pressed against two thin wafer cookies, and it is positively incredible. At the Saffron and Rose, you will find  delectable, handmade flavors range from orange blossom to white rose to pomegranate. 

Another Los Angeles Iranian establishment is the  Café Glacé, where you can slurp down a majoon, an ice cream shake blended with dates and bananas and topped with nuts. You’ll also find bastani-e nooni, the Persian ice cream sandwich: two thin, crisp wafers sandwiched around bastani. These can also be found in the freezer section of Iranian markets in different flavors, and if you’re lucky enough to go to an Iranian home for a meal, at dessert you may see a quart of ice cream and a box of wafers so you can make your own.

But if you’re feeling ambitious, you can make your own Persian ice cream from scratch. But rest assured, there’s an easy way to whip up Persian-style ice cream without using any gadgets or dirtying up the kitchen and ending up with a sink full of dishes. In taking a short cut to making bastani, it is recommended that you buy a  good quality vanilla ice cream, letting it get a little soft at room temperature, and then folding in pistachios and a teaspoon of ground saffron steeped in a tablespoon of hot water or cream. You can add a dash of rosewater and frozen chunks of cream if you want. Refreeze and voila, “authentic” Persian ice cream.

 

Makes About 1 quart

Ingredients:

1/2 teaspoon saffron threads (* See Cook’s Notes)
7 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon saffron, finely ground
1/4 cup Sadaf pure rosewater (** See Cook’s Notes)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Organic dried roses, for garnish

 

 

Directions:

To a small finger bowl, combine saffron threads and hot water and allow to seep until a vibrant orange red colour blooms.

Set a medium bowl in a large bowl of ice water. In another medium bowl, beat the egg yolks until pale, 1 to 2 minutes.

In a medium saucepan, whisk the cream with the milk, sugar, salt and saffron. Bring to a simmer over moderate heat, whisking, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Very gradually whisk half of the hot cream mixture into the beaten egg yolks in a thin stream, then whisk this mixture back into the saucepan. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the custard is thick enough to lightly coat the back of the spoon, about 12 minutes; don’t let it boil.

Strain the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into the bowl set in the ice water. Let the custard cool completely, stirring occasionally. Stir in the rosewater and vanilla extract. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the custard and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 4 hours.

Pour the custard base into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer the ice cream to a chilled 9-by-4-inch metaloaf pan, cover with plastic wrap and freeze until firm, at least hours.

Serve the ice cream in bowls, garnished with dried roses and pistaschio nuts, if desired.

 

 

Cook’s Notes:

Some people think that turmeric is a fine substitute for saffron, IT IS NOT. Definitely DO NOT use turmeric in ice cream because you will end up producing a very bitter tasting product.

*Saffron
Bastani is traditionally a custard like ice cream, rich in flavor mixed with saffron, rose saffron_jar_680water and pistachios. It is quite recognizable with it’s glorious golden yellow color and aromatic from both the saffron and rose water.

The other key ingredient is saffron. You want a high quality saffron, which gives your bastani its golden color and intoxicating aroma. Crush your saffron using a mortar and pestle and dissolve in a bit of warm water. This should steep for about 30 minutes, so do this while your ice cream is softening.

Once your saffron water is redish orange, add it to your softened ice cream with the rose water and pistachio bits. You can also add a teaspoon or two of crushed dried rose petals. It adds a bit of color as well as fragrance.

How to choose the best saffron
The amount of saffron you use is dependent on the quality of the saffron used. This affects the final color of your ice cream as well as the fragrance and flavor.
Always buy saffron threads and not powder. High grade saffron threads are dark red, not orange and no trace of yellow. When you open your container of saffron you should be able to recognize it’s beautiful scent.

Yes, saffron can be expensive, but don’t be duped and purchase cheap saffron. The color and aroma produced will not be the same. The best high quality saffron comes from Iran and can be purchased at FamilySpice.com.

 

**Rose waterdownload (13)
Using a high-quality, pure rose water is essential for this recipe. Look for Sadaf brand, which is available at kalustyans.com.

If you cannot find rose water in your specialty markets, you can find it locally at Asian Markets, like HMart or online at Amazon.com.

 

Storing the Ice Cream
The ice cream can be frozen for up to 1 week in an airtight plastic container.

 

 

 

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Caramel Coconut Flan

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Serves 6

Ingredients:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
5 large eggs
One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
One 14-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:
Preheat oven to 325°F.

Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the sugar and stir the sugar continually with a wooden spoon until it begins to brown and clump together. Keep stirring until the sugar completely melts and dissolves into a golden-brown syrup. Remove the syrup from the heat as soon as it has dissolves as it can burn.

Working quickly, carefully pour the caramel into the ramekins, tilting them to coat the bottom and the sides.  Set the ramekins aside and allow the caramel coating to cool and harden.

In a large mixing bowl, add the eggs, sweetened condensed milk, coconut milk and vanilla extract. Whisk together until everything is fully combined Evenly pour the custard mixture into the caramel-coated ramekins.

Place the ramekins in shallow 9 x 13-in  baking dish. Pour enough hot water in the dish until it reaches about halfway up the pan.sides of the ramekins. Carefully place the baking dish in the oven and bake until just set, but still jiggly in the center, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the flan from the oven and allow to cool on a rack for about 15 to 20 minute.Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or overnight. Note: the flan can be made three days in advance and can be refrigerated until ready to serve.

To serve,  dip the ramekins in a saucepan of hot water.Using your index finger, gently press down on the edges of the flan until the caramel begins to run up the sides of the ramekin, which indicated that the baked custard is loosened.  You can also  slide a knife along the edges of the pan to loosen it up. Place a plate  on top of the flan, grab a hold of both the plate and the ramekin and quickly invert so that the flan is now upside down. Carefully lift off the flan pan. ramekins. Your flan should be sitting in the caramel on the plate.

Garnish with fresh fruit or a dollop of whipped cream if desired.

Hello Friends!

All photographs and content, excepted where noted, are copyright protected. Please do not use these photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this photograph and all other contents, then we kindly ask that you link back to this site. We are eternally grateful and we appreciate your support of this blog.

Thank you so much!