One of the most common questions I’m asked is “what do you do with all your crops?” And my answer is invariably a confused “Ehhh, I eat them”.
There’s something undeniably satisfying about picking crops from your garden and using them in a meal and when you grow your own food, you learn to use your fresh ingredients to make lots of new and exciting dishes. Im going to be sharing some of my dishes this year on the blog.
My first job was at age 15 in my Aunt’s bakery where I learned how to bake, it was, to this day, one of my more valuable work experiences. I worked there for two years and fell in love with the processes of creating cakes that make people happy. Being a French style bakery, we make a huge amount of pastry and to this day, I pride myself on being able to make perfect choux pastry.
This week, my Mam was talking about Lemon Balm, a beautiful herb we both grow in our gardens so I decided to bake something using fresh Lemon Balm inspired by my Mam, the gardener and my aunt Louise, the baker.
Shortbread is both very easy and very tricky to get right. If you get it right, the biscuits crunch and crumble in your mouth, if you get one step wrong, they’ll be either lack that distinctive crumble or they’ll turn out like soggy cardboard. The basic ingredients are simple, the trick is to use what I call the 123 process. One part sugar, two parts butter and three parts flour.
Shortbread is a wonderful carrier for flavour. Usually flavoured with vanilla, I thought it would be nice to use fresh Lemon Balm and Rosemary from the allotment for a blend of citrus and savoury flavours.
The biscuits turned out perfect; buttery and crumbly with a mild hint of lemon that lingers in the mouth long after you’ve finished. Here’s my recipe for the biscuits if you’d like to give them a try.
100g caster sugar
200g butter (room temperature)
300g plain flour
A bundle of fresh Lemon Balm
- Mix the butter and sugar together until they reach a pale creamy consistency. Ensure your butter is at room temperature, do not use warm or melted butter as this will result in a tough biscuit.
- Finely chop a large bunch fresh lemon balm and a small amount of rosemary and add these to your butter and sugar mix.
- Slowly fold in your flour. Don’t overwork the flour as this will ruin the crumble effect. It’s better to do this part by hand. Rub the ingredients together into a breadcrumb consistency.
- Bring together your dough, if it is too crumbly you can add a tiny drop of water (tiny). Shortbread dough can be tricky to work with as it is quite dry.
- Roll out your dough on a floured surface and cut your biscuits and score the surface. Place these in the fridge for thirty minutes. If you skip this step, the biscuits won’t hold their shape in the oven.
- Toast some rosemary leaves while the biscuits are chilling. Sprinkle these on the top of your biscuits and sprinkle some caster sugar over the top.
- Place your shortbread in preheated oven at 180c and allow to cook for 20-25 minutes. Keep a close eye on the biscuits as they can burn very quickly.
- When the biscuits are golden, remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.