Easy Like Sunday Morning – Classic French Croissants and a New Book

I finally did it. I followed the recipe in Le Creuset Cookbook: A Collection of Recipes From Our French Table and made French Croissants from scratch.

Despite a brief period of cold, creeping self-doubt around the third touch and go, dicey repeat of “roll dough out into a 8″x12″ rectangle and fold into thirds like a business letter” I feel this bake went extremely well.

Croissants cooling on a parchment sheet lined wire rack

I started the dough on Friday afternoon which required overnight refrigeration. I worked the dough throughout the morning Saturday, alternating between rolling, folding, and chilling again and again. Next came cutting rolling, forming, then leaving to rise until doubled in size. Lastly this recipe called for brushing the top of each croissant with a wash of whole milk and egg yolk just before baking, resulting in the distinctively shiny, golden exterior classic croissants are known for.

I baked the croissants late Saturday afternoon and woke up this morning, Sunday, excited to make myself a small breakfast and tuck into a new book for a couple of hours.

Close up of a croissant torn in half showing its flaky internal layers

I’ve just started reading the book Real Life, a novel by Brandon Taylor which was a finalist for the 2020 Booker Prize and is so far bright, relatable, and poetically descriptive.

Pictured is a small table covered in white cotton cloth. In the middle of the table is a small, round orange plate. On the plate is a freshly baked croissant, a spoonful of cherry jam, a few slices of sharp cheddar cheese, and half an avocado with a fork resting in it. Also on the table surrounding the plate: half a banana, a lit candle in a brown tin, a mug of coffee that says “eliminate girl hate” in plain white letters inside a red heart, the book Real Life by Brandon Taylor, and a white hand-knit napkin featuring a cable knit leaf motif.

This is my ideal Sunday morning: bundled against the chill in a warm blanket, feet decked in colorful hand-knit wool socks, good candles burning, jazz records playing softly in the background, pecking at a tasty spread while reading a good book–unaffected by the snow falling gently outside.

I hope you are currently spending your Sunday nestled someplace equally cozy xx Bette

Lemon-Lavender Shortbread Cookies

Round shortbread cookies with scalloped edges on a dark purple plate next to a mug of coffee in the middle of a messy desk covered in colorful knitting and embroidery projects in progress

Shortbread cookies are hands-down my favorite kind of cookie when I’m feeling cozy and nostalgic, namely Walkers shortbread which I used to scrimp and pinch my pennies as a child to buy from World Market.

I’ve never been to Scotland – I can’t speak to the authenticity of this shortbread recipe but the resulting cookies are tasty and beautiful, and tick all of the necessary boxes for me so I will call them “shortbread cookies” and sleep just fine tonight.

Lemon and lavender cut through the richness of the butter (use the highest quality butter you can find for this recipe because you will taste it) and waltz the tastebuds effortlessly between tart and floral, tart and floral, tart and floral… mmm… butter… *Homer Simpson voice* mmm donuts… I mean cookies! I mean biscuits!?

I digress…


Close up of Bette’s fingers holding a Lemon-Lavender Shortbread Cookie in the foreground, colorful knitting out of focus in the background

The recipe

  • 1 cup (208g) good quality salted butter, softened/room temperature
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar, spooned into measuring cup and leveled with a butter knife
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cups (180g) all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon food grade lavender buds, finely ground in a spice grinder or by hand with mortar and pestle (my method of choice)
  • zest from one lemon that has been soaked in a 1:1 water to white vinegar solution to remove surface residues, rinsed, and dried

Some tips to consider before starting

  • I find that weighing my butter and flour first yeilds a more predictable outcome as opposed to scooping or eyeballing my way along and wondering why they don’t turn out quite right. You will find the weighed ingredients in the recipe prescribed in cups and grams – if you don’t yet have a food scale for baking, now is a fine time to get one!
  • It is critical to let the butter come all the way up to room temperature to soften, which will take some time – maybe even several hours depending on the temperature of your home. Be patient and know that the butter and sugar will cream together much more uniformly resulting in a better cookie overall. If I know I’m going to bake cookies on say, a chilly Saturday afternoon in late October, I’ll weigh out my butter when I first wake up and leave it on the counter with plenty of time to soften up, then make my dough after lunch.
  • If you don’t have powdered sugar on hand, it is easy enough to make with regular granulated sugar and a blender or food processor. I usually make a batch in my blender using organic cane sugar granules so I always have a bit around on hand for recipes like this.
  • Feel free to omit the ground lavender and lemon zest if you don’t have them or if you’re going for that classic buttery shortbread taste, or experiment with adding other dry flavorings. Chai powder is delicious, and finely ground rose petal are just plain ol’ lovely.

To Prepare

Close up of room-temperature butter chunks and sifted powdered sugar in a stainless steel mixing bowl

In a stand mixer affixed with paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl with sturdy spoon or hand mixer, add butter and powdered sugar (sift in the sugar to prevent lumps) and cream together until uniform.

Gently incorporate the vanilla and lemon zest into the creamed butter/sugar mixture until combined. Sift ground lavender into bowl and discard the few reedy bits that were too large to sift through (these will add an unpleasant texture to the cookie and too much floral flavoring).

Sift flour into bowl to prevent lumps in dough and work together with stand mixer on low speed, scraping the sides down occasionally as you go, or mixing by hand with a stiff spoon or hand mixer until combined.

Dough should be fragrant and uniform in texture, sticking to itself at this point.

Bette’s hand holding the paddle attachment of a stand mixer which is covered in cookie dough

Shape into a tidy ball in the center of the bowl and cover. Refrigerate covered dough in bowl for an hour.

Bette’s hand holding a 2-inch round cookie cutter

Roll dough out roughly 1/4″ thick on to a lightly floured surface. Using a lightly floured 2″ round cookie/biscuit cutter, proceed to carefully cut cookies, placing them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet or large plate as you go, and re-rolling remaining dough as needed until you have 24 total cookies.

Shape any remaining dough scraps into free form shapes of roughly the same size as the cut cookies (so they take roughly the same amount of time to bake) or feel free to eat remaining cookie dough scraps raw as it is eggless.

I have also been known to chop up the scraps into cookie dough “bits”, freeze them in a single layer on parchment paper, then fold them into homemade vanilla ice cream with heaps of finely grated dark chocolate for a slow food interpretation of cookie dough ice cream. Yuh… it’s goooooood.

Refrigerate unbaked cookies uncovered for an additional hour.

Preheat oven to 350º.

Close up of cookies on a parchment paper lined baking sheet after being sprinkled with lavender buds and sugar

Working in batches of no more than 12 cookies at a time, transfer chilled, unbaked cookies to a room temperature baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Top each cookie carefully with a few whole lavender buds for color and a small sprinkling of granulated sugar. Proceed to bake for 8-12 minutes, until the bottoms are just starting to turn a light golden brown – visible when the edge of the parchment paper is gently lifted up from the baking sheet for a quick peek.

Cookies will seem fragile and are likely to crumble if picked up at this point. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow cookies to rest on the hot baking sheet an additional 5 minutes, then transfer them very carefully using a flat spatula to a wire cooling rack until cooled completely.

Close up texture shot of a baked and cooled cookie which looks crunchy and buttery

Once cooled, the cookies with firm up nicely with a gentle crunch and hold up impressively against repeated dunks in hot coffee. Store in an airtight container in a single layer or stacked in layers and separated by pieces of parchment paper. These cookies will keep on the kitchen counter for several days, in the fridge for a week, and in the freezer for a month.

Bette’s hand dunking a cookie into a mug of coffee with a ball of wool yarn in the background

Serve with coffee or tea and enjoy thoroughly .

Best, Bette

Recipe: Banana Bread with Walnuts

 

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Loaf of Banana Bread with Walnuts

I’m picky when it comes to bananas. Aside from the fact that I try to only buy bananas when I can find Fair Trade bananas, I love snacking on a good, medium-sized banana with no green or bruises, and an even smattering of small brown freckles. Like I said, I’m picky. 

I have a tendency to buy a couple of bunches of underripe bananas with the intention of giving them a few days to ripen up at home. I think, “Man. I’m gonna eat so many bananas this week… I feel healthier and more vibrant already. Look out, world!”

Let me be extra dramatic and tell you that the only thing I hate more than an underripe banana is an overripe banana. I guess you could say I have a bit of a masochistic streak because without fail, I’ll forget about them for a week, panic because I really hate to waste food, then force myself to choke down as many overly ripe bananas as I can in 24 hours. A living hell!

This week I put an end to this torturous cycle and threw together a simple banana bread using a mishmash of the seemingly random ingredients I had on hand. And I’ll be damned, it was accidentally the best loaf I’ve banana bread I’ve ever made.

Sweet and full-flavored–this is not a healthy superfood but rather a pleasant fruit and nut cake with a few superfluous substitution to make me feel a little bit better about eating half a loaf in one sitting. Please please please feel free to take this recipe as a suggestion and use whatever you have on hand. Don’t stress, I promise I won’t be mad.
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