February brings us all the beautiful first hints of springtime. We start to feel the sun on our faces a little longer, the melting snow reveals budding new life, and inspiration for new beginnings touches many of us. Many of my inspirations are driven by looking for new and interesting recipes, especially those that feel like the current season. Inspired by the legend of Saint Valentine, I was searching for recipes using violets. Serendipitously, a dear friend sent me a link to Gather Victoria’s Wild Violet Sweethearts and I immediately fell in love with the idea. Delicious, light, and simple.
Where I am residing currently lacks access to fresh violets, so I purchased some dried, food-grade violets online (I also snagged roses and lavender while I was at it). I modified the recipe from Gather Victoria a bit, but please check out the website. It has a plethora of ancestral and magical recipes and information.
For the violet sugar:
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup fresh or dried violet blossoms*
*Fresh blossoms are best, but dried will also work. You may also use roses or lavender, as well.
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- 1 Tablespoon lemon zest*
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice*
*Lemon zest and juice are optional and you can add more or less, depending on your taste.
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- lemon juice or water
For the violet sugar:
- If using fresh flowers, remove stems and wash blossoms. Pat dry and allow blossoms to air dry.
- Place blossoms in a food processor with sugar and blend until well combined.
- Spread mixture out to dry a bit.
For the shortbread:
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat made for baking.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until light in color and fluffy. Add extract, sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice (if using) and mix until blended well.
- Add flour, 1 cup at a time (sifted is best) and mix well.
- On a lightly floured surface, tip the dough out and knead until it just holds together.
- Roll into a ball and using a rolling pin, roll out and cut into desired shapes with a cookie cutter and place cut-outs on to the lined baking sheet.
- Place the baking sheet into the oven and bake for approximately 10 minutes.* Keep an eye on them and remove when the center is set and edges are just beginning to turn golden.
- Remove from oven and allow cookies to cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet before moving to a cooling rack.
*The original recipe says 7 minutes, but mine definitely took several minutes longer. Keep a close eye on them.
For the icing:
- In a small bowl, add sifted powdered sugar.
- Stir in, a tablespoon at a time, the water or lemon juice until the mixture becomes just thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. It needs to be thick enough to stick to the cookie without being too runny.
Assemble the cookies!
- Gently frost cookies with icing in desired decoration fashion: brushed, dipped, pipped, etc. I chose to give the cookie a dipped appearance with only half the heart coated in icing using a butter knife. Use just enough icing to lightly coat the cookie.
- Using a spoon, scoop violet sugar onto frosted parts of the cookie. Gently press the sugar into the icing and shake off the remainder.*
- Set decorated cookies out side by side to set until icing is no longer gooey.
- If storing, use waxed paper to stack cookies, if needed.
*Any leftover sugar can be used for flavoring tea, coffee, or as a colorful decoration for other frosted goodies like Earl Grey Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream!