I recently ate lunch at an authentic Afghani restaurant. This
particular day I actually ordered dessert, which I rarely do; however, I could not resist the one gluten-free dessert on the menu, which was rose ice cream topped with frozen rice noodles and a sprinkling of finely chopped pistachios. The rose flavor in the ice cream was perfectly balanced. It was barely there, yet very present: noticeable but not over-powering. While enjoying this simple, yet elegant, dessert, I remembered why I love to use floral flavors in my baking from time to time. Floral notes in a food take that food beyond the tangible use of the senses to the realm of the transcendent. Dishes with a hint of such floral flavors as lavender or rose actually feel luxurious. Who doesn’t like to feel spoiled and pampered by eating something that tastes exquisite as well as delicious?
Flowers as ingredients in food make sense. Flowers are colorful, fragrant, and cheerful. Moreover, they are related to love, celebration, and beauty. Finally, flowers denote various meanings to people and cultures. Why shouldn’t we dress up the appearance and flavors of ordinary dishes we enjoy with flowers, thus elevating our sense of taste and pleasure as we indulge in gastronomic delight?
Although flowers enhance the flavor of savory dishes, they seem especially suited toward sweet dishes. The following three pastry recipes use three different flowers: lavender, rose, and hibiscus (Lonestar gal that I am, I HAVE to include hibiscus, or flor de jamaica, among the flowers I use when I cook). I order my dried rose petals online. I find buy dried lavender from the bulk section at Central Market in ATX and SATX, but it seems to be widely available at farmer’s markets in both cities, as well. I find dried hibiscus in the produce department of just about every grocery store I enter in both ATX and SATX; however, people who live in regions outside of the Southwestern USA may have to order this flower online.
One of these recipes, orange lavender shortbread, is technically a cookie I suppose. It has about the same ingredients as a pastry, though, and it tastes more pastry-like than cookie-like to me; therefore, I’m including it in this blog post with pastry recipes . . . .
A note about the use of vodka in a pie crust: some people use vinegar in gluten-free pie crusts. I have searched far and wide for the reason. In gluten-containing crusts, vinegar as an ingredient makes sense. It debilitates gluten-development, thereby creating a flaky, more tender pie crust. Since it’s sole purpose (as far as I can tell) is to inhibit gluten development, I see no reason to use it in a gluten-free pie crust. Vodka supposedly also inhibits gluten development; however, it also evaporates somewhat since it’s an alcohol. Using vodka in a pie crust allows the crust to be moist enough to manipulate while preparing it, but then more flaky as the alcohol from the vodka evaporates during cooking. Sometimes I use a tablespoon of vodka in pie crust, but sometimes I leave it out. Either way, to me, my crusts taste buttery and seem flaky. Phillip prefers the texture of the crusts in which I use a tablespoon of vodka, although he says the crusts that don’t contain vodka are delicious, as well : )
Orange Lavender Shortbread
125 g Authentic foods superfine brown rice flour*
50 g Tapioca starch
30 g Potato starch (NOT flour)
20 g Coconut flour
2 tablespoons dried, crushed rose petals
1/4 – 1/2 tsp orange oil
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup confectioners sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cut into small pieces
Lavender Sugar (for sprinkling – recipe follows)
1/2 cup 63% Guittard dark chocolate chips, melted (for drizzling)
*Two cups of commercial gluten-free all-purpose flour mix can be
substituted for the gluten-free flours I use in this recipe.
-Place the dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well
-Add the butter and orange oil. Pulse until a soft dough forms.
-Place parchment on a rectangular baking pan, and pat the shortbread
dough into a rectangle on the pan.
-Lightly cover the shortbread with plastic wrap and place in the
refrigerator for about thirty minutes.
-Remove the shortbread from the refrigerator. Using a knife, score the
shortbread dough vertically and horizontally to form squares in the
-Cool the shortbread on the pan.
-While the shortbread cools, make the lavender sugar (see recipe
-Place the chocolate chips in a microwave-proof bowl. Heat the
chocolate chips, removing and stirring at 15 second intervals, until
the chocolate is melted and smooth (this should take only 2 to 3 15
-With a spoon, drizzle the melted chocolate evenly over the shortbread.
-Immediately sprinkle about two to three tablespoons of lavender sugar
across the melted chocolate. Save the remainder of the lavender sugar
in an air-tight container for another use.
1/4 cup dried lavender flower buds
1/2 cup sugar (I mostly, and prefer to, use raw sugar when I bake, but
honestly white sugar makes the prettiest floral sugars.)
-Pulse the lavender and sugar together in a food processor until the
lavender buds are well blended into the sugar. Store in an air tight
Cherry Rose Empanadas
190 g Authentic Foods superfine brown rice flour*
95 g tapioca starch
70 g potato starch (NOT flour)
25 g coconut flour
1/3 + 1/3 cup rose sugar, divided (recipe follows)
1/4 – 1/2 tsp rose extract or rose water
Pinch of salt
10 tbls cold butter, cut into small pieces
2-4 tablespoons of cold water
1 small jar of Cherry preserves
1 egg, beaten + two tbls of water
*Three cups of commercial gluten-free all-purpose flour mix can be
substituted for the gluten-free flours I use in this recipe.
1/2 cup dried rose petals
1 cup sugar
-Pulse the rose petals and sugar together in a food processor until
well blended. Store in an air tight container.
-Mix the flours, rose sugar and salt in a food processor.
-Add the butter, eggs and just enough water until a clumpy dough forms.
-Knead the dough for a few minutes. Since gluten-free pasty has no
gluten, you can knead away without worrying about forming a tough
pastry (score one for gluten-free baking!).
-Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Roll out the dough into a
thin sheet. Using a bowl, cut rounds out of the rolled out dough.
Depending upon the size empanada you wish to make, use anywhere from
a three inch to a five inch bowl or circle pastry cutter.
-Place 1 to 2 tablespoons of cherry preserves in the middle of each
-Fold the circle in half, and seal with the end of a fork.
-Mix the two tablespoons of water with the beaten egg, to make an egg
-Brush each folded empanada with egg wash, the sprinkle with remaining
Strawberry Peach Hibiscus Pie
3 cups hulled and chopped strawberries
3 peaches, peeled and chopped
2 tbls finely chopped candied hibiscus blossoms (recipe follows)
1/2 cup hibiscus simple syrup (recipe follows)
1 tsp Ceylon cinnamon
1 tbls tapioca starch
2 tbls butter, cut into small pieces
Crust (Makes enough dough for a 9 inch two crust pie)
*125 g Authentic Foods superfine brown rice flower
65 g Tapioca starch
45 g Potato starch (NOT flour)
20 g Coconut flour
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup butter, cut into small pieces
1 Egg yolk
1 tbls gluten-free vodka (I use Titos)
Additional tbls of water as needed
1 Beaten egg + 2 tbls water (for egg wash)
1/4 cup hibiscus sugar (recipe follows)
*Two cups of commercial all-purpose gluten-free flour mix can be
substituted for the flours I use in this recipe.
Hibiscus Simple Syrup / Candied Hibiscus
1 cup organic sugar
1 cup water
1/2 cup dried hibiscus blossoms
-Mix the water, sugar, and hibiscus blossoms in pan over medium heat.
-Heat and stir the mixture until the sugar is dissolved, almost to
-Remove from heat and let the blossoms seep in the syrup for ten to
-Strain the syrup into a bowl.
-Spread the hibiscus blossoms on wax paper to cool and dry.
1/4 cup dried hibiscus blossoms
1/2 cup organic sugar
-In a food processor, pulse the blossoms and sugar together until well
For the Filling:
-In a bowl, mix the strawberries, peaches, cinnamon, tapioca, and two
tablespoons of finely chopped candied hibiscus blossoms. Set aside
For the Crust:
-In a food processor, pulse the flours, salt, and butter together
-Add the egg yolk and 1 tablespoon of vodka. Pulse dough until
moistened. If the dough is too dry, add a tablespoon of water and
pulse to moisten. The dough should be a tad bit – but not too much –
on the sticky side.
-Divide the dough in half, and wrap each half in plastic wrap.
Refrigerate for an hour.
-Remove one half the dough from the refrigerator and let warm just
enough to be pliable for rolling.
-When ready to start rolling the first dough half, remove the second
dough half from the refrigerator.
-Place the first dough half between two pieces of wax paper or two
pieces of plastic wrap and roll out to desired size.
-Peel one half of the plastic wrap or wax paper off the pastry. Place
the pastry over the pie pan and carefully peel the remaining
plastic wrap or paper off the pastry, while gently guiding the pastry
into the pie pan.
-Pour the pie filling into the prepared crust. Dot the filling with
the two tablespoons of butter, cut into small pieces.
-Repeat the process with the second dough half, only placing the
pastry carefully over the top of the pie filling.
-Seal the edges of the top and bottom crusts together, using your
fingers or a spoon to crimp the crust edge.
-Mix the beaten egg with two tablespoons of water; brush over the top
and edges of the crust.
-With a sharp knife, cut three slits in the center of the pie to allow
steam to escape.
-Sprinkle the pastry with hibiscus sugar.