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April 2004
A Fanciful Floral Festivity

By Joshua Ploeg

To commemorate the beginning of spring, I have several fun items to share, all involving flowers.

First, a few reminders: Use only unsprayed flowers. Second, you may use dried flowers for some of these—just reconstitute them in fresh, cool water. Thirdly, wash fresh flowers very gently by spraying the petals with water until the dew accumulates and rolls off, taking unwanted debris with it.

Lavender Flower and Fennel Seed Cakes with Violet Jam and Candied Fennel Bulb

Candied Fennel
1 C. Fennel Bulb, chopped
1/2 C. Sugar, plus more for rolling
1 t. Balsamic Vinegar
Water to cover
Few Drops Vanilla
Pinch of Powdered Ginger
Drambuie (or a bit of fruit juice)

1. Melt the 1/2 C. sugar in a bit of water over medium heat.

2. Add the chopped fennel bulb, balsamic vinegar and ginger, and water to cover. Allow to cook until most of the water has disappeared, stirring occasionally—around 10 minutes.

3. Add drambuie to deglaze the pan, along with a spot of vanilla, and cook further until the liquid is gone.

4. Remove from heat and spread the fennel pieces out on a greased sheet of wax paper (or other greased surface). Spread in a single layer, separating them using a pair of tongs so they do not stick together. Allow to cool.

5. When they are cool enough to handle, pour sugar over them and roll the pieces with your fingertips until they are coated. Set the candies aside.

Violet Jam
1 C. Fresh Violets (flowers only), chopped
1 C. Honey (Rice Syrup, Sorghum or Corn Syrup will suffice)
1 C. Water or Fruit Juice
2 t. Cornstarch

1. Heat the honey and water in a saucepan until it begins to bubble. Add the violets and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or so.

2. Take some of the liquid out and mix it well with the cornstarch. Return this to the pan and stir until well incorporated.

3. Continue cooking until the jam is thickened to your liking (remember, it will get even thicker when cooled).

4. Remove from heat and allow to cool, then store in a jar in the refrigerator. (If you wish, you may add some grated citrus peel, a bit of lemon juice, or some floral water.)

1 C. White Flour (more for dusting)
2 C. Graham Flour (more for texture and dusting)
1 Envelope Dry Active Yeast
1 1/2 C. Warm Oat Milk
1 T. Apple Cider Vinegar
1/2 C. Honey, Rice Syrup or Sorghum
1 t. Caraway Seeds
1 t. Fennel Seed
1/2 C. Candied Fennel Pieces
2 T. Lavender Flowers (fresh or dried and reconstituted)
1 t. Ground Vervain (flower and stem)
1/4 C. Sunflower Oil
1/4 t. Nutmeg
1/2 t. Salt

1. In a bowl, stir the honey and vinegar into the warm oat milk, then add the yeast and allow to stand for 10 minutes.

2. Stir in the lavender, vervain, seeds, sunflower oil, and salt, and then incorporate the white flour.

3. Add fennel pieces and nutmeg, and begin adding the graham flour, using the whole two cups.

4. Add more flour if necessary to make a workable dough, and knead into a ball.

5. Grease the ball of dough and allow to rise, covered, in a warm place for 3 to 4 hours.

6. Punch the dough down and roll out on a floured board to a thickness of 3/8”.

7. Cut into round biscuits and place them on greased baking sheets. Allow to rise for half an hour.

8. Bake in a 350° oven for 25 minutes.

9. Serve split in half with the violet jam, some margarine and leftover candied fennel.This will make 36 tartlets, which is a lot, but I suggest you and your beau will have fun feeding them to each other. I use mini muffin pans to bake these.

Almond and Lemon Flower Tartlets

3 T. Sugar
3 C. Almond Flour
2/3 C. Margarine

1. Mix together the almond flour and sugar.

2. Cut in the margarine until mixture resembles crumbs. Press into a ball with your hands, wrap in wax paper or cellophane, and chill for several hours or overnight.

3. When ready to use, form into small balls or patties and press into greased mini-muffin tins or tartlet pans. Do not extend the dough beyond the top of the tins. Keep them in the fridge while preparing the filling.

4. Preheat oven to 425° and make the filling.

1 C. Soft Tofu (rinsed)
2 t. Cornstarch or 1 T. Flour
1/2 C. Lemon Blossoms, chopped (or use a few T. marigold or 1/2 C. chrysanthemum, fresh or reconstituted)
1 t. Vanilla or Flower Extract
1 t. Lemon Extract
3/4 C. Sugar, plus more to sprinkle
1/4 C. Lemon, shredded, no seeds
1 T. Lemon Peel, grated
2 T. Lemon Juicex
1 C. Almond Milk
Sliced Almonds

1. Thoroughly blend all ingredients except the slivered almonds and extra sugar.

2. Pour filling into the crusts, being careful not to let it rise above the edge of the crust. Decorate the tops with sliced almonds and sprinkle with the extra sugar.

3. Bake at 425° for 15 minutes.

4. Lower the heat to 350° and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes.

5 . Allow to cool in the pans on a wire rack.

They must be cooled to room temperature or lower before removed from their tins, otherwise you may encounter serious crust issues. Be careful when taking them out of their pans.

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