This recipe is a result of two things coming together. One is the deep love of shortbread cookies, the other is the acquisition of a tin of lavender fleur de sel. I wanted to use two different cookie filings that were each good, but were also a pleasant contrast if you were to eat one after the other. The carmel is sweet, rich and flowery so using a dark chocolate in the ganache makes the contrast even more dramatic.
There is also a substitution in the ingredients in case you don't want to get a special salt to make these cookies!
Step 1: Ingredients and Equipment
2 cups butter or margarine (purists insist on butter, but I think margarine tastes great, too)
1 cup packed brown sugar
4+ cups of all purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon lavender salt OR 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and 1/8 teaspoon ground lavender
1/3 cup heavy cream
Chocolate Ganache Filling:
1/2 cup dark chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream
a set of cookie cutters that nest together well - these are from a classic Wilton cookie tree set, but any shape would work as long as they create a narrow edge
tea towel for rolling cookies out
basic kitchen gear - pans, bowls, spoons, measuring devices, etc
Step 2: Make the Shortbread
Cream together 2 cups of butter/margarine and 1 cup of brown sugar.
Add 4 cups of flour.
Sprinkle some more flour on a surface for kneeding.
Kneed the dough until it's gone from crumbly to smooth, it should only take a few minutes.
Put the dough into a container that seals and place it in the freezer for about an hour.
Step 3: Roll Out the Cookies
Line a cookie baking pan with a sheet of parchment paper (or leave the sheet uncovered and ungreased - I use parchment because my cookies come out nicer that way.)
Lay our the tea towel and sprinkle it with flour.
Place a handful of dough on the towel.
Roll out to about 1/4 inch thick. Use plenty of flour, your dough will probably be sticky.
Your dough should be pretty willing to stick to your cutters. This is good. Cut the small star (or whatever shape) out of the dough in an area with plenty of margin.
Cut the larger star around the small star. Let the cutout stick to the cutter.
Use that large cutter again to cut another star. This will give you a perfect stacked cookie that's ready to go. If you can't get your dough to conveniently stick this way you'll have to cut two separate pieces and stack them.
Pop the cookie out over the parchment. These cookies expand a very tiny amount so you can pack them together pretty tightly.
If the dough gets difficult to work with box it up and pop it in the freezer for a few minutes.
When the sheet is about half full you should start pre-heating the oven to 325.
Step 4: Bake the Cookies
When the sheet is full bake the cookies at 325 degrees for about 15 minutes. Watch them carefully - you want them to be dry with just a hint of browning around the edges. Keep baking sheets of cookies until you run out of dough - my cutters made for about 4 dozen cookies. Allow to cool or start filling immediately, it doesn't really matter.
Step 5: Caramel Filling
Due to the unpredictability of how many cookies you'll get based on your cutters, you'll want a plan for what to do with any left over caramel, so grease a smallish plastic dish and set it out of the way. You can pour any extra caramel there and cut it up when it's cool.
Lay out the cookies you want to fill with caramel.
Place 1/2 teaspoon of lavender salt and 1/4 cup of water into a medium size, very clean saucepan. Leave it for a while for the salt to dissolve into the water. If you don't have lavender salt use sea salt and add 2-3 pinches of ground lavender.
Add 1 cup of sugar.
Measure 1/3 cup of heavy cream into something easy to pour from. It's smart to add a few pinches of lavender salt or ground lavender to the cream.
Now you have to totally concentrate on this until it's done. If this was a cookbook being published in the 1950s I would caution you to put the kids and pets outside and take the phone off the hook.
Turn the stove on to medium heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.
Stop stirring. Let the mixture come to a boil. You can carefully swirl the pan but don't stir it anymore.
Continue boiling the mixture until it turns caramel colored. You really have to watch it relentlessly for about 15 minutes. I have a hot-spot on my burner and mine started caramelizing at that spot. I noticed it darkening, picked up the pan and swirled it around, and by the time I had swirled it a couple times the whole thing was a pretty amber color.
Remove it from heat immediately. Don't just turn off the stove, move it to another burner. This is how you avoid having bitter caramel.
Slowly start to add the cream with extreme caution. It will release steam, possibly splatter a bit, and generally be dramatic. Stir the cream in. As soon as the cream is mixed in it's ready to pour.
Spoon caramel into the reservoir on the top of cookies until you run out of caramel or cookies. Pour any extra caramel into the prepared container.
The caramel will soft set, but it won't get hard.
The lavender added at the beginning creates an overall floral flavor in the caramel, the additional lavender added with the cream adds a cleaner note of lavender flavor.
Step 6: Ganache Filling
Ganache should be made in a double boiler. I don't own a double boiler. This isn't a big deal.
I placed my chocolate and heavy cream into a small saucepan with a thick bottom. Put it into the top of a double boiler if you have it.
Heat over very low heat stirring constantly until it's all melted and combined. It's unmistakably chocolate sauce, you'll know it when it's done.
Spoon it into cookies. It will set as it cools, you can speed it up by refrigerating the cookies but they might bloom a little.
If you have extra ganache whip it in a mixer or by hand. It'll turn into a killer chocolate frosting. You can use it immediately or box and refrigerate it, and use it on something later.
Step 7: Finished Cookies!
It's a good idea to keep them in a sealed container. Everything contains dairy so it's smart to refrigerate it all, but I left some of these cookies sealed on the counter for a week and they were fine. I thought they were much better about 24 hours after making them than they were fresh from the filling. Enjoy!