Some might say that receiving a bouquet of roses, lilacs and violets really takes the cake this time of year. But what if they were part of the cake? How about Cardamom Cake with Raspberry Rose Mascarpone? Or perhaps violet cupcakes with a side of lilac sorbet? Pastry chef Miche Baker of Mali B Sweets wants you to think outside of the vase and consider adding flowers to your dessert repertoire. To inspire, she’s written COOKING WITH FLOWERS: Sweet and Savory Recipes with Rose Petals, Lilacs, Lavender, and Other Edible Flowers (Quirk Books).
While the idea of cooking with flowers might seem a little strange or even sacrilegious (who wants to destroy such beauty?) you most likely have been eating flowers all your life. Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and artichokes are all flowers. Rose petals, geraniums, calendula, squash blossoms and daylilies have been eaten for generations all over the world. And why not? Flowers are low in calories and high in vitamins. They add beauty as well as flavor to any recipe.
If you’re considering giving flowers a try, there a few things you should know before you heat the oven. First, make sure you know which ones are safe to eat; some flowers are poisonous. The Colorado State University Extension Service website keeps a handy list. Second, never eat florist flowers. Flowers grown for the florist trade are usually full of artificial plant food, pesticides and other toxic chemicals. This is one time you should spring for organic. Third, never use flowers you’ve picked by the side of the road. Plants absorb heavy metals and other toxins from fuel exhaust. Lastly, proceed with caution if you have flower or pollen allergies or asthma.
Just follow these sensible precautions and before you know it you’ll start spotting organic flowers everywhere. Farmer’s markets are a particularly good source but you may have these growing in your own backyard. There are many safe ones to choose from, including:
Pansies and violas
Hibiscus and hollyhocks
From Cooking with Flowers by Miche Bacher
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour2 teaspoons baking powder1 teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cubed
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream, divided
¼ cup passionfruit puree* (Strawberry puree may be substituted)
Petals of 6 hollyhock flowers
Makes eight scones
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
2. Pulse flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar in a bowl of a food processor. Drop in butter and pulse two or three times until butter is in pea-sized pieces.
3. In a medium bowl whisk eggs, 1/3 cup heavy cream and passionfruit or strawberry puree for 2 minutes or until mixture is a smooth, pale yellow. Add to flour mixture, pulsing two or three times to combine the ingredients and moisten the flour. Just as the mix is threatening to run into a ball, add hollyhock petals and pulse three more times.
4. Spread a little flour on a cutting board and turn the dough onto it. Working carefully—you don’t want to manhandle the dough—form it into a ½-inch-thick rectangle. You have your choice of how to cut your scones: some people like to stamp out circles with cookie cutters; others slice the dough into rectangle with a knife or a pizza cutter. You can’t go wrong either way.
5. Place scones on the prepared baking sheet about 1 inch apart and brush the tops with the remaining 2 tablespoons heavy cream. Bake scones for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Plate and serve hot with a choice of butter, honey, jam or clotted cream.